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With all of the recent posts, I thought I would chime in with my experiences in my son's journey.

Mine started playing organized "coach pitch" at 8 years old. When he was 8 or 9, a coach asked me to allow him to play for his travel team. I initially said no, because he was only 8 and I wanted it to be just fun. Same coach asked me again when he was 10. This time I allowed him to do it, and it was a disaster. Wrong type of coach, and my son was just not ready for that pace of tournament play and competition. I put him back in local league play and the smile returned.

When he turned 11, HE asked to return to travel ball. This time, I carefully researched a team and coach, sent him to the tryout and away he went. This time, he thrived. Throughout the years, I saw good teams, bad teams, and good and bad coaches. I strongly believe that the quality of coaching and competition that he received throughout travel ball best prepared him for high school. I don't think he would be the player that he is today (now a Varsity player) if he just played local rec ball. One of the things that the HS coach raved about was his "baseball smarts" and that he KNEW HOW TO PLAY. I credit travel ball for this. He has also done his fair share of clinics and private lessons. Private lessons are just that. They tweek and enhance what is there, but nothing replaces natural ability, desire and real game experience. So, for a pre-high school player, I would highly recommend the travel route PROVIDED you do your research and pick the right coach and team. Once he gets to HS tryouts, the coach could care less how many AAU/USSSA/etc tournaments that he won. He will care about how he can help his team win, and does he KNOW HOW TO PLAY THE GAME.

Be wary of the private lesson stuff. Remember, that former minor league or college player is looking for income. If he tells you the truth, you won't bring junior back. There are however, former players who will give you an honest evaluation good or bad. Find that guy and use the lessons as an additional tool, not a replacement for practice or real games. Same with clinics. I know a parent who has spent thousands of dollars on private lessons for her son. He has yet to crack the Varsity squad. Why? Because she confused private lessons with valuable real game experience against the best competition you can find. It's easy to look great in a lesson, but no one is swinging at your pitches.

Finally, don't get wrapped up into the whole showcase and "exposure" stuff. College coaches are not interested in players 4 or 5 years away. Showcase what at 10, 11 or 12 years old? Something that MIGHT BE, in a few years? Just have him play, play, play and get valuable experience. Better still, have him learn and play as many positions as possible. Most guys who played SS during travel ball don't even play there now, so don't get wrapped up into the coaches kid playing there. Daddy ball has been with us for generations and is not going anywhere. Also, you don't have to go to Myrtle Beach, Disney, or the Super Mother of End All Nationals each year for him to make his high school team. Keep it realistic and keep it fun and do your research. Remember, it should be HIS dream, not yours. Hope this helps.
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Ditto all of that. Exactly our exp. and def. agree that all of it made him the player he today is good and bad. And you do need to get out of the hometown if you really want to see what your up against. that was the biggest eye opener. you go to a good tournament look around and every player is above avg. to really good.If the player has the goals and drive he will push himself , you as a parent can not do it.
Originally posted by tn_travel_ball:

My son had a really bad experience on a travel ball team. They carried 14 kids, but only realistically played 9. It seems like such a hit or miss proposition. There needs to be a travel ball site to rank coaches and teams with feedback. I created a blog for future parents to read detailing our experience. Smyrna Outlaws

For every 1 of your bad experiences I can promise you I have 10 good experiences on the benefits of travel ball. I hate that you had a bad experience but I promise you in that in these bad times he will learn many lessons to help in him in the future.

Good luck.
Originally posted by tn_travel_ball:
My son had a really bad experience on a travel ball team. They carried 14 kids, but only realistically played 9. It seems like such a hit or miss proposition. There needs to be a travel ball site to rank coaches and teams with feedback. I created a blog for future parents to read detailing our experience. Smyrna Outlaws

I read your blog. It always amazes me the number of parents that want their son to play on a competitive travel team yet they feel it should be ran like a REC team. It never says what age of the team to which he carried 14 players but the fact is if you don't like it now your really not going to like it in HS. Confused
Travel ball can be a great experience. Just do your due dilegence in selecting a team for your son. You just gotta find the right fit for your son to ensure that he will have the opportunity to develop as a ballplayer and as a person. If he's developing as a ballplayer and as a person, I think the "having fun" aspect takes care of itself. There's really not much more to it, regardless of what I have seen spewed on this forum over the years.
I pretty much agree with everything said in the original post. The key is the coach. My son happened on to his current team while he was in Cooperstown last year. He got to spend the last four weeks of the summer up there playing for different teams. I thought that the team he went up there with had the best coach he had ever had amd the truth is at the time it was true. But while playing for another team while there he found what he (and his Mom and I ) feels is the coach that can get the most out of him. People talk because we travel to another state to play and do not play on the travel teams from around the area. It is OK though I see his progression continuing.This coach has a team of best players from many different areas all are "STARS" but he has taught these kids how to be teammates and better people. He could really care less about wins and losses yet these kids take it upon themselves to win.They dont mope when something bad happens,they respond.Yea we have won our share of tournaments this year but they are at their best when they get to face the top teams.They may not always win but the always play like champions.When a coach can get that out of kids he has done what he has set out to do.JMHO
Last edited by lodi14
He could really care less about wins and losses

I am trying to understand the situation as you posted it. But this coach surrounds himself with the best available players. These kids are in all probability those with the most innate ability available. Kids learn more from the opponents than the do from coaches.

What I am wondering is if this coach really does all that much. Could you please tell me something about in what ways your son has improved under his leadership? He has provided better competition which makes the players on his teams better in and of itself.

I am not trying to pimp you but have seen time after time teams like you describe where the coach does little more than make up the line ups and keeps the kids happy. I am the perennial skeptic.
1st of all he taught these kids about approach at the plate.these kids are 13 mind you just coming off the small diamond.He had these kids learn situational hitting.Each time you go to the plate you have a job to do.He lets these kids freelance sometimes if they make a mistake he talks to them about it after the game in front of the whole team so everyone learns. He lets the parents stand by and listen so we as parents learn also.Never yells unless he is on the bases and there is a play on and he wants a kid to score etc.. Could this be taught on a rec ball team? Sure it could,I just have never seen a rec ball coach do it.Have seen them make sure everyone gets a juice box though. Travel ball is the place to hone skills.Also the best competion no doubt.
I am not trying to pimp you but have seen time after time teams like you describe where the coach does little more than make up the line ups and keeps the kids happy. I am the perennial skeptic

You obviously haven't been around great travel teams. I can't understand your logic at all. There are great coaches and not so great coaches. Great coaches put you in front of guys who can teach you how to perfect BB skills. They manage players and inspire them to max their potential in addition to providing top competition. Rec ball is exactly what the name states . Recreational BB for kids who don't want to travel and make the commitment. There is no comparison.
You obviously haven't been around great travel teams.

Now let's not get testy here. Just looking for information to compare it with what I have seen. First I need you define the term, "great travel teams."

There are lots of things in play here. Quality of the coaching staff. Maturity of the players, not just their age, quality of the competiton, etc.

I have seen teams that call themselves, great, even elite. What I notice in general is that the kids are one age but appear to be 2 years older. The early maturation gives them a temporary edge until the other kids catch up.

Practice time is another issue for me. Kids learn mainly in practice and from the reps, not so much in the games. How many practices per week?

As we all know what separates the players to be from the rest of the pack is innate ability. Anyone with innate ability will be able to refine skills quickly.

I do not know the coach in question. I cannot speak to his abilities from any personal experience. And I do not know you nor your ability to judge. Hence the questions. If I am making you uneasy, just ignore me. I will have to reserve judgement for now.
Last edited by Daque
Not testy at all. More like amazed that you can't see the difference.
Take any team at the PG Jupiter event. The Midland Braves, Long Island Tigers, Ontario Blue Jays and on and on.
Yes there are teams that are not legit elite travel teams but they are still a lot better than Rec ball. Even the local AAA travel teams here are miles ahead of rec ball but not nearly as good as elite teams.
I watch all levels of BB. We have had 3 MiLB teams here, There are some 25-30 elite teams in the area around Toronto, 3 senior leagues full of ex pro, and college players. Our kids have been taught by pro players scouts and players. There are 3 D1 colleges within 30 miles. I have seen my share of good ,bad and great ball.
Our elite teams practice all winter and atleast 3 times a week for 4+ hours each practice.
Last edited by BobbleheadDoll
My son has played LL Juniors, high level local travel, HS summer ball and national travel with NorCal as a 14U. He is playing with them at the Elite 32 in Florida this month. Do you know why he plays for NorCal? One thing. Coaching!! This year after he played his first game with them he came back after the game and said, "Dad, I learned more from these guys in one day than I had learned all year."

That is the difference. Quality, quality and more quality. They put together a great team, but they are always teaching. They are incredible communicators, motivators and technical guys. He has played all three levels this year. Bad, good and excellent. Being around a quality organization is worth all of the effort. After you have experienced the difference between the levels, you know why they are the best. Top level has absolutely no comparison to anything else.
3 finger almost every team I referred to has teams starting at as early as 13U. They develop players through great coaching and exposing them to great competition.
There are hundreds of others that have superior organizations. Way too many to mention. There are organizations here that had 5000 kids registered in their hay day. They all had teams starting at early ages and funneled the kids to their travel teams. They even had 2-3 travel teams by the time they reached HS senior age.
One team my son played for had teams starting at 15U. They had 15U,16U,17U and 19U. Hundreds of kids tried out for each team. 15 tryouts all over Ontario until the final selection day. You had to attend 5 tryouts to be considered. I can tell you the coaches were top quality and included several pro coaches who worked with the kids all winter until they returned to their teams. One of my favorite guys was at the time , the longest serving D1 coaches in NCAA. They had 100s of US college players and several guys who went on to play pro ball.
So I think my comments are on the money. He hasn't seen very good travel organizations. Top coaching, competition and instruction are what great travel teams are all about. Or are all parents fools spending 1000s of dollars to play for these teams?
The Ontario Blue Jays can cost 9-10 grand a year. Almost all are in top colleges or the pros.
Dough that is the truth. I remember players saying the same thing after getting great coaching. I remember several coaches who really stood out. One was a guy named Don Cageano.(SP?) He lectured to the pitchers for over an hour about theory on a hot August day and the kids were mezmerized by him. Another was Murray Marshall who I was mesmerized by his knowledge. A long time poster here who's son dates a Canadian went to a Jays game with him and his daughter. She emails me and ask if I knew this guy. He felt like he was with BB royalty. I confirmed he was. He couldn't believe how many BB people knew him.
If you haven't been around top organizations you don't know what you are missing.
Last edited by BobbleheadDoll
I agree playing travel will help advance a player to high school varsity faster, once on the 60/90 field. But a kid with great ability who plays rec ball is going to get there anyway. It just may take him a year longer due to playing against lesser competition (Do not confuse kids who play rec ball, accumulate stats and think they're good with rec players who genuinely have tools and talent).

A player/parent has took look at each travel situation and decide if it fits for them. Paying the fee gives the player the right to earn a position. If there are eleven solid starters, what happens? It's important to know. It's better to get playing time on a lesser team than sit and get one at bat on a very good team.

Winning is great. But not at the expense of playing for a coach who does a bunch of bush, kiddie ball stuff at higher levels. You want your kid to learn. As good as you think he may be there's always room for improvement. My son is playing on a team this year not as good as the team he left. But he's getting incredible coaching. I'm glad we made the decision. His coach also has contacts at higher levels his past head coach doesn't have.
Last edited by RJM
RJM I don't think we are talking about the same thing. You don't get to pay if you aren't a great ball player. Some of these teams beat college teams. OBJ beat Connor State that year they won D1 JC World Series. They also beat other 4 year programs that year. One kid hit for the cycle against Duquesne U. He is a draftee out of HS. That team had as many as most top universities drafted. We might be comparing apples and orages.
I can't see the difference? I do not have enough information and have had no questions answered to clarify anything. I live a wee South of you and the teams you mention here have rung no bells. They may be all you say and more. I have nothing objective to judge by.

I will repeat my position on topic. Travel,select, elite, or galactic teams prior to competing on the full sized diamond means squat. All that is being done is refining techniques and skills earlier and then only to the level the player's innate ability will allow. Skills can be learned but innate ability cannot. Innate ability is the door opener.

Once the player is on the full sized diamonds and shows that he is a diamond in the rough, it is time to play with and against the best that he can. It is time to get serious.
Daque I know exactly where you live. Have been there and surrounding areas 60+ times.
The difference is our kids have no adjustment time when moving to the larger diamond. My son actually played 1 year where he played on both diamonds as a call up.
Some of the teams I mentioned and they are just a few and are nationally ranked teams. Add East Cobb, Columbus Cobras, Dbat, South Troy Dodgers and many many others. Midland Braves is run by the guy who owned Midland insurance and has a compound on his estate the houses the team. They draw the best talent from all over the world.
If you haven't heard of these then my statement is true that you haven't been around great BB teams. You don't play for these teams unless you have that innate talent you keep referring to. Innate talent isn't even enough on its own.
How do you get on those teams if you don't have the skills? Sure if you can flat out run or throw, someone may give you a chance, but the rest are looking for ball players. You don't get on a quality team playing against quality opponents if all you have is potential. At least not around here. If you wait, it is too late and your spot is taken by someone who has put in the time at the travel level to get as good as they can.

Our HS had 40+ trying out for the freshman team. They kept 14. Potential didn't make the cut. Most of the kids who come out have abilities to one degree or the other. The difference a lot of the time is skill level. Kids with similar potential and talent go against each other for a spot. The kid with the better skills will win. And they are developed on the small diamonds.
Dough you make a very good point. Breaking into a quality team is almost impossible in some areas. Polished players who learn at a young age are miles ahead of late comers.
I am trying to understand Daque's point but it defies logic. We all know talent is the bases of any sport. That also involves learning skill sets and that involves reducing reaction times. I consider 15 to be the latest you should be involved with quality teams and instruction. Earlier even better.
Yes I think it is important. The difference in the commitment in kids who play rec ball and high level ball is important. Even at 10-11 I remember how hard the travel teams played. The rec teams were almost like baby sitting with some players not that interested. I can tell you that non of the players who played rec ball went past HS BB. Almost every kid who played on the elite teams played HS and at some college level.
We had some coaching issues at minor mosquito which is 10-11. A disgruntled parent got the travel coach fired and took over the team. He got rid of most of the good ball players and signed his son's friends. They went from winning 90% of their games to 5%. They were for most part rec ball players. Finally after half the season had been played they fired the coach. My son pitched that season in rec ball and it was totally unfair to the rec players and to my son. It was not challenging and could have turned him off BB. He would have quite if he had to do it again. h
He had friends on the team but the BB was awful. There is nothing wrong with kids who just want to play for fun but the better players are there to compete. The next year he made the travel team and won 2 of 3 games against the Ontario champions to go to the Ontario championships at the major mosquito level.
As far as skills they were taught proper techniques by pro players. At that 10-11 age they were taught by players in the minor league who put on camps. Guys like Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, Pat Henke, and many other super star BB pros. I remember Big John Mayberry teaching my son how to hit. This all impacted his desire to play serious BB which is far more important than whether he could put off elite BB until he was on the big diamond. It is about desire and rec ball was counter productive.
. I can tell you that non of the players who played rec ball went past HS BB. Almost every kid who played on the elite teams played HS and at some college level.

So some rec players do make it to HS ball and some, "elite" players do not. Once they are in HS ball the impact of small diamond ball is negligible.

You affirmed my point.
No you are miss reading my statement. Some rec players played HS and almost all elite players played HS and above. The elite players who didn't play college BB, played other sports at college level. All the elite players played HS which is not as important as US HS BB. Most HS here have about 5-6 very good players so there is room for rec players to fill out the rosters.
Last edited by BobbleheadDoll
I still can't see why you keep referring to small diamond and big diamond. When I played we only had the big diamond and we played on it at 12 years old and beyond. It had no bearing on the skill set you acquire.
The only difference is the strength required to make the throws. Some genius decided to build smaller diamonds so the young players wouldn't stress their little arms. There are even some teams that play on medium sized diamonds. I guess they felt the jump to the larger diamond was too much for those little arms.
I am not acquainted with the Canadian system of youth play. In the US system there are small diamond leagues such as Little League, etc.

There are boys who are physically maturing and so have better eye hand coordination and strength than their prepubescent peers.

There are those who believe that these more mature kids who are pitching in the 70's and whacking the ball out of the park while competing on the small diamonds are the next coming of The Babe. I am not one of them.

In the US, kids usually advance to the full sized diamond at age 13 but there are leagues that use the intermediate (80'/54') for age 13/14.

Thus my position on travel before reaching the full sized diamond. Until a player can show that he can compete successfully on the full sized diamond, travel is not relevent to his develoment. There is usually one year on the full sized diamond before HS tryouts. My contention is that a rec player can close the gap with a travel player in that year assuming the innate attributes are comparable.

Let me give you a for instance from here in the Guadalajara area. A 12 year old pretty good pitcher playing LL, Inc. was asked by a 13/14 manager to fill in on his team during a tournament and pitch. The boy asked for my help on pick off moves, pitching from the set position and balks.

After a 30 to 45 minute clinic, the next day he went to the tournament and pitched 3 successful innings.

Skills are easily learned and perfected by a playere with the innate ability. Of course, he must be able and willing to learn, and the biggie, a willingness to change things that he has been successful with in munchkin ball.

There are many kids who would not be able to play ball at age 10 on the full sized diamond. The small diamond allows weaker/younger players to learn the game. The reduced sized diamonds allow for a crisper game.

It sounds as though your system has the culling process at an earlier age than in the US. In the US, the first major step is the ability to compete on the full sized diamond and the second major step is making the HS team. HS ball is still strong here but travel will soon be more important in advancing a player's career.

So while your players move on at age 12, the US kids do so at 13. I am getting the message that HS ball is not as important as it is in the US but that too is changing with more and more select teams for 15 and older.

Is one system better than another? Probably not as the funnel narrows. Once you get to Division I university baseball, everyone on the team has great innate ability. The mental game and passion is what makes the diffeence. Not so at the HS level.

Your draw is from a wider area than most teams in the US and so I can believe that all players at all levels have great innate ability. There are just less such teams. And if they are all playing on the full sized diamond compete successfully, then your position makes sense to me. Our points of reference are merely different.
Seems to me we are talking semantics. Does playing travel on the small diamond guarantee that you make the HS team? No. Without the innate ability Daque is talking about, you won't make it. Does being a stud on the small diamond guarantee you make the HS team? No. By the time the kids are 14 or 15, others may have caught up to the "early bloomers" and the stud is now average or below average. Can a kid growing up playing rec ball make the HS team? Absolutely. With enough innate ability, kids will make it.

I don't think anyone here would argue with any of that. However, I think what many are saying is that for those with the innate ability, playing on the small diamond at a competitive level will certainly help them in the long run. Big or Small diamond, you still field grounders the same way. You still catch a fly ball the same way. You still do cutoffs the same way, bunt the same way, turn double plays the same way. You just do it on a bigger field as you grow older. The fundamentals you learn by playing at a more competitive level will allow the players with innate ability and adequate strength to be more prepared for the HS teams when they get there.

In other words, if you have two kids with the same innate ability trying out for the HS team as freshmen, the kid who played travel at a very competitive level even on the small diamond will be more prepared to play JV or Varsity his freshman year than the one who only played rec ball prior to HS. The rec player may be ready his Soph or Jr year, but the other player will be ready earlier.

I would never try to figure out what is in Daque's head, but what I gather from his posts is that without the innate ability, what a kid does on the small diamond doesn't really matter for what ever reasons. However, I would say that for those with the innate ability, even work on the small diamond on a well coached team playing high level competition will get that player ready earlier for the HS team.
Daque I was actually referring to US teams that had medium size diamonds. Our kids play up to bantam on small diamonds.
I live 10 mins from the US border and we play US teams regularly. We played LL, legion and elite teams from all over the US. Our diamonds are unbelievable and my son's last team before he went to college, played on a MiLB field that had toilettes in the dugout, team and Ump rooms with a full concession concourse. There were also 2 slow pitch diamonds. They hosted the AUBF world series and the Rawlings Wood bat tournaments with some of the top US teams. It was an amazing experience to play and practice there.
Our elite teams played American League rules and followed college level workout programs all year. Winter workouts were in a double field s****r dome with grass turf.
I don't think the whole issue of playing rec ball and trying to catch up is a wise choice. It may be possible but you can't teach desire. The desire is what set players apart assuming they have that innate ability you talk about. There is just no way a kid who would settle for rec ball would be able to take the grind which started at about 15 for us. That assumes that you could make the cut.
Our HS teams a few years ago were pretty good but typically the varsity team had some poor players that watered it down. There were 24 teams broken into 2 conferences. The top teams would play the championship games in the Rogers Sky dome. There were lots of drafted players and even some who play in the pros but it was not the goal to play HS ball. The goal was to play on the best elite team you could afford. If you couldn't afford it you played for your local travel team and they often wouldn't charge if you couldn't afford that. They still had some good coaches but it was mostly daddy ball. The players were not dedicated especially as they got to midget age.
The fundamentals you learn by playing at a more competitive level will allow the players with innate ability and adequate strength to be more prepared for the HS teams when they get there.

Arm strength for throwing is a part of the innate ability.

In the US kids graduate to the full sized diamond a year before HS tryouts. I ask again what skills cannot picked up in that time?

Skills can be learned on the small diamond but proficiency will be limited by innate ability.

A well coached team will allow the player to only learn the nuances of the game as it is played on the small diamond.

All the time I hear coaches spew the line that they are getting the kids ready for HS or the next level. Then you learn they are playing a gazillion games and hardly ever practice. And practice is where the kids learn. Whatever level they compete in it is important to have the fundamentals in place. Now in that regard we are talking about the quality of the coaches whatever the level of ball.

People seem to be confused about what I am saying. Let me simplify. If a player has the innate ability and the other essential personal attributes necessary for success it matters not where he plays while on the small diamond, so long as he does play.

The HS coach doesn't care what level you played at on the small diamond. He doesn't want to see your stash of plastic trophies. He only cares about what you are bringing to the table for him.

Every year it comes to pass that kids from travel teams are cut and the parents cannot figure out how their all star son was missed. He was the starting F4 for all stars and on his travel team and played against very good teams 100 games per season. The coach must be blind. Not really. The coach is able to judge the size of this fish in a bigger pond. He doesn't measure up.
Last edited by Daque
BB I agree with your take on what he is saying.
I just have never seen a kid with the ability settle for rec ball.
You also have to have guys teach those fundamentals and reinforce them as you develop. We were fortunate to live close to MLB and MiLB to get the proper training. The good players would never settle for rec ball.
The best player at the young ages 12-15 on my son's travel team never stayed in BB . He was a stud at the early ages but he had other issues.
How can any kid enjoy less than mediocre BB if they have this innate ability? That is not possible.
It seems that you have a problem with travel ball and coaches. The marketing makes you sick because coaches say they will prepare you for the next level.
I can show you lists of players who were promised that and they are playing pro or college ball. Like I say you haven't been around great programs that develop ball players to maximize their potential. Like anything in life you have to do your due diligence.
Last edited by BobbleheadDoll
It seems that you are focused on the kids that don't make it in HS that played travel. All I can talk about is my experience and what I have seen in my sons HS. The coaches don't have time for projects. If you don't get it done on the field their are 2-3 kids that will. Some HS's are different. If you show up you make the team. Not my sons team. The high end travel guys don't have time for projects unless they see insane talent. If you are starting at 13-14 to play high end ball you will not play high end ball. Period. You will always be behind the curve playing for lessor teams and lessor coaching. You may catch up by the time you are a junior or senior, but it is going to be tough to break into a line up and the kid is going to have to be awfully hard to put up with years of being cut. It does happen, but it is very rare. Why would you want to give your kid less of a chance, put him at a disadvantage when you don't have to do it?

Why would you want to say no to your kid if he wants to play against the best?

Why would you want to have your kid less skilled than he can be? What is good about that? How does it help? Just because you have good skills and play high level travel doesn't mean you are done growing and getting better. I see kids with great talent working their hineys off to get better. Grinders with incredible ability. This is what my kid competes against.

There is no advantage to waiting to get high level competition and coaching if your kid wants to do it. Why wait?

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