Happy October Saturday Morning everyone. I wanted to pose a question to the Rhode Island Baseball Community this morning and start a dialogue about a topic I am very curious about. In today’s youth baseball world, can an above average baseball player, who plays only recreation (Little League, Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken) baseball make it to and through high school and into a collegiate program, possibly professional baseball organization without the benefit of ever playing AAU, travel, showcase baseball growing up? Wow, that was a long winded question so let’s break it down so we can analyze and discuss it for your response.
Let’s say Player Jones is from a disadvantaged home or a troubled home situation guardian or parent wise or just does not have the economic or social resources to play on a travel team. Jones has only played recreation baseball from his Tee Ball days through Minors and Majors, now into Juniors and Senior Leagues. Jones is consistently the best or one of the best players on the field every game. He can play multiple positions proficiently, and excels in the outfield. He hits for power, gap power, has a great eye at the plate. In recent years, he made his middle school team, tried out and made his high school team. Also in recent years, Jones has had to work a part time job after school to help his family. While others are traveling out of state for tournaments, going to local baseball facilities for training, going to showcase events, Jones is picking up shifts at Newport Creamery to support his family. He has no idea what his average exit velocity is nor his 60 yard dash time nor his MPH from center field to third base. Jones loves baseball and is an above average player whose family cannot afford the various costs of travel baseball and is struggling in life with a multitude of family issues. And in his mind, cannot afford to miss work to play and train in the sport he loves because he feels that his family needs his financial support at this point in life.
Now, let’s say Player Jones has a teammate on his HS team, let’s call him Player Parker. Parker has played with Jones every Little League season up to age 12, made district all star teams with Jones, and has concurrently also played for the Rhode Island Quahogs AAU team since age 9. As a member of The Quahogs for close to 7 years, Parker and his family were lucky enough to travel to Cooperstown, Tennessee, Maryland, Orlando, and Atlanta to play in and participate in local and national tournaments, where Parker gained significant exposure to some of the best baseball players of his age group. And over the past few years, Parker competed in home run derby competitions, 60 yard dash races, and has been featured in showcase event videos and social media posts for nearly 3 years running. Parker has several years of data saved on a number of scouting profile websites – average exit velocity, home runs hit in competitions, arm strength from center field to 3rd base. After school, Parker heads home, does his homework/chores and then heads over to ABC Baseball Academy for a 2 hour workout – fielding, hitting, practice – with his Quahogs teammates. The Quahogs, by the way, own their own facility, which is run by the Quahogs owner and head coach, Parker’s Dad. Parker’s Instagram page has over 20K followers, including 2 or 3 current MLB players.
On the HS team, Jones and Parker are 1a and 1b in terms of the best players on the team. Each player could bat third, could start at shortstop or centerfield, could pitch in a big game, could get the bulk of the local press in the newspaper (yes they still have newspapers!!!). Parker has a huge family entourage at each home and away game, including his very influential (and likeable) Dad, the head of the Quahogs. In fact, many of the Quahog players also play on the same HS team as Jones and Parker. Jones rarely (if ever) has family attend games, his home life situation is not a positive one, and the family would be considered by most to be non-supportive of Jones and his dreams of playing baseball at a higher level. Parker’s family sees him excel game after game and give him the support and cheers any kid would just love. Jones gets applause from the crowd, just not the same fanfare as the Parker group.
So, can Jones make it to a collegiate program, Junior College, D1 or D2 or D3 on talent alone? Is he already, by his High School baseball years, up against it because of not playing a single game of travel baseball. Does Parker have a decided advantage over Jones because of his Quahog experiences past and present in Cooperstown, Orlando, and at the ABC Quahog Facility? Is playing in and for a travel baseball organization a must for a player to get noticed, and noticed to the point of a college program offer? Or, potentially, an offer to play professional baseball? Do you know a Jones that made it despite not playing travel baseball and where did he land?
Let me know your thoughts for a future article. Fill out this contact form and email it to me. No names or email addresses will be published. I plan on publishing your responses by the end of the month. I will not publish any that degrade or bash an organization. Nor will I publish any that specifically points out a coach or team or league that you feel negatively affected your child’s path up the baseball ladder. I am looking for responses to whether you think a rec player can make it without playing travel baseball, and why. Thank you to everyone for reading and responding. I’m looking forward to your answers.