Baseball Brains is a group of players, coaches, and athletic trainers who help others in our field become more successful and knowledgeable.
What Is Travel Baseball?
Travel baseball goes by many names; select, club, premier, elite, and so on. When people refer to travel baseball, they typically mean a team of higher level athletes who play in competitive tournaments and probably work out at their own facility.
The biggest thing that separates travel baseball from recreational baseball is the focus on competition. Travel baseball teams will usually be far more competitive, while recreational teams will be less so.
One of the other big differences can be found right in the name; travel teams play a lot of baseball outside of their immediate area. They might travel around their state, or even out of state, to play tournaments.
Who Plays Travel Baseball?
While most clubs are competitive in nature, many also have teams of various skill and ability. There are usually three different levels of competition in a travel ball tournament, from least developed to the highest level of youth baseball.
The fees are high (sometimes many thousands of dollars) to play on the team, let alone the cost of traveling around the state or country to play on the weekends. So why do people do it?
Here are a few advantages that travel baseball holds over standard recreational leagues.
Better Teams and Better Competition
One of the biggest draws to travel baseball is that it allows kids to play with, and against, the best players in their area and beyond. This isn't to say that recreational baseball doesn't have good players in it, it's just to say that most of the select club teams have more of them.
There are many good reasons to play with and against the best players. It pushes an athlete to work harder to earn his spot, it inspires kids to want to be better, and it teaches them to deal with adversity and challenges they may not otherwise encounter.
Of all the reasons to play travel baseball, this is one of the best.
Travel Baseball Coaches Are Usually More Experienced
This is one of those things where we must say 'usually', but it is true that travel ball coaches are going to be more experienced than recreational coaches most of the time. Travel ball coaches are often former high level baseball players themselves, and many are now getting paid to be a baseball coach. They study more, they spend countless hours coaching kids individually and in lessons, and they 'usually' have more experience coaching high level players.
Of course there are exceptions, and some recreational baseball coaches could coach circles around some travel ball coaches. But as a general rule, professional coaches will come with a better resume and that can really help them teach kids the right way to play.
Travel Baseball Teams Get More Exposure
Whether a baseball player is interested in playing in high school or college, or for another top level program, being on a high level travel baseball team can certainly help.
Many of the top programs will have scouts from quality programs at their games, taking notes on the best players and seeing if they would be a good fit at the next level. This exposure to other high level coaches is one of the best reasons to be on a top level travel baseball team.
Traveling to Tournaments Is Fun!
The experience of playing travel baseball can be an awesome one. A typical travel team will spend many weekends in hotels together, and exploring new places. It's one of the best ways for a young person to get to go to new places around their region and the country, and they can do it while having a blast with their teammates.
Baseball players who travel around with the same team for several years will create lasting memories that are hard to recreate outside of playing the game they love.
Travel Baseball Players Get Better Training
This isn't all about the coach, sometimes it's also about the facility. Many travel baseball organizations have their own facilities where baseball players can go to train their skills. Some have the latest and greatest technology to help the players improve, and most have trainers and instructors who the kids can work with in a lesson format to get the extra attention they need.
While recreational programs can offer a good amount of practice time, the season is typically much shorter than the travel season. For a serious baseball player who wants to get as much out of each year as he can, travel baseball provides more opportunity.
Is Travel Baseball for Everyone?
There are many things to consider before you decide if travel baseball is right for you and your family. The cost is high, the commitment is long and could interfere with other sports, the programs are typically pretty strenuous, and some players won't play as much as they would like to because of the competitive nature of the programs.
While travel baseball is not the best choice for everyone, there are certainly many good reasons to play it if you're so inclined. You'll be on a higher level team and play against other good teams, you'll usually have a highly experienced coach, you'll get exposure to top level scouts, and you'll make lasting memories with your friends as you travel from place to place.
How Do I Find a Travel Baseball Team?
The best way to see if travel baseball might be right for you is to research what teams are in your area. They will almost all be holding tryouts at some point, and that is your opportunity to go to their place and work with the coaches. You'll also see what other types of players are in the program, and whether they seem like a good fit for you and your family.
If the program has a facility you can go look at, maybe even do a lesson or two, that is another great way to get to know the staff and other families that already participate in the program.
The other great way to get to know the teams, is to find them where they're playing. This is probably the best way to see if the coach is somebody you would want to play for, as well as getting a look at the team itself.
Watching a team or going to a tryout doesn't have any risk to it, you aren't committing to anything, but you may just find that travel baseball looks like something you want to try!