Over the last ten years, the "Pay to Play" concept of AAU, Academy and Independent baseball, otherwise referred to as Travel Club or Tournament / Showcase teams, has increased in popularity and diverted many middle school and high school age baseball players away from the established, community based programs. We continue to see many families spend inordinate amounts of money on these programs, and we feel it is time to speak as a voice for community baseball.
How much money are you spending on "furthering your son's baseball career?"
Who are you listening to for baseball advice?
What are your kids really learning, and how much are they really progressing?
It's time to start thinking about these questions a little more diligently in this era of "pay to play" youth baseball. In so many ways, it appears that parents and their sons now feel they should measure the quality of a baseball program on how much it costs to join it. But, does it make sense to pay a $700.00 - $2,000 registration fee per season (sometimes much more) and then dish out more money on top of that for transportation and hotels, only to end up at a college where your counterparts on community based teams also landed, after paying much less to get to that point?
Only 15% of youth league baseball players go on to play Middle / High School baseball
Only 6.3% of high school baseball players go on to play NCAA baseball
Only 0.44% of high school baseball players will be signed by a pro team
If your son is playing an AAU, Academy or Independent sponsored tournament with a name like the "Elite National Championship" but you had to pay a boat load of money for the team to be there - are they really playing for a national championship? Or are they just a team that has enough money to pay to enter the tournament with an impressive name?
A lot of it has to do with the myth that a player has to play in AAU, Academy, Independent Tournaments and showcases to "be seen." Sure, there are very talented players who have been seen by and signed by college coaches at tournaments; however, do people ever realize, "yes, but these players are good players anyway, and they would likely have gone on to college ball with or without an AAU / Academy team"? Many tournament teams have spawned when talented kids leave an established program, set up tournament teams full of good players, and then a year or two later... disappear to be replaced by another temporary team somewhere else. We fully understand the need for our kids to be on good teams that provide good baseball experiences. After all, who wouldn’t want only the best for his or her own son, but perhaps maybe if the good players would stick around for the commitment of community based teams, and the focus would be on getting good people involved to run these teams, and continue to build them, then we would not even need teams with registration fees of $700 - $2,000+ for a season, and those who really cannot afford that would not feel so much pressure to spend it anyway.
So, if your son is going to be in high school soon or already is, ask yourself if you want to be spending upwards of $6000 - $15,000 between summer and fall baseball for about three years worth of youth baseball.
Sure, tuck some money away for private instruction - our area is brimming with indoor instructional facilities, and one-on-one private lessons can absolutely make better players. But save the rest of your money to cover what a partial baseball scholarship may not, and remember, the players in our area who have been drafted and signed at the pro level, still make up only 0.44% of high school players, so be optimistic but also be realistic.
And if you are a player with high aspirations for baseball, and want to play at the next level … get better. Set up a batting tee in your basement or backyard and take fifty swings a day. Get out and long toss as much as you can while the weather is warm, and have someone hit you a hundred ground balls a week; get into the weight room; watch baseball games on TV and learn situational baseball, not just ESPN highlights. Oh, and by the way…that advice is free.