Travel programs typically provide a higher level baseball experience than the average town recreational league. Travel organizations have the ability to pull together the top players from several different towns. With a wider reach and a larger group of players to choose from, these teams are able to build highly talented rosters. This also means that they must travel outside of the immediate area to participate in competitive tournaments.
The amount of travel varies drastically by organization, but as a rule of thumb, the more prestigious the team is, the higher the travel commitment will be. The top travel organizations are invited to national events, which can require extensive travel.
Organizations like Perfect Game and Prep Baseball Report operate thousands of travel baseball tournaments across the country. For an average travel baseball team, there should be more than enough tournament opportunities within a three to four hour radius. With several games occurring over a few days, a lot of these tournaments will still require hotel stays.
It’s also worth noting that travel teams are referred to by a variety of names such as elite, premier, club, and select baseball. While the names may vary, these programs are still considered travel baseball organizations.
Advantages of Travel Baseball
Overall, the travel baseball experience provides a better product than local baseball leagues. Players will consistently face better competition throughout the season, which will help them further develop their baseball skill sets.
By facing some of the top players at the state and national level, players will be able to effectively gauge their baseball abilities and identify areas of improvement. Quality competition also forces players to work harder and teaches them how to deal with adversity. These are two important components to the progression as a baseball player.
In addition to facing other talented teams, a travel baseball player will also benefit from his highly skilled teammates. Through practices, training sessions, and in game experiences, players tend to learn the most from their own teammates.
Travel baseball players will also benefit from more experienced coaching staffs. Coaching a travel baseball team is a serious commitment. The coaches that sign up are typically passionate and knowledgeable about the game and are committed to the development of amateur baseball players. Some organizations even have paid coaching positions.
Having said this, we’re certainly not diminishing the coaching at other levels. We’ve come across fantastic coaches within recreational leagues, that aren’t interested in the serious commitment of coaching at the travel level.
There is also a training component that needs to be considered. Travel teams often own a training facility or regularly rent out space for team practices. These training sessions occur throughout the year, providing players with plenty of player development opportunities. Some organizations also hire personal trainers to provide their players with a well-rounded training experience.
As a result of the higher concentration of talent within travel teams, players will benefit from more exposure to college coaches and MLB scouts. College coaches often attend travel tournaments to support their recruiting efforts. It’s an efficient way of scouting the top players in the region, at a single location. Additionally, these are competitive events, which allows coaches to get an accurate read on a player’s true baseball abilities.
Some of the top tournaments have hundreds of coaches and scouts in attendance. For players that have the goal of playing at the collegiate level, these are perfect opportunities to build their exposure.
And finally… a lot of players join travel baseball teams because they are fun. Traveling with a close group of friends is an exciting experience for not only the player but the family as well.
Disadvantages of Travel Baseball
There are also some drawbacks to playing travel baseball, and the first one that comes up is the price. The several advantages mentioned above come at a cost to the players and their families.
Costs can run up to the thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. The prices will vary by travel organization, but is dependent upon the type of travel team and how much travel is actually involved. Some other factors include the coaching staff, support staff, facilities, and included equipment.
It is also a serious time commitment. Travel baseball seasons can run from the Spring all the way through late Fall. Some travel baseball organizations have taken heat for not allowing their players play other sports.
The core of the season typically occurs in the summer months, where players spend a lot of weekends traveling and competing in tournaments. Even in the offseason, programs will have training sessions to prepare for the next season.
We’ve also heard of playing time concerns. Due to the competitive nature of travel ball, players won’t see an equal amount of playing time. The most talented players will see a majority of the at bats and innings. This can be tough to swallow, especially factoring in the financial and time commitment that is required.
Finding the Right Organization
With a quick google search, you should be able to find travel baseball teams in your area. Once you identified a few, it might be worth having a conversation with the coach or even scheduling a lesson at their facility. By doing so, players can get a feel for the organization, coaches, and future teammates. Some organizations will also hold tryouts, which will let you accomplish the same thing.
It’s also important to get a feel for the level of commitment early on. A travel organization should be able to share a schedule of the planned tournaments and practices throughout the year. This should give you a better of idea of the amount of travel, the financial commitment, and the commitment of your time that is required.
Overall, a player and his family will make this decision jointly. You need to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of being a part of a travel baseball team and let that guide your decision.