Parents Guide to Questions to Ask Travel Baseball Teams

It’s baseball tryout season again. Before picking a team, ask these questions to ensure you’ve found the right fit.

  • How much is the fee and what’s included? Is there mandatory fundraising? How much? This is basic, but will vary significantly from $800 for a community sponsored team to $3,500+ for private organizations. Some teams will surprise you with required sales of Super Bowl squares or raffle tickets and charge you if you don’t complete contribute your share in this way. Things that can be part of the fee include:
    • Access to an indoor facility
    • Speed and agility
    • A certain number of private lessons
  • How many tournaments / games are you planning to play? A close second to the money, is the time you’ll commit (and hotel, gas, airfare) for travel. Travel baseball means different things to different teams, so be sure to ask for details before to committing to the time and money required by the coaches
    • How many are out of town?
    • How far away?
    • How many are week long?
  • What are the coaches’ backgrounds? You’ll see a huge variance in this from guys who claim to be professionals, but who’ve never stepped on a field, to former MLB pros. Being a pro doesn’t make the a good coach and not playing doesn’t make them bad, but be sure to do your homework
  • How many kids are on the roster? 11-12 is a good roster size for younger teams. 10 is too few because pitching can run thin. 13-14 can be too many (unless there are pitchers only or it’s an especially long tournament) because players’ at bats and time in the field will be limited, but some programs try to reach this number to increase the profitability of their program
  • Is the coaches kid on the team? Buyer beware here. There are generally two extremes. The kid is good and no one will ever get a chance to play shortstop (or another prime position) or he’s really bad and the coach is only volunteering to protect him from being cut
  • Will visiting / guest players be invited to play in key tournaments? For big, national tournaments, top players from around the country may be flown in to play in key games. You should understand the coach’s philosophy for this practice as well as your flexibility to play for other teams during off weeks if you’re interested in that
  • What is your arm care program? With the number of elbow and shoulder injuries in baseball, it’s important to learn how the team will work to prevent them. Band and long toss programs are common to build strength, but some places us weighted balls as well, which is controversial for youth players who haven’t had their growth plate close yet. I might also ask if a team has ever or would ever be willing to forfeit a game if they ran out of pitchers in a tournament
  • How much practice time will there be during the week? In the south, many teams practice 2x/week during the season and then only play weekend tournaments. In the north, there are more leagues during the week and some teams will rarely practice during the season
  • What does the practice plan generally look like? This can be difficult to tease out, but it’s important to understand if the focus will be on hitting in a cage, defense on the field, bullpens for pitchers, simulated games or something else.
  • What does winter training look like? Winter training can focus on arm care to build up the chronic workload for the season, speed and agility or cage work.
  • How will players be rotated among positions? Top teams are likely to have set positions, even at early ages, so players won’t have a chance to experience different spots. Others with a more development focus will rotate positions every inning or two to help players find what they do best
  • How will the pitching load be distributed? Unless you’re playing at an older age group with pitchers only (POs), a handful of pitchers can’t shoulder the load. Seek to find out if coaches will pitch players 1-2 inning each or try to run one for most of the game because he’s star
    • What plan do you follow to avoid injuries (e.g., PitchSmart)?
  • What are the expectations for practice and game attendance? Will a player be penalized if they attend another activity that conflicts with the schedule (e.g., music, basketball, family event)? Coaches often feel like they have full control over a family’s schedule during the baseball season and have no issue with dropping extra games on the calendar. They’ll claim that the team comes first and can be upset if a 8u player chooses a family birthday party over playing another game. Sort this out before committing
  • Is there a parent / player / coach code of conduct? Coaches often have players and parents sign a code of conduct, but they should have one as well. I’ve seen coaches drunk before dinner and heard of them leaving mid-tournament because of issues with the team

What questions were missed that you think are important?

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