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Travel Ball: Who can Afford it?

SO. California Travel Softball/ Jesus Rodriguez

Los Angeles, CA: How do we keep the cost of playing organized amateur baseball and softball, at all levels, down? It is still easy for parents to get kids started but for them to continue on a 13 year journey from a 5 year old starting out in T-ball, to a senior in high school, it becomes a tougher road to travel than they expected. We will see that the heart of the problem is that word, travel.

When bats range from $120 to $500 something is wrong. Then there is the cost of joining a league or travel team. Fees mount up with every year they play. Now travel ball has become the number one place parents want their kids to play and that can become a money gobbler real fast.

Those costs include fees for joining a team or organization plus umpire and tournament fees. Most teams have as many as three different game uniform shirts, a practice shirt, sweat shirts, multiple socks, spikes, team helmets etc, etc. There are batting gloves, fielders gloves and if the kid plays catcher there is the expense of all of that equipment. Then there are pitching, fielding and hitting coach lessons. Parents have to pay 95% of all that.

The word travel brings on the fact that there will be trips every week to places not close to home. Some that require an over night stay from one to three nights in a hotel plus meals and gas or in some cases flights. And don’t forget that there are other brothers and sisters who will have to make those trips. Get the picture?

The fact that they believe that travel ball is where their son or daughter will get the most looks by a college or pro scout makes it the most attractive place for them to play. Scouts will follow kids from an early age and keep records of their progress or decline.

If a kid catches the eye of one of these evaluators at 12, 13 or 14 years old trust me they will be followed. It is a very long time to invest thousands of dollars in what will result in some kids getting offers to play at the college level and others getting drafted by a pro team. For most of them it will be a great experience and the friends they made along the way will remain forever.

To all of these parents it’s worth the expense. But there are many other parents who are shut out because of the costs. They have kids not only eager to play but in some cases are better athletes that are not getting the chance to show how good they are to one of these scouts. Again I ask, How do we get the costs down?

I have seen a nice effort of sponsorships from local businesses to major corporations for some of these teams but not enough to cover the bulk of the expenses for each family that wants to be involved with travel ball. It is the fear of some of the less well-off parents of not being able to keep up with the surprise expenses that will most likely keep many kids from getting the chance to play baseball or softball throughout their adolescence.

I have no solution for this dilemma and it pains me to think that there is another Roberto Clemente, Henry Aaron or Mickey Mantle out there that we will never get to see because his parents couldn’t afford to pay for them to play baseball.

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