Tuesday, February 5, 2008
RT Staff Note:
We received an e-mail about three weeks ago from an anonymous group called Parents for Better Baseball. We don't know who they are or where they came from, and thus, we have been sitting on this for a while. Their purpose in life... they claim...is to help high school coaches better understand the season after the high school season. We are not sure what to think about too much parental involvement when it comes to baseball policy...but we like what this e-mail said. They wanted us to publish the entire e-mail in our blog, so since we have proof in an e-mail that we have their permission, and after much consternation, we decided to run it....or at least some of it...This e-mail was the equivalent of about 10 pages long...we couldn't re-print the entire thing...so, that is why the "e-mail" ends where it does. Again, this e-mail was intended by the authors to be directed at high school coaches...keep that in mind when reading through this...Also, tell us what you think in the comments section below the article.
Myth: A travel team will take anyone’s money and praise every kid to keep the money flowing.
Fact: While there are some programs out there that are in it for the money, the truly good programs have try-outs and only select the players that they feel college recruiters will want to see. However, from time to time, you get an overzealous dad with a fat wallet that buys his kid on the team and then goes to all the high school coaches to tell them that his son is on this team and played in that tournament. During the early years of travel ball, funding was an issue for many families and programs alike. If a rich dad came in with a plan to help fund the team, a program director would accept his money, in exchange for a spot on the team for his kid. The reality is that those kids rarely played. We have all witnessed those scenarios and it is exactly that issue that started the negative perceptions of travel ball with high school coaches. That is not what travel ball is about plain and simple. The reality is: the kids that played were the real stars with the real talent. The good programs will have the hardware, signed players and testimonials to prove that point.
Myth: One of the reasons that there are so many arm problems with today’s pitchers is that travel teams are more concerned about winning trophies than the health of their players.
Fact: Again, follow the legacy of great programs that the college recruiters respect. A highly respected travel program has a pitching staff of at least 8-9 number ones. All of the pitchers have pitch count limits regardless of the situation. While many programs that have the best reputations win regularly, winning is not everything, especially if it involves the health and welfare of one of their players. In more cases than we would like to mention, an injury to a pitcher was more a result of a parents ego to show-off his kid, than it was the fault of the travel coach. Good travel programs (and we must stress good travel programs) have set schedules and it is supposed to be mandatory that their kids only follow that schedule. Nevertheless, there have been many times when a less than savory program will call a prospects dad and tell him that he needs a pitcher to round out his team in some obscure tournament. Of course in this obscure tournament, the dad’s son will be their star. Dad, not happy with the rotation that the original travel club has very carefully planned for his son, because it doesn’t make him the star, accepts the offer to go to this obscure event. A couple days later, it’s juniors turn in the rotation on the original travel team and young junior pitches in that game too. This happens all summer until all of a sudden, juniors arm gets sore. While this was just an example, it is based on numerous real life situations just like this. The same thing happens when a top pitcher decides to play in his community Legion program and is the only good pitcher on the team. He gets overused and that is a scenario that happens way too often. A player just needs to stick to a good travel program and their meticulous rotation schedules and no one should get hurt. Of course, we can’t predict the other intangibles that cause injury, but a player will be less likely to get hurt due to irresponsible circumstances, if he follows the travel teams plan.
Myth: If a player is good, he will get seen no matter where they play.
Fact: Who is going to see him? Again, the only recruiters that can see a player play are the local colleges and universities. But what if a player doesn’t want to go to the local colleges? How does he get noticed by Arizona St, Vanderbilt, Florida, San Diego St, LSU, Texas and others? He has to play where these recruiters are. They are all at the major travel showcase and they are all watching the elite travel teams players.
Myth: A travel team gives a player a false sense of worth and value as a player by virtue of the travel clubs reputation and doesn’t develop the player to become a better ballplayer.
Fact: First, no one plays on a quality travel team if it isn’t deserved. Starting on a travel team will be the toughest challenge in a players’ life to date. A player may be chosen because he projects well or due to his size or height, but if he doesn’t perform, then he will be part of their development program. The best players in the area will be competing for spots that were a piece of cake to make on his high school team. A typical 17u travel team will have mostly first team all-conference players. For many top programs throughout the state, it is a requirement to have that honor to participate. In the younger age groups, a travel team will require Freshman or JV stats, or a recommendation from a high school coach before invited to a try-out. Pre-high school teams are usually Little League all-stars, although, the criteria is not as stringent at that age due to varying degrees of maturity with middle school kids.
The development of players is of the utmost importance to travel clubs. They want to keep as many players as they can all the way through high school. Travel teams have weekly practices, and as many as 3-5 games per week, depending on the venue. Many also have great indoor or outdoor facilities to practice in as well. But, it’s the exposure to the best playing the best that help develop ballplayers. Also, in order to win, a team must be fundamentally sound. Proper mechanics at the plate, on the mound and in the field are the hallmark of the best programs. A Legion program run by some dad who never played the game won’t teach you that.
Myth: None of the players on my top high school team play travel ball and we do fine.
Fact: Look more closely. As we stated earlier, a majority of a high schools top stars are more than likely extremely involved in high level travel ball. Have you coaches ever had a game when a junker throwing about 70mph was baffling your starters and then, when you put in the subs, they destroyed him? Or did you ever have the opposite happen, when a flamethrower got plastered by the top of your order and dominated your bottom three and bench? Did you have a guy that had trouble hitting at the JV level because the pitching was too slow and proceeded to crush the ball at the varsity level? That’s the difference between the travel ball player and a Legion player. In Legion, there are a plethora of 70mph anti-hurlers that mediocre hitters can usually hit. Those are the guys that perform well in pre-season against the less than competitive high school programs that are scheduled as warm-ups to the season. They are also the guys whose parents give you coaches fits. “My son had the highest batting average in Legion last summer, how come he doesn’t play in high school” How many of you coaches have heard that? Legion gives a player and his parents this false sense of their true abilities. In travel ball, players have to be more alert, focused, selective, have quick hands, and are challenged at every at bat. A slow junker to a travel ball player is murder after seeing a summer of 90mph sliders and fastballs mixed in with slurves and curves.
Myth:My high school league is the best competition they will ever see.
Fact: Could be...depends on where the league is. It's tough to justify a Northern state league being able to be really competitive when the weather doesn't break consistently until late April. Can a player really be at his best when it's 45 degrees and drizzly? Even in the southern states, we are sure that there are leagues that tout top talent. But for a minute, let’s ponder the nature of the typical travel team. It’s an unfair comparison really. A travel team will have first teamers from all the major conferences in that state or region. Those teams will play similar competition and first teamers from all around the country or state. This is not a knock in any way against high school ball. We need to protect the integrity of High School baseball. We just feel that all of the coaches should be ecstatic that their kids are playing ball at that level. It strengthens their teams, the league and the subsequent press that follows if one or more of those players receive a nice college offer or pro contract.
Myth: Colleges send high school coaches letters inquiring about players all the time and even get phone calls. If a prospect get placed, it is because of the HS coaches recommendation.
Fact: We wish this were true. But, how do you think the prospects name came up in the first place? Unfortunately, we have interviewed over a dozen college coaches and they tend to differ. They call coaches mainly to measure the players attitude, work ethic, and grades after they have already seen him play in a showcase or tournament in the summer or fall. As we stated earlier, they still must see the prospect play in a high level event to determine if he is indeed a prospect.
Myth: There were about 10 scouts at a few of my games earlier this year. I send my best player to the state high school games. That’s all they need.
Fact: There’s too much pressure today on recruiters to rely on one game or one event to decide whether or not a player is worth the risk of offering a scholarship. They need to see them several times under different competition. That’s why the recruiters and scouts will go to at least 15-20 tournaments throughout the summer and fall in many cases to see the same players again and again. Some of the top events that all of these scouts will be attending are as follows:
• Perfect Game Showcases
• Junior Olympics
• Team One Showcases
• World Wood Bat National Championships in Marietta, GA
• AFLAC All American Game
• Area Code Games and camps
• Arizona Senior Classic and Arizona Fall Classic in Peoria, AZ and many more…