Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stealing Home

How travel teams are eroding community baseball 

By David Mendell
May 23, 2014

The shortstop ranged nimbly to his right, scooped up a sharp grounder and unleashed a strong throw to first base. Seeing the athletic play by my son, a burly fellow leaned against the chain-link fence.

 “You’ve got a nice little ballplayer there,” the man, Mike Adams, told me. “You should think about getting him into a full-time travel program. The sooner, the better.”

 I was a neophyte in the byzantine world of youth baseball, and Adams’s husky voice carried the resonance of a father who had logged many hours behind caged dugouts. Yet I had to chuckle.

“Mike,” I said, “Nate’s just 9. Full-time travel baseball, really?”

 In the past three years, as an assistant coach with the youth baseball organization in Oak Park, Ill., and as manager of one of its part-time travel teams, I’ve watched more than a dozen kids my son’s age follow the route suggested by Adams. Lured by a chance to compete at a more elite level, they’ve left local baseball for various full-time travel teams in Chicago’s suburbs. Full-time travel baseball means many more practices and many more games — many of them far away. To rise in rankings and win tournaments, some teams, especially in warm climates, play nearly year-round, competing in as many as 120 games per year, more than most minor league players.

Here's the full piece.

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