Should Your Child Play Travel Baseball – Is your child ready to make the jump from Little League or parks and recreation baseball to a travel baseball team? The decision to sign your child up for travel teams or Fed Ball leagues can be difficult.There is so much to consider as the leap is a serious time, effort, and financial commitment.
Travel Teams and Federation baseball leagues were in their infancy when I was a Little League player. Back when I played, Fed Ball was considered a little more advance than Little League and designed to take some of the better Little League players to help them on an easier path to an eventual high school baseball team.
Today, many travel teams and Federation baseball teams are often seen as a superior alternative or replacement for high school baseball altogether. At some of the finer high school baseball programs in Oakland County, nearly 100% of the HS rosters are made up of travel team players. Not just some kids that have been playing travel baseball for a few seasons, I mean kids that have been playing travel baseball since they were 7 and continue to play on DURING their high school years. Waning are the days when a rec ball or Little League veteran could earn a spot on a high school team. In short – Travel baseball teams in leagues like the North Oakland Baseball Federation league play more and practice more at a higher level.
Despite the ideal situation for my son to advance his baseball skills, joining a travel team for baseball wasn’t a no-brainer decision for me.
If you have a similar situation coming up in your son / daughter’s life in regards to travel baseball / travel softball here is what you should consider…
Should Your Child Play Travel Baseball
Your child’s goals – Is your son or daughter trying to make high school baseball / high school softball? Do they have elite college-level ability and intangibles? Maybe their interest is simply recreational? You can save a lot of time and money with a recreation league if your child is just having fun. You’ll NEED travel baseball if your player is seeking anything “next level”.
The potential for travel baseball/travel softball to inhibit his/her other interests – In addition to baseball, my son also plays tennis, participates in youth football camps, plays a ton of video games, and plays guitar. Obviously playing travel baseball or Fed Ball interfered with these activities and lessened (or eliminated) these interests.
The money – Obviously travel teams cost a lot more than recreational or Little League Baseball League. More games, better uniforms, more travel, more practices… MORE MONEY. I couldn’t afford to send my son on a travel team that actively travels throughout the Mid-West playing double elimination tournaments. Before deciding on Federation Ball, I had extensive conversations with my son’s coach and assured him our budget for travel was very small. We did wind up playing in a few tournaments, but never out of state. Make sure you know your budget and what the budget of your child’s team is. Some teams just require a check up front for the entire season. Others ask you to fundraise.
The travel – Travel teams around here play in tournaments all over the Great Lakes region and parents have to foot the bill. Even Fed Ball teams are encouraged to sign up for tournaments that often require travel. With most travel teams, travel isn’t mandatory but is often “smiled upon”. At this stage in my life (and my son’s), I’d personally rather spend a weekend trip with my wife and not jammed in on the 7th floor of a Holiday Inn in Grand Rapids with dozens of 12-year olds. The travel (expense and time expense) was our own biggest issue with travel baseball leagues / Federation baseball leagues.
Also, I’ve heard of some strange scenarios where local teams travel to Kentucky only to face a team or two from their own league. This lead to the hilarious question of “why did my son & I have to drive to Kentucky to play a team from Royal Oak that my son’s team just played last Thursday?”
The time – Little League Baseball is extremely localized. More practices in travel teams and the games are spread throughout Oakland County. There’s a big difference in going to Madison Hts for a game as opposed to going to Oxford for a game. It’s going to be a large time commitment for my son, his mom, and myself shuttling him back and forth from the many games and practices. Games might be 2.5 hours but travel time to Waterford during rush hour… then back…. it adds up.
Assessment of talent – Is your child “good enough” to play at this level? If your son or daughter isn’t an elite player, they may be on the bench quite a bit. There are no rules that dictate “every child gets to play”. If you’re hoping your CF son develops into a better CF’er but his team has a better CF’er, your son might not play.
Here is my son’s personal experience with making the jump from Little League / Recreation baseball to travel baseball. Maybe you find yourself in a similar position with your son or daughter.
My son has been all over the map during his baseball life. He started early enough at 5 years old with t-ball, then coach pitch, then recreational baseball (local P&R). Sometimes, we’d throw in a private baseball instruction clinics or two here and there (but not a lot).
My son’s abilities in baseball were always, regardless of league (rec or travel), above average but not prolific. If there were 12-14 kids on his team – any team, he was a top 5 player, but likely not a top 3 player. He also does not naturally possess elite speed, size, or velocity. He was very balanced, maybe even excellent in some areas, but never elite.
After a couple of Little League All-Star Game appearances, he was invited by a coach, who was looking to jump-start his own Fed Ball / travel baseball team, to join his team with a bunch of my son’s old Little League teammates. My son loved his coach, his baseball buddies, and playing, of course he wanted to play.
My son played 3 years of travel with the North Oakland Baseball Federation and enjoyed his time. If my son had ideal college Division I talent, I would have invested more. By high school age he was outshined by players who, instead of joining a travel team at 11 years old (like my son did), joined a travel team at 8 years old.
Postscript – My son made it as far as JV baseball in high school at a competitive program. He never made varsity. My son became frustrated that he was unable to make the varsity baseball team. Our financial situation dictated that he had to choose pursuing tennis full-time or continue baseball full-time on a travel team (or pursue both recreationally). He chose to invest his time (and our money) in tennis lessons and tournaments in addition to playing on his HS tennis team. He received a tennis scholarship to a small NAIA school in Indiana. He’s still friends with everyone from the travel team he was on for his 3 year travel baseball career.
What are your thoughts on travel baseball teams