More and more, high school baseball players are supplementing their schedule by playing with travel clubs in addition to their high school teams in the summer. Is it all necessary?
Jason Rossi, sports reporter
First things first, I can understand why high school ballplayers want to play for travel teams: They get more time on the field, which can only help their development, and they get to spend more time playing the game they love.
Travel programs may be able to put together competitive teams to play in various high-level tournaments, at which some college coaches and scouts may watch them play. But the proliferation of travel teams seems to keep growing, and travel teams are almost a victim of their own success.
There are now so many travel teams and tournaments that college coaches and scouts can’t possibly go to all of them. Travel programs promise to help with next level exposure, but with so many travel teams and tournaments out there, they outnumber the college coaches and pro scouts.
The level of competition in travel ball is supposed to be superior, but there are now so many travel clubs that a player of almost any skill level can make a squad. Plus, so many high school players are now playing travel ball that a typical high school summer game can offer almost the same level of competition as some travel tournaments.
Travel ball and big-time showcases are a way to get noticed, but there is still something to be said for high school ball. Pro scouts and college coaches may be impressed by a player at a travel tournament, but often the first person they contact to find out more about a player is the high school coach, the one who often teaches, coaches and counsels the player. Travel ball may be great for exposure, but high school ball is still the lifeline for next-level teams.
Scott Schmid, sports reporter
While many high school players and their parents will point to the college scouts in the stands, that exposure over the summer isn’t the biggest benefit to playing tournaments all over the Midwest and the nation.
The fact of the matter is, in most cases, if a player is truly that talented, colleges will find him whether he is playing for multiple teams in June and July or just for his high school squad.
What can’t be overlooked is the level of competition and the pressure-packed moments that traveling ball ensures, the likes of which aren’t mimicked during the high school summer league.
Baseball played at the high school level during the summer is geared more for getting the younger kids experience; many games don’t go the customary seven innings, very little importance is given to the winner and rarely, because of other commitments, does a team even have its full squad there.
On the flip side, many of the traveling tournaments are littered with highly talented position players and pitchers, causing others to raise their level of play or recognize where they fall short. Furthermore, the pressure is ratcheted up, as a team tries to extend its stay by either advancing out of pool play or moving on in a single- or double-elimination format. That environment can only help a player’s learning curve.
Travel ball helped my brother, Brad, and the York High School team win a state championship in 1993. Brad and some of his York teammates had played travel ball for the Elmhurst Stars. The Stars won several big tournaments over the years, including a 72-team event in Wisconsin. After an experience like that, making a seven-game run through the high school state tourney didn’t seem quite so daunting.