Why Don’t Kids Play Baseball Anymore? The short answer is THEY DO. The long answer is it involves inaccurate stereotypes (usually by dads) that mutter things like “how come you don’t see kids playing baseball in the neighborhood anymore?”.
Why Don’t Kids Play Baseball Anymore?
I was one of those dads. I noticed kids weren’t on the playground and blamed cell phones, video games, and “screen time” in general. I longed for how it was “when I was a kid” and my friends would meet up at the local playgrounds in the summer to play baseball for hours. My childhood in the 1980’s wasn’t very much different than the movie, “The Sandlot.” Before I had kids of my own, I lamented that “helicopter moms,” lazy kids, and shoddy parenting had something to do with why I wasn’t seeing neighborhood kids playing ball, or even Flashlight Tag. I was in for a surprise when my own son started playing in a rec baseball (T-Ball) league when he was 5.
The truth is, kids ARE playing baseball today. And, they’re playing baseball at a much higher level than I ever dreamed of in 1982 when I played with a cheap glove and used a $20 bat. Today’s kids train for baseball year-round in indoor training facilities. Their parents shell out major coin so they are playing in travel leagues where they play up to 8 games a weekend far from home. The kids today have personal hitting coaches and work out in gyms that look like Ivan Drago’s training facility in Rocky 4. Today’s players use modern equipment and technology to play baseball that would make any member of the 1984 Detroit Tigers jealous to use.
The level of competition for kids to play baseball isn’t like The Sandlot either, it’s FIERCE. How fierce? By the time my son joined a Fed Ball (travel team) at the age of 9, many parents and coaches wondered if it was “too late” for him. When my son tried out for his high school baseball team, the team’s off-season weight-training program for kids trying out began in September. These workouts were Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 2:30p-4:00p. In January, they added in a throwing practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 6:15a-7:15a before school. Again, this was for kids who hadn’t even made the team yet! The team even had had weekend practices and encouraged off-season baseball camps held at local indoor facilities.
Why don’t kids play baseball anymore? They do… if their parents can afford it. Not surprisingly, parents have to fund leagues, camps, travel expenses, and off-season training. It’s not uncommon for a decent aluminum bat to cost in excess of $150. Aluminum? But kids REALLY want the composite bats. Those can cost literally hundreds of dollars more. A baseball bat for a growing boy lasts maybe one season. This means they need a new one every year. You could opt-out of personalized instruction to save money. Just remember, your child’s competition likely has parents that will pay the money for the camps and extra instruction you might not or can’t afford to pay. It’s really sad for me to think that there are probably really talented youth baseball players out there whose parents simply can’t afford to pay $2000 to $3000 a year so their child can develop the skills necessary to compete in Travel Teams and Fed Ball. Baseball, along with every other youth sport has become an arms race about which parents can afford the most training and specialty coaches.
Parenting and society has changed so much, and it will continue to do so. For instance, my baseball equipment and playing frequency probably seemed just as alien to my parents as my son’s baseball career does to me. It’s not as simple as it used to be, but nothing is. I’m not trying to sound bitter about it. Why don’t kids play baseball anymore? I’m at least glad to report that they do play, and they play it well.