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Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Travel Baseball Right For Your Kid?

The World's #1 Backyard Baseball Trainer
By Matthew Jorn

Throughout my years as a young baseball athlete I have played on many different traveling teams, as well as local and high school teams. From this experience I have come to find out all of the different pros and cons of each type of league. Many parents ask "Is it better for my child to play on traveling AAU or non-traveling City Leagues?" Some even want to know if they should play neither and simply wait till high school to travel. For each individual the answer is different. Based on the availability of money and time to drive the child all over the country, it is primarily also related to the passion that the individual has to actually play baseball now or even at the next level.

Starting with the local City Leagues there are many great opportunities for your child out there. Depending on the area in which you live there are usually several quality City Leagues for them to participate in. The upside of City League is that it is relatively inexpensive, almost all of the games are played on the same set of fields close to home and the games are usually scheduled around school obligations. This makes it easy for parents to get the child to the game, be able to afford the required equipment and keeps the kid from missing out on necessary school work or sleep.

City League has some downsides. For one, you get what you pay for. Many of the coaches are dads who have volunteered there time that really do not know much about the nuances of baseball, let alone teaching it to your child well enough to prepare them for the next level. Also, the equipment supplied by the city is usually beaten hand-me-down items which in turn means buying extra equipment. If your child is just looking for something fun to do on the weekends and you are desperate to get them out of the house then City League is for you. However, if your child wants to excel at the next level and learn from the best then you should probably look into some sort of traveling team.

This brings me to AAU and USSSA; these are the two principal traveling ball leagues. These leagues are nationwide and require a very large amount of time to be put in by each player. The expression "you get what you pay for" applies here as well, only the player gets the highest quality baseball education available. Depending on the popularity of the team the cost is as much as $5,000 per season. Where that may seem like a lot of money it covers all of the uniforms, top dollar equipment, entry fees for games played in huge stadiums, and the knowledge of a highly experienced coaching staff. The upside to traveling ball is that your child will receive the best training, play more games than they can count, and visit places that they have never been before. Every ten year old dreams of playing in Yankee Stadium and many times these teams do play in Minor league stadiums or spring training stadiums. The only real down side to all of this is that it is expensive, requires at least one parent to, for the most part, not have a job and can really burn your child out if they are not that serious about the sport.

Now that you see the difference in the two types of leagues you may be thinking well why not play both? Well if your child is that dedicated and you have the time and money then maybe they can play in both leagues. I will caution you though; it really can burn your child out both physically and mentally.

Mentally you may see a fall in academics because all they think about is baseball and becoming a professional so they don't need school. This is wrong because you have to go through high school and college ball to play in the pros these days. Physically, playing that many games can really take a toll on a developing body. While they may be young and not feel the effects immediately, once they are 20 years old and playing in college they could finally tear that ligament or rip that muscle that has been over used throughout the years. Playing in both leagues means that you play all year long with no breaks, which is terrible for the healing process of muscles and non vascular tissues. In my second year of college ball I tore my Labrum which required surgery. I was a star pitcher in Florida and now I can barely play catch with a child. This was all due to over use, playing nonstop in high school and AAU as well as City League. Taking care of your arm and body in general is always priority to playing as many games as possible. If something doesn't feel right take some time off to heal, in the long run it will pay off.

The best advice I can give you is to ask your child to evaluate their passion for baseball. If you think they have the skill to take it to the next level then stick to travel ball for all of their pre-high school playing days. Once high school rolls around have them concentrate on playing for their school. If your child is good enough a college or even pro scout will find them no matter what league they play in. Just remember to play with moderation because a broken player is not a player at all.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick