May I Have Some Money?

What’s My Point?

Kids in grade school should not be playing baseball year round.

Why Does it Matter?

The future of baseball continues to get more athletic and if you want to play in the Big Leagues, you better be good at soccer, football, or basketball as well.

Dear Morgan

Here is an example of a letter that I may have received from a 12 year old.

Hi, my name is Bobby and I am 12 years old.  I play for the “Johnsonville” under 13 [years old] Thunder.  We went to Nationals last year and came in 4th.  This year we are going to “Cook, Mn” to play in that tournament and I hope we win.

I need to raise $800 to get to the tournament.  Can you help our team get to Nationals?  It’s tax deductable.

Thanks,

Bobby

PS.  What’s it like to play with Lance?

Where’s Adam

After reading this type of letter I normally find Adam Everett and say this, “Dude, here is another one.”  Adam would take the letter and just start shaking his head.  Then he would look at me and say, “I got one from a 10 year old.”

Travelling Teams

Youth travelling teams started becoming popular in the mid 90’s.  During my youth days, 1985-1990, the only travelling sports teams available were in  soccer and basketball.  But even then, those teams didn’t play year round.  They played during the same season as the local youth seasons.  This is an example of a tournament that I found for kids ages 13 and 14.

Exclusive to the 14U and 15U divisions, the AAU Baseball Super Showcase will feature the nation’s best talent in these age groups. Note that this is an invitation-only event. Only 12 teams will be invited to this prestigious showcase. The Super Showcase features a five-game guarantee and a combine. Teams will be provided 4 free hotel rooms for 5 nights during the event. Individual athletes will be evaluated by the Global Scouting Bureau and each participant’s results will be posted on the Global Scouting Bureau’s website. This is a great opportunity to have your prospective superstar of tomorrow seen, and all for only a $375 per team participation fee. Is your team Showcase caliber? If so, submit an application request. This event will fill very quickly so submit your application today.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

What are we doing?  The Global Scouting Bureau?

Somebody needs to help me understand why a team needs to take an airplane to play in a tournament.  And please don’t tell me that Little League players go to Williamsport.  This isn’t a final tournament; this is a “Showcase.”  Whatever the heck that means.

What bothers me the most is that parents think it is ok for their kids to take baseball this seriously before they get into high school.  Sure, all their friends are doing it. But how is going to a tournament at age 14 going to get you to the Big Leagues?  Do you think the travel will help them get accustomed to the travel in the Big Leagues? If so, I can show you how to do that for free.

Alternative to Spending $800 Plus Travel to Play in a “Showcase”

Have “Bobby” sit in a chair at midnight and then keep him up for 4 hours.  At 4 am get him in the car and drive 15 minutes away and 15 minutes back. This will simulate the bus trip from airport to hotel.  Then, when you get home, ask 10 of your neighbors to stand right by your front door with baseball cards to sign.  When you get in, don’t allow him to go to  his room because he will be familiar with that.  No, put him in another room so that he doesn’t know where he is when he wakes up.  Wake him up after 6 hours and then make him walk a quarter mile.  This will help simulate the walk to a restaurant from the hotel.  Then have your same friends from last night follow him on his walk asking for autographs.  When he gets back you can feed him.  After that, get him in the car and take him to the park.  Once there, have him practice for an hour.   After the hour, feed him a turkey sandwich on wheat and tell him to “slam” a Mountain Dew.  Then have him play a game.  Ten minutes after the last pitch, make him available to talk to some simulated reporters.  Ask questions that he doesn’t understand.  After that, let him go home and shower.

I Can Read the Future

The game is changing folks.  I have always believed that baseball players were composed of those athletes who weren’t good enough to play basketball or football professionally.  I expect that trend to continue.

David Wright is a power hitting third baseman who steals bases.  John Smoltz might become a professional golfer.  Did you know that Brad Lidge could probably play Olympic Table Tennis if he practiced?  Do you know that Carlos Beltran’s best sport is volleyball? Do you know Roy Oswalt is a center fielder?  Joe Mauer is a quarterback.  Derek Lee got a full ride to play basketball at the University of North Carolina!

In my own case, I was best at soccer, then basketball, and finally baseball.  But the most important sport I played was soccer.  Why?  Soccer taught me how to be aggressive.  Then, basketball taught me that you could wear down your opponent by being in better shape and by not showing any emotion.  What did I learn in baseball?  I learned that I could make it to the Big Leagues because I knew I was a better basketball player than my opponent.

Conclusion

What is cool is that the parents of these kids really love their children.  They want their kids to have every opportunity to succeed.  But I am afraid that they are setting them up to fail.  Maybe their children will be better at baseball at an earlier age, but they won’t get a much needed mental break that comes at the end of a traditional season.  Nor will they get the benefits that other sports bring.  Playing more than one sport at an early age is vital to understanding team environments, comprehending the need for hard work in areas you may not be good at, and finally learning game theory.

Your child does not need to be scouted by a bureau.  Your child does not need to go to a showcase.  Your child needs to know that you love them and that being great is about desire and never giving up.   Man, football can’t get here soon enough!

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74 Comments on “May I Have Some Money?”

  1. orlando says:

    great post! i agree with the multi-sport thing, back in high school, i wanted to play baseball, but the soccer schedule over lapped with baseball so i chose soccer, it’s more natural for me, we had a coach who played professional soccer in Uruguay, and let me tell you man, aggresive doesn’t do justice to how he had us playing during games. Also, we had intense practices, and at Stratford (my highschool) we had the baseball field next to the soccer field, and during practices, we all wished we were playing baseball, because we had to run 3 miles before we got any practice in, baseball, they just had to run a few cardio drills, not trying to knock on baseball though, it’s a very hard sport to play, but if you want to get in good shape, and learn how to play with intensity the whole time, soccer helps, oh and i kicked for our 1-7 football team, not too proud of that though. haha

  2. gary says:

    Amen, brother! I sometimes see kids begging for money near a local freeway overpass. I’m sorry, but even if I had Bill Gates money, sending you and your little friends out of state to play softball/baseball/soccer is not my concern. And get the heck out of the street before you get hit by a car. Man, I sound like an old geezer!

  3. gary says:

    Oh, and I also agree about the multi-sport approach. Got so riled about the fund-raising requests that I forgot to mention it.

  4. orlando says:

    oh and may i add, when we wanted to play tourneys out of the city, like a tourney we had in brownsville tx, we had to clean tully stadium for about a month after football games to come up with money for the trip, we had to work for our trips! or our trip, that was our only one, the next further one was brenham, but that was just for a scrimmage. and we rode the yellow limo to all our games.

  5. Matt Wood says:

    That is great! I love the part with the “Alternative to spending $800″, as well as the part “Your child needs to know that you love them…” I think loving your kids uncoditionally will do so much for their self-esteem and confidence in who they are, regardless of their interest or pursuit.

    Perhaps the parents that are encouraging this type of involvement in baseball do want their kids to have every opportunity to succeed, but I wonder how many dads may be re-living their baseball years through the kids.

    Good point about the mental break, also. To me, it seems if you get away from your job (baseball or otherwise) for a break, it only makes you better when you return. Otherwise… beware of burnout!

    • Matt there are a lot of dads who are reliving “glory” years, but my guess is that they want to give their children opportunities that they never had. Their hearts are in the right place and that is good.

      Morgan

  6. JD says:

    Just WOW, Morgan. I am now a serious fan of this blog. You have something special here. Looking forward to more. Great work!

  7. lisa gray says:

    morgan,

    important to emphasize that the MOST important thing is that the parents love the kid – not love the kid IF he/she (sorry, i am an unrepentant sexist. or is it anti-sexist) does well in the sport.

    trouble is that as best i understand, IF your kid wants to play baseball, then your kid pretty much HAS to play in travel teams and these “showcase” tournaments. there isn’t real too much for kids to do between the end of little league and the beginning of high school.

    also, some kids are not any good at other sports, or don’t like them.

  8. Sarah says:

    IT seems that these “showcases” are like anything else geared toward kids-teens…just another way to make money. Kiddie beauty pageants probably started the trend, then there are the “Who’s Who” books for smart/athletic/musical kids–all of them directed at parents who think the more money they spend on the kid, the more they will get in return when a pro scout/talent agent/music label sees their kid.
    Ain’t it funny how probably 95% of pro athletes didn’t go to these “showcases” as a kid? They played in AAU type leagues, played in high school, some in college…amazing they were even considered for drafting when they didn’t have their parents spend $1K+ on showcases/off-season teams, etc.
    I know that this was hypothetical, but I can’t believe that some kids would have the nerve to ask a pro ball player to be his “fairy godfather” and pay for his travel team expenses. How does that even cross their mind? Did mommy or daddy say to write to his favorite player and ask? Better question-did one player on all 30 teams get the same letter? :)

    (If this doesn’t quite make sense, please forgive me…I’m still stunned by Texas busting my bracket in the very first round. My thoughts are all jumbled right now.)

    • Sarah I don’t remember exactly how many letters like that I received each season, but it was probable 10. I asked my high school coach how do you get a scholarship? He said to me, “If you are good they will find you.” I wasn’t found until my senior year of college baseball. Did I tell you that I grew up in Los Angeles? Did I tell you that I wasn’t picked to play for any “Select” teams? This is crap that you need to go to a “showcase” under the age of 14 to get noticed. Say that out loud, “My 6th grader is going to Florida this weekend to get noticed. They said they are going to have scouts there to help evaluate them.” Something doesn’t sound right there.

      Morgan

  9. JTurbo says:

    Very clever with the alternative to spending $800 bit, I like it.

  10. bsmith says:

    Morgan,

    Great article! It’s not just baseball. Kids today seem to have their activities and lives planned by their parents. If I hear the term play date one more time I’m going to punch someone in the head.

    Have you been keeping track of all the press your blog has been getting? Rob Neyer and Craig Calcatera mentioned it. Half the SB Nation blogs are talking about it. Mike Silva mentioned it. BTF had the article linked (and Dave Symborski, noted projection dork, just projected the rest of your career if not for the shoulder injury). I wonder if more ex-players are going to start blogs now! I hope all the attention gets you more braodcast gigs.

    Brad in Corpus Christi

    • Brad I think it is awesome that the response has been this big. What is really cool is that I can be available to people who have questions. I really tried hard to get a job in baseball, but every place I tried already had the spots filled. But that means that I have to go a different route. So that is what I am doing. Thanks for reading and I really want to know if there is something I can do to make this blog better.

      Morgan

  11. Crox says:

    What about old friends who send “fanmail”?

    • Didn’t you throw a no-hitter in South Dakota?

      Morgan

      • Crox says:

        Comedy. Love the blog. Great idea, and I hope it keeps growing. It’s nice to see someone “in the know” teaching and advocating for the game the right way.

        • Crox- You grew up in El Segundo which constantly is at the top of the baseball hierarchy in the South Bay, yet you guys have the least amount of kids. What was your little league like?

          Morgan

          • Crox says:

            Our little league was very structured and emphasized hustling and fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals from day one. I remember being in little league and having the coach tell us that even playing catch is an exercise in “doing it right.” That is, you don’t just throw the ball towards your partner, but you throw the ball at a specific target on your partner (i.e. “the letters”). That is not to say that it wasn’t focused on fun, it was; rather, fundamentals and hustle became part of the fun. Also, the same group of kids played together in each stage of little league all the way through high school. That kind of cohesion is hard to come by.

            • For those of you who don’t know, Dan Croxall played for El Segundo HS under Coach John Stevenson. Stevenson was the winningest coach in California HS baseball. You may have heard of his most famous player….George Brett.

              Croxall’s El Segundo Little League was amazing. They were always fundamentally sound and they always beat us over at Redondo. I got a chance to play on El Segundo’s American Legion team with coach Stevenson. It was amazing playing with guys who knew the game so well.

              Morgan

              • kevin says:

                I remember you playing for Gundo all to well Morgan. Lars and I were going to be juniors and you had just graduated if I’m not mistaken. I was thrown to the wolves to pitch that game. I know you went 3-4 against me that night. I think I went 5 innings but only gave up 3 against you guys.

  12. t says:

    Here here.

    Best post yet, man. Someone definitely needed to say this.

  13. B says:

    Great Post!!, I know my son looks up to you and has been corresponding with you via email. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you personally for giving him great answers and just responding to him. I wish more players like you would speak up about issues like this. I agree 100% that kids should play different sports. Keep up the great work!! Hope to hear you announcing soon!!

  14. Kevin says:

    I am from a small town in Mississippi. The following comments, posted in our local paper in 2004, somewhat echo your thoughts on select teams. Also, you might get a laugh out of my comment about the 2004 Astros – but this was in mid-August.

    Through privileges granted via the Lawrence County Press, I was able to mix with the players before one of the games in Houston. Knowing that I might be a little nervous and could forget my questions, I had the foresight to type them up. With a little help, I found my way to the player area, sheepishly approached Roy Oswalt and fumbled for my list.
    Oswalt is from Weir, a Mississippi town with an estimated population of just over 500. He attended Holmes Community College and was planning to attend Mississippi State until signing with the Astros. By my calculations, he would be the player whom the average reader in Lawrence County might best relate to.
    Oswalt did not play on one of those select teams. He played in his local community league, probably something similar to ours, with only about 14-16 games each season until about age 14. He then played in a league in Ackerman. His high school did not even have baseball until Roy enrolled; his father helped build the field.
    After his first season at Holmes, he played in his first big-time league with the Jackson ‘96ers. Oswalt was drafted in June of that year, but played at Holmes one more year before signing with Houston, much to the dismay of Bulldog fans.
    His professional experience includes playing on the 2000 Gold Medal USA Olympic Team, managed by former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. Oswalt was highly complementary of Lasorda, and adds that to this day, Lasorda will make it a point to find Oswalt and speak to him at functions.
    To add to his similiarity with our area, Oswalt has won the Big Buck contest back home two years running.
    In just his fourth season in Houston, Oswalt is recognized as one of the best young pitchers in the league, and has been one of the few bright spots in Houston’s otherwise forgettable 2004 season.
    Attending the girls’ softball games a couple of years ago, I ran into a friend whose son was playing baseball on an adjacent field. These kids were 12 years old and playing with the full rules – stolen bases, balks, etc. Yeah, this was one of those select teams, with a schedule of about 60 games for the season.
    It looked like every player had his own coach/father in the dugout and there seemed to be a lot of pressure on those kids.
    We selected our most competitive 12 players from our summer recreational girls’ softball league and were preparing for the state tournament. In one of the preliminary tournaments, we ran into one of those select teams. They could place hit any pitch, and beat the dog out of us.
    Come to find out, that team practices 50 weeks out of the year, taking a week off for Christmas plus one week in the summer for families to take their non-softball vacation.
    (For the record, our team later competed in the state tournament in the division not for select teams and finished second.)
    So to tie this all together, it is my conclusion that Roy Oswalt’s rise to an elite major league pitcher was not the result of playing a killer schedule on a select team. But I wonder if some of those girls who beat the fool out of us might one day look back and ask what happened to their childhood.

    • Kevin this is really amazing. I was thinking of Roy when I wrote this piece. Roy does have unique ability, but what he really has is drive. Thanks for that.

      Morgan

    • Thom says:

      Obviously getting to the majors takes a lot of work, and players will tell you the hardest part is the work it takes to stay there. Yet, for kids, all the showcases and practice time in the world won’t put you over the top if the raw tools aren’t there. A pro career can’t be willed if the tools are lacking. And guys who have the tools will make it with or without the showcases.

      • You are right that you need to have tools, but I believe that desire can be a big influence. Other sports help you learn how to compete in different environments and that can really help.

        Morgan

  15. lisa gray says:

    it’s DAN szymborski, inventor of ZIPS (defense eval as well as prediction of defense and hitting) and co-owner of http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org

    link to the article on you is http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/oracle/discussion/zips_career_projections_morgan_ensberg_and_lyman_bostock/

    it’s just crazy awesome how everyone who is a serious baseball fan, stat geek and non-stat geek LOVES your blog!!!

  16. Urk says:

    Hi Morgan

    Found your blog through an irreverent, stat-minded cubs blogged populated by smart-alecks who appreciate good writing and reality-based insight & who liked your recent Milton Bradley post. thanks for keeping a good, useful blog. My little brother (25 years younger…long story) is a good young pitcher who I know is going to be pushed towards things like this in the future. It’s nice knowing that there are pro players out there with insight and compassion willing to dispense much needed sensible advice instead of cliches and industry shilling. thanks for this post, your conclusion especially.

    • I am happy you liked this view. It is so hard getting mail from kids because you wonder what they have been told by “so-called” experts. The fact that parents think it is totally normal is what concerns me. But please tell your nephew that time off is good and it makes you better. Please tell him to keep his head down and work hard.

      Morgan

  17. Thom says:

    It’s so true about parents overplanning their kids’ day-to-day lives, and it extends to their long-term future when parents indulge in showcases and all those things they feel will lead to pro careers in sports. The days of my youth are long gone, when kids went to the playground all day and organized their own games. A group of us went there every day in the summer and played two nine-games on our own without parental involvement. Those of us who were hardcores stuck around for a third game, which usually meant playing only one side of the field because of the lost bodies. I was a pretty good athlete who played baseball beyond high school, but growing up in Minnesota, where the high school season was barely more than a dozen games, I probably got more out of those 100-150 unsupervised games each summer. And it was always fun.

  18. Valencia says:

    I didn’t think I’d have anything to say on this topic but I guess I do. Growing up in a small town in East Texas, my summers were filled with going to see my friends play little league. When I say filled, I mean 9am-9pm. I remember them selling candy to raise money to go to their tourneys. There were always fundraisers of some kind. I just thought that was the norm. Even as a I got older, I continued to help my friends sell their chocolate bars to go to their tourneys.

    Now that I think back, only 1 guy actually made it to the big leagues. By made it, I mean he pitched a few games in relief for the Braves and was quickly sent back down. If I remember correctly, he was seen by scouts while in high school. He went straight to the minors. That being said, what if he hadn’t played little league consistently for 10+ years? Would he have been that high school pitcher that scouts would have found? Same with Josh Beckett.

    I think the LLWS is such a big deal because ABC makes a point of telling us which big leaguers were LLWS players. Every year we get the ‘Some of your favorite players were once LLWS participants’. They go on to name Varitek, Bay and Sheffield to name a few. Kids see that and think ‘Oh Tek was in the LLWS and he made it to the pros, I have to do it too.’

    I do get what you’re saying about having your kid play different sports. It definitely makes sense. My co-worker grew up playing little league with former LLWS star and current hockey player Chris Drury. He said Drury had a RIDICULOUS curve ball at 12 years old. Angered all sorts of parental units. Now that guy is a Stanley Cup Champion. Look at Terrell Owens. That guy is a BEAST at basketball. And let’s not forget about all-around athlete Jim Brown. It’s nice to have options then you can find your niche.
    I guess I had a lot more to say on this topic than I thought.

    • I like it Valencia. Hopefully ever reader understands that I want kids to succeed. But they need to know that athletes will get to the big leagues, not specialists. Keep asking questions.

      Morgan

  19. Seth says:

    Great post as always Morgan…I was reading the part about saving $800 out loud to Tritia. I definitely agree though, even though the kid isn’t burnt out yet, he will be by college.

  20. It’s true youy do need to be able to play every sport these days to play baseball. Maybe it’s the how hard the competition is though.

  21. Crox says:

    Coach Stevenson really set the pace for El Segundo baseball from little league on up. He was truly the best. Unfortunately, he passed away early this year, and a big part of El Segundo history passed away with him. Thanks for giving him the shout out, Mo.

  22. Walter says:

    I think the big weird disconnect is the lack of overall competitiveness or interest in high school baseball as opposed to little league. In every one of the other sports you mentioned, especially the big money college sports of football and basketball, the level of competitiveness and attention and fine print increases with age. Little league is hypercompetitive, overscouted, and overworked (i.e. the travelling national teams year-round schedule) which is demonstrably bad for a kid’s psyche and physical health, especially the pitchers.

    But I’m convinced that even high school athletics are far too covered. I played competitive high school football, and had some scholarship offers, but it wasn’t like now. Anyone now can go to rivals.com or somewhere similar and watch literally hours of video of most of the best high school players, with detailed breakdowns of their daily activities, comprehensive scouting reports, and a peanut gallery of compliments and insults … I don’t know how I would have coped at 16, let alone 12 or 13.

    I guess the point is, sports are mad, baseball more so because of the emphasis on even younger players.

  23. AGain, such a good read, thanks Morgan

  24. Steve says:

    I respect your take on this. I think moderation is important in all areas of life. And you can do travel or select sports in moderation. My child enjoys all sports and does play in the local youth rec/ymca leagues for soccer/football/basketball. He even picked up tennis last summer – at his request.

    I was hesitant to let him play travel ball initially. I was concerned about all the elements you addressed. Over work, too much stress, not being allowed to be a kid, etc. It has been a positive for my son and our family. He plays with a neat group of kids who have been together for 4 years. The families enjoy spending time together and get together away from the ball park as well. We limit travel and do take fall & winter off. Moderation.

    I don’t have any aspirations/expectations of my son playing past high school, by then (or before), he may have other interest and that would be just fine with me.

    I realize our experience may be the exception rather than the rule. And by the way I would never let my son send a beg letter to anybody much less an athlete he doesn’t know.

  25. neil says:

    Great post! I have enjoyed all of them but this one hits home the most. I recently declined an invitation for my 9 year old son to play select baseball because I want him to branch out and experience different sports and hobbies. Many parents where I live in central TX look down on Little League because it is more about teaching fundamentals and doing the little things before being highly competitive. They believe they are not giving their son/daughter the chance to play HS varsity ball unless they are playing on a select or travel team over 200 days a year. I am concerned this trend will actually be the demise of little league (in some areas) as we know it. Any ideas on how to reverse it? More competitive rules and some level of participation in select are things the Little League organization is starting to do.

    Here is an interesting article on youth baseball injuries. It calls out too much position playing early on as one of the problems. It has also influenced me as a manager to dedicate more time to stretching.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_96231.html

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog and would love to hear any coaching tips that you think are effective for 9-12 yr old players. Especially hitting.

  26. Didi says:

    Spot on, Morgan. Thanks for pointing out the craziness of some of these year round baseball for kids. Playing other sports certainly would add to their enjoyment of sports in general and develop skills not available directly through baseball.
    Tony Gwynn has claimed that being the point guard of the SDSU basketball team, helped him developed strength and flexibility for his wrists that helped him won all those batting titles. I’m sure he developed his mental strength as well competing on the courts.
    Also, thanks for writing the blog. It’s great to see the point of view of somebody that has been a pros’ pro. Being a Padres fan, I was sorry to see you not getting more playing time after being picked up by the team. I’d hoped you’d be with the team for a couple of seasons since you were so good with the Astros.

    Good luck with the writings. We’ll keep on reading.

    • Thanks Didi! How is San Diego?

      Morgan

      • Didi says:

        San Diego is doing okay. The club will struggle again to be .500 but lots of younger, eager, talented players going into second season so hopefully it’ll pay off in a couple of seasons.

        Hope you get to come out west coast for college baseball games. We got some good teams with USD and SDSU here, and UCIrvine just up the freeway with your coach from USC. And, btw, that’s a great story about coach Gillespie telling the team to sit on 2-1 change up.

  27. Jim says:

    I grew up playing baseball and hockey among other various activities as a kid. I was a decent ball player as a kid, but I grew to dislike the game (as a player) and gave it up my freshman year of high school. Hockey was/is my true passion and I now play year round as an adult, in men’s leagues and such. But, growing up there were the kids playing on select teams and paying up to $8,000 per season to travel and “get noticed”, suffice it to say I play against most of them now in men’s leagues. One person I ever played against went to the NHL, he played youth hockey, then in high school he played for a junior program and worked his way to the pros, his progression was fairly natural. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I fully agree with this post and that if I never had breaks from hockey growing up I would have grown tired of the sport, and the prospect of kids being turned off to playing games scares me.

    • I also don’t like the idea that parents are teaching their kids that it is alright to concentrate so much on one sport. That is placing too much value in one area. Those cases usually turn into the kids playing because that is what they think makes their parents love them.

      Morgan

  28. [...] filters in the process of actually telling us something we don’t know. Recent posts include slamming youth baseball for not letting kids be kids, explaining why his defensive positioning led to Albert [...]

  29. Steve says:

    I don’t see a lot of “academic travel teams” or “educational showcases” out there. We have a society with some seriously misplaced priorities these days. How about $800 on a math and science tutor or taking classes all year round? It amazes me how parents will travel all over the country for these things and have their kids miss out on things like playing with their friends, going to the beach or just spending time with their families. Sorry for the rant. Kids should be doing as many different things as they can. Their childhood is their only opportunity to do this. Remember most of us “specialize” in one thing for the majority of our lives after high school/college(it’s called a JOB). Lastly, physically these kids break down as their bodies are not developed yet to handle the reps of the same activity year round. Go ask any orthopedic out there how many overuse injuries they see in kids that they did not see 10-15 years ago. “Tommy John Surgery” is now the treatment for “Little League Elbow” This is just nuts!! To finish this off, kids should be well rounded in LIFE, as for athletics, the more they do the better they will be at everything. And just to prove I’m not anti-sport, I am a Physical Education Teacher and a Varsity Football coach as well as having a background in exercise physiology and personal training.

    • Steve that was a really great post. I do think that playing that much is counter productive, but I really don’t want those kids to think they are loved because they play this sport. These parents who are allowing this are not bad people at all. They are people who want to give their kid the best opportunity in life. Their hearts are in the right place. Unfortunately, they have been tricked into thinking that these leagues will get you noticed. That is ridiculous.

      Morgan

  30. Brian says:

    Great topic and as a youth baseball coach I definitely understand the need for kids to play multiple sports and also be allowed to just be a kid. I was wondering if you could juxtapose your ideal of a balanced childhood in the U.S. with that of players from the Caribbean and South and Central America? There are so many players in the major and minor leagues from these countries and obviously kids from there not only DO play baseball year round, but teens in these countries even attend baseball academies. And until recently, MLB didn’t seem to care that it’s played a big role in creating an academy system that exploits teenage kids who often quit school in pursuit of a hollow dream. Just want your thoughts on that topic because I gotta believe that even the craziest AAU travel teams pale in comparison with the culture of baseball in countries like the Dominican Republic. And high school baseball in Japan? Maybe even crazier yet!

    And finally, even though it’s a topic for a different post, I’d also like to get some insight on race relations in a MLB clubhouse. My first instinct says there are issues, but I’d love to hear that I’m wrong.

    Love the blog.

    • Great point Brian but I don’t think you understand my point. I don’t have a problem playing catch in the street or going to the batting cage and practicing. I have a problem with 10 months out of the year competing in 1 sport. Also, the Academies that you speak of in the Dominican are built around kids that are high school age. My post was about kids from 8 to 14 whose parents are being tricked into thinking that these teams are how a child gets noticed. If a kid wants to specialize once they get to high school then so be it. I don’t believe the majority of kids who specialize have a chance to get to the Big Leagues though. Guys in MLB would really surprise you with their athleticism in other sports.

      In my article I made a point that I think best describes what I am saying. When I was in middle school, high school, and college I believed I could hit off of the opposing pitcher because I knew I was probably a better basketball player than him….not because I was a better baseball player. That my sound weird, but it was perspective that I had that made me believe. In fact the only reason I made it to the big leagues is because I was a basketball player who played baseball.

      Point 2: Race relations inside clubhouses are awesome! Guys who are in the big leagues share a common bond and we don’t care what color a teammate may be. We do care how each player carries themselves and I would have no problem if anyone came up to me and told me I was “doing something wrong” if the point was valid. It is about respect. I believe making judgments based on color is easily the dumbest thing i have ever heard. Your skin doesn’t have a brain, it is just the covering of a body. Hopefully that helps ease your mind.

      Morgan

  31. Stats Dad says:

    Great Post – my son’s team is made up of 11 kids from Ohio. They came in second in the CABA World Series when they were a U10 team. They beat all star teams from Panama and Puerto Rico. They play a very sophisticated level of baseball, they are coached as if they are college level players. Four full pages of signals are distributed for memorization. There are signals for to cover every possible bunt scenario, every hit and run, every pick off. It is a very serious team. Still, this team only plays ball March through July. The coach does not have the team play fall ball or indoor in the winter. He encourages his players to play other sports to give them a mental break and to develop the non-baseball muscles. The U10 team we lost to in the finals of the CABA played an 88 game spring / summer schedule that year. They also played a Fall schedule and worked out all winter. My son’s team plays that team about 5 times per year every year. It will be interesting to see how many boys from our program stay with baseball compared to the boys from that program. Glad to see a real pro agree with this philosophy.

    • Well I am glad that they play during the season. Signs for memory? That concerns me.

      I hope your son understands that this is extreme and that you love him for him instead of loving him because his team beats a team that plays year round. Just be careful there. Something doesn’t sound right.

      Morgan

  32. Josh H. says:

    Okay, I figured this would be an appropriate place to post this link as it’s apropos to the discussion, but has anyone seen this yet:

    http://deadspin.com/5515545/meet-the-fastball-hitting-slick-fielding-five%20year%20old

    So this kid is apparently 5. Five! I want this to be a hoax of some sort.

  33. Stephen Luftschein says:

    Kudos. Can’t tell you how many parents I spoke to while scouting and tried to talk them off the ledge, so to speak, of over organizing the kids life. They should play b/c they love it, and the skills they develop from other sports will always translate, as well as keep interest high and true.
    So much of my love for the game came from the proverbial “catch”, just going out on my street as a kid and finding someone else to throw a ball with. NOT from organized games.


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