March 12, 2005

Little League, Big Expectations: "I'm sacrificing a lot, but I do it because I want to play in the major leagues." -- Josh Anderson, 12, whose family spends as much as $10,000 a year on his baseball travel and tutelage

posted by rcade to baseball at 06:35 PM - 13 comments

They're all sacrificing a lot, seems to me -- the kid, his parents, other kids who end up being denied opportunities because no one wants to support a "less competitive" program. The problem is that too many people believe that if they "sacrifice a lot" -- in money, in time, in injuries, in whatever -- then they're going to win the big prize, no question about it. They talk about doing "whatever it takes", not understanding that all their "whatever it takes" buys them is a chance, not a guarantee. They're buying a lottery ticket, they're bedazzled at the thought of the huge payout -- and they don't want to accept the truth that the odds are still very much against their dream coming true. Clearly, if this kid so readily regurgitates lines like the one quoted above, the brainwashing has been successful. The harm is, perhaps, less to baseball or even youth sports as a whole than it is to the larger culture.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:53 PM on March 12, 2005

Longshot major leaguer Price:$10,000 and a kid's youth Growing up and having fun: priceless

posted by roberts at 07:57 PM on March 12, 2005

...said Josh, a seventh-grader who maintains a B-minus average. Wow, he's maintaining a B minus?? In SEVENTH GRADE? A true student-athlete indeed!

posted by swank6 at 10:52 PM on March 12, 2005

Amen, roberts. I can't believe parents are willing to gamble their kids' childhood on the long-shot chance they will become a star athlete, actor, musician, model, whatever. I want my kids to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood as long as possible. This probably means they won't become the next Tiger Woods, but it also increases the chances they won't be the next Michael Jackson.

posted by rcade at 07:36 AM on March 13, 2005

My nephew is about this kids age...and a very talented baseball player playing on a travelling team etc... Recently his parents decided that this was his last season playing on a traveling team. They realized that the 'program' was dominating the entire familys life and monopolizing time and resources. They also realized that if he is truly talented enough to make it past high school ball then the opportunities to be drafted or get a scholorship would still be there regardless of weather he played 'travel ball' or not. I admire them for all the effort they have put out for him and his baseball...but even more for realizing that the best thing they can do form him is let him be a kid...plenty of time to be a grown up down the road.

posted by stofer71 at 09:37 AM on March 13, 2005

I'm not a fan of travel ball. I think it stems from what George Carlin calls our "child fetish," or turning our little ones into extensions of ourselves. Parents mainly do it out of love, and this is just a way for them to give their kids the instruction and opportunities they didn't get. It's also pretty apparent early on in baseball who has the skills to play high-school ball and beyond, and who doesn't, and it doesn't do the excellent players any favors to pitch in a regular Little League game and strike out three-quarters of the hitters they face. I'm also not saying there aren't kids who don't develop later on and become good athletes. There are -- but it's a very small percentage up against 11-year-olds who can already pop 70 mph on a gun. Having said that, there's no reason these types of tournaments and teams can't be limited to regional action at most. I was an assistant coach on a limited travel team in southern Indiana, and the longest road trips we made were a couple hours. If you can't find a decent team to compete against within 200 miles, you aren't looking very hard. Is there burnout? Yes, there is. I can attest to just being burned out on football by my junior year in high school after starting the game when I was five and never taking a season off. I'm glad I kept playing for my final two years, but I know there are other kids who just lose interest when three hours or more of every day are taken up by practice, travel and the like. But there weren't many kids who played on the team I coached who complained about it. Despite some of them playing in 2-3 leagues a summer, they would call me on off days or at night to come throw batting practice or work on fielding. For those kids, travel ball is a dream come true.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:39 AM on March 13, 2005

My best friend growing up played baseball with me from ages 11 - 14. By the time he and I both were 15 he could hit 78 on the gun and had completely eclipsed me. He was scouted by the Mariners who sent a guy to one of our games and talked with him a bit after watching him pitch a seven inning one hitter with eleven Ks. He also hit third on our team (city selects) and was generally an all-around all-star at that age. Of course he went nowhere. That's one of the things about baseball, maybe other sports too, I'm not as familar with them, but talent and skill peak at different times - Today's 11-year old phenom is tomorrow's high school coach. However, if the parents are willing to make the sacrifice, the kid wants to do it, etc. then let them be comforted by thier delusions for a little while. It's all they'll have in a few years.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2005

My son played travel baseball for three years! He had a lot of fun, but it was a lot of hard work and he had to put in a lot of time! They practiced three times a week, and played baseball almost every weekend! I promise you it did not get him anywhere! In order for him to play high school baseball, he had to play league ball because the high school didn't even look at you if you didn't! It was probably the best move he ever made! He now plays for the high school and does a great job for them. We hope by the time he is a senior, he will be looked at by colleges, but if he isn't, we haven't spent his college fund travelling throughout the US for him to play baseball for the hopes that one day he might be a major league player!

posted by sdalebulldogsmom at 05:14 PM on March 13, 2005

sdalebulldogsmom, I noticed in your profile that your son plays two sports and that's another thing that I thought of while reading this thread. (Congrats on a terrific birthday present and welcome aboard too.) Personally I never played organized sports past Little League in fifth or sixth grade and no kids so no experience with that either. So my question for the rest of you is how does that factor in? Being talented at multiple sports, I mean. Also, this reminds me of places like Nick Bolletieri's tennis academy down in Florida and of course Feddie Adu and that nine year old down in Brazil whose video we discussed a couple of months back. My two cents is that if the kid wants to play, well there's only one life and might as well try to do what makes you happy.

posted by billsaysthis at 07:07 PM on March 13, 2005

My two cents is that if the kid wants to play, well there's only one life and might as well try to do what makes you happy. Problem with this, though, is that it can be hard to sort out what the kid wants from what the parent wants. I just got done dealing with such a case today -- I'm a ski instructor, and today I was working with a couple of kids who were trying to get promoted to the top level of our ability rating system. In the afternoon, one of our senior instructors came out to evaluate them. The verdict: not there yet. One parent didn't cotton to this at all, even after the supervisor and I explained to him why the kid needed to keep working at his current level for a while, and that if he kept working, he'd get there. Dad looked all pouty and said, "But he's only got three weeks," meaning three weeks (approximately) until the end of ski season. "No," I said, "He's got the rest of his life." Dad looked unconvinced. Kid is five years old, BTW. He's been skiing since he was two. We spent the day skiing black diamonds and moguls, he skis better than 90% of the adults on the mountain...and that's not enough for Dad. And I can't even tell what the kid wants, other than to make Dad happy. It was a sad ending to what should have been a great day.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:02 PM on March 13, 2005

Jeez Louise. Five years old and his dad's already saddling him with competitive pressure. Too many people in this country use Earl Woods as a role model for parenting.

posted by rcade at 08:58 AM on March 14, 2005

Amazing that a family would let a 12 year old boy direct thier families finances. Must be nice to have that kind of money to put out on a 12 year old, particularly since making MLB is a long way from a guarantee. Perhaps it would be best if the family took that money and invested it in a retirement fund or a college fund for the boy. I'm sure mom and dad are living thru this boy vicariously. STLHAMMER

posted by STLHAMMER at 03:51 PM on March 14, 2005

billsaysthis, thanks for the congrats. My son plays two sports of his own accord. He is 16 yo and if he did not want to play either sport, believe me, he would not. He is very strong willed and knows what he wants. He works very hard at both football and baseball although he probably works a little harder at football b/c of his love of the game. Of course today, coaches will tell you that a child should really "specialize" in only one sport, but why would you want to limit your child to only experiencing one sport! There are so many different sports for a child to enjoy! At one time, my son played football, basketball and baseball. As it turned out, he did not like basketball, so at the end of his season, he decided not to play again. We let him make that decision, believing it was not our decision to make. We feel if you make a child play a sport they do not want to play, they will not succeed in that sport.

posted by sdalebulldogsmom at 09:36 PM on March 14, 2005

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