Being a high school baseball player can be one of the best times of your life but if you want to have a chance to play at the collegiate level, it can be one of the most stressful times in your life.
Going through the recruiting process in baseball is a little bit different than other sports. There aren’t as many recruiting services in baseball as there are in football or basketball, so the recruiting is actually done more by the player than the college.
Of course, you have those players who are “no doubters” whose biggest question will be to go and play at a big time major college or to get drafted and turn professional right out of high school but since those types of players are few and far between, we will focus on the player who is good enough to play college baseball, but is looking for the right path to get to the next level.
“Travel teams” have become a cancer in high school baseball across the country. Every player at some point in their career at least considers or actually joins up with one of these “super teams” to travel around and play in tournaments all across the country with the idea of getting seen by more college coaches.
If that were actually true, it would be a positive thing but unfortunately, for these young men and for their parents, it is one of the biggest rackets in the current sports world.
For example, I was a baseball player at Jenks High School from 2003-2006 and all I ever wanted to do was to have the chance to play at the collegiate level.
I was invited to join a new and upcoming “travel team” going into my junior year called Oklahoma Select. It was going to be a team with a roster full of talented high school players from all over the state and we were going to travel around the country and play in numerous college showcase tournaments and other high-level events.
The cost to play on the team annually was going to be $2,500.
Because my parents knew how much I wanted to play college baseball and knew that I had a real chance of playing at the next level, they paid the money.
At our first tournament, we were scheduled to play at Redlands Community College in El Reno in front of numerous college coaches from the region. Instead, we were left waiting for our manager/coach of Oklahoma Select, who never showed and took off with all of our money.
Luckily, the police were able to track him down, so everyone got their money back but all of the summer and fall plans that were made had been squashed and all of us were left wondering what in the world we were going to do in the most important time of our recruiting process.
Prior to committing to play for Oklahoma Select, I had been called numerous times by the manager/coach for the Junior Spivey All-Stars, who were based out of Oklahoma City. They wanted me to play for them and go through a similar schedule of college showcase tournaments and other events around the country that I had planned on doing with Select.
I knew I had to do something, or so I thought I did, and I committed to playing for Spivey. It was another $2,500 for my parents but again, they knew exactly what I wanted to do and they wanted to help me in any way they could.
Unlike Oklahoma Select, the Junior Spivey All-Stars were a legit team and we traveled around Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the region playing in tournaments throughout the summer and fall. I would play for them on the weekends and play for my Jenks varsity summer team during the week.
At one point, I remember standing in the dugout at the Kansas State University baseball field and looking up in the stands and thinking to myself, “I don’t see any college coaches, I don’t see anyone out here with a radar gun looking at pitchers and I don’t see anyone in the stands at all besides our parents and other teams waiting to play after our game is over.”
Then, I remember being in the on-deck circle at the Jenks High School baseball field for a summer league game in the middle of the week and looking in the bleachers and seeing two junior college head coaches watching our game.
It suddenly dawned on me that playing for a “travel team” isn’t exactly what it’s made out to be.
Fast forward to the spring of my senior year, I still hadn’t signed to play collegiately and we had a scout come by our practice one day and asked me if I had signed anywhere. I told him no and he said okay, we will get that done soon.
It took me by surprise but I said, okay and went on with practice. The very next day I got a call from the coach at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas and I ended up signing with them that week.
The next time I saw that scout who I had visited with at our practice I thanked him first and then asked him what exactly he had done.
He said, “I called several coaches in the area and told them about you and they all were interested.”
I was thankful but I was also angry because it then officially sank in that all of those tournaments, all of our time and all of our money we spent traveling around because we thought it was the best thing to do was a complete waste.
“Travel teams” at the high school level in baseball don’t make a young player better, they make him worse. There is no coaching, there is no direction and all the “coaches” care about on those teams are making money and cashing the checks they receive from each player.
However, perhaps the worst thing about “travel teams” is it takes away from what the high school coaches at our schools are trying to accomplish.
What parents and young players need to understand is that these “travel team” coaches don’t care about your son and most high school coaches do care.
They spend hours upon hours with their players developing their skill level while they have a direct impact on their lives.
Take it from my experience, if I would have just played for my Jenks summer team and focused on getting better maybe I would have had a better chance to go play collegiately at a better school. Instead, I wasted my time and my parents’ money on the lie that has been spreading around high school baseball for years.
Stay away from “travel teams”, if your son is good enough, the college coaches will find him.