Infatuations with “Travel Teams”

I recently read a great blog from the Inspiration Academy titled, “How Elite Travel Teams Steal Your Money.”  The post accurately described how these teams market to players the number of college coaches they get at their games.  They then charge a lofty fee for registration, and have no cuts.  Players and parents soon realize that they have been placed on a ‘B’ team or a ‘C’ team; playing in games that have no colleges attend.  The ‘A’ team is compiled of higher-caliber players that do attract colleges and professional scouts.  And, in some cases, the registration fees paid by the players of the B and C teams go towards the costs of fielding the A team.

I have been around baseball long enough (as a player and as a College Coach) to know how these travel teams work; and would love to expose any and all ‘fraudulent’ programs.  What do I mean by fraudulent?  Programs that use the marketing ploy of saying that many college programs attend their games; yet they fail to say the coaches only attend their ‘A’ team games.  Programs that prioritize travel and how many scouts are in the stands over making the kids better players and people.  Programs that fail to teach ‘the game’; and instead, they teach the kids how to be a great showcase player.

Now, there are some great programs out there; but I feel they are being lumped into the larger crowd of the types of programs I describe above.

I believe that a parent and child’s selection for where they want to play summer and fall ball should be based on the following:

  1. Do you care about learning the game?  Talk to parents and players that have experience with the coach of the team you are looking to join.  See how practices are run.  Do the kids get better from playing with the team?  If yes, can it be attributed to the coach or was it b/c of their high school team or did their talent just catch up with their age?  If not much teaching goes on at practice and at games, you have to ask if that’s worth a few hundred, or even thousands of dollars.
  2. Do you want to play collegiately?  Do college coaches actually attend the games?  If so, are they the coaches of programs that are of actual interest to you and your child?  There could be 50 coaches at a game; but if you want to go to a Southern school, what good is playing for the team if only northeastern coaches attend the games?  I’ll write a post on this later; but if you actually have a short list of places where you want to go…just sign up for their camps…or call the coaches yourself!
  3. Is playing time important?  I don’t know how teams do it; but many teams today only carry a dozen or so players.  So, this may be a non-issue.  But, if a team carries 20 players (and they should), you may want to understand how a coach rotates lineups if playing time is critical.  Personally, as a coach, I would make sure all players have a chance to sit the bench and WATCH the game.  Its where most learning occurs.  Unfortunately, this is a hard sell to parents and kids…but its the truth.  Sitting will teach someone more about the game than being out there on the field.

If a child wants to play collegiate baseball, you DO NOT need to play travel baseball.  You can easily get a college scholarship without ever playing travel ball.  You just need to know how to go about doing it.  Again, there are some great programs out there; but you need to do your homework to find them.  I’d hate to see someone waste a few thousand dollars b/c someone sold them on a dream.  

Do your homework and find the right program…one that will teach your son to be a better player and person.  Because that is what ultimately matters the most.