Growing up, playing baseball at the park was what you did as a kid. However, as I got older, stronger competition was encouraged so I could develop my game and take it to the next level. I did this in hopes to make the varsity baseball team, get an athletic scholarship at a university, and eventually go play in the big leagues. Even though an increase in competition and personal game development, these perks still came at a cost for me. Some even argue that travel ball is only for the elite because parents spend upwards of $4,000 a year for their kid to play. These expenses include the fees for being on a team (ex: including uniforms, tournament costs), equipment, travel costs (ex: gas, hotel rooms), and hitting/pitching/catching lesson costs (CBS News). Truth is when it comes to youth travel baseball, “It's a status symbol, one promoted by parents and justified by the guys who collect tournament fees, and it's the main reason baseball in this country is widely becoming the province of wealthy suburbia”(ESPN).
Travel baseball has created an exclusivity that many argue is unfair because the average family cannot shell out that much money for their kid’s sports and in turn gives the child a better opportunity at making the high school squad because they’ve had more practice, played against better competition, and had the best equipment at their disposal. Additionally, travel baseball takes away from a kid just hanging out, simply being a kid and playing whatever sport they choose year round.
A recent statistic from the NCAA claims that only 11.5% of high school baseball players actually play ball in college (Scholarship Stats). Disclaimer, this takes into consideration all divisions of baseball, but for this article’s sake we’re only analyzing Division 1 athletics. “The average NCAA Division I baseball team has a roster of 35 players but only a maximum of 11.7 athletic scholarships available. This means the average award covers only about 1/3 of annual college costs and this assumes the sport is fully funded at the sponsoring school. Baseball is an equivalency sport for NCAA scholarship purposes, so partial scholarships can be awarded to meet the NCAA limit per school”(Scholarship Stats). That being said, it’s extremely difficult to play baseball in college on a full ride. For the average player, if they still have to pay the 2/3 of all college tuition and fees is the investment their parents made when they were a kid playing travel ball worth it?
By the numbers, I’d say no, it’s not worth the investment. Here’s why. If a kid starts playing travel ball when he is 9 and plays until he is 18, that’s a span of 10 years. If the average cost of playing travel ball is $4,000 per year that would suggest that the break-even point for the investment would be around $40,000. With the average college tuition in the United States being $27,825 per year, and the earlier statistic about how the average scholarship only covers 1/3 of tuition, a baseball scholarship would only cover $9,275 per year totaling $37,100 over a 4 year span. This leaves the student or their family with an average of $74,200 of debt to pay off (Division 1 Colleges. List of NCAA DI schools).
Based off the statistics, the parents’ average Return on Investment would be -7.25%. To some, the investment in travel ball may be worth the risk to give their child the opportunity to play baseball in college and hopefully the big leagues. But for me, with approximately 88.5% of high school baseball players never going to college to play baseball, the numbers suggest that it would be safer to invest the $40,000 that you would in travel ball in a saving’s plan that would guarantee the kid the opportunity to go to college one day. However, I understand the value of sports in a kid’s life, the lessons they learn, and the relationships they build. Although I’m a part of the minority of people who played travel baseball growing up who never had the opportunity to play baseball in high school, I’m thankful my parents invested their time, effort and money into me because I truly loved the game.
For the parents reading this article, I urge you consider this. It’s not about your child becoming the next Derek Jeter, so maybe it’s okay to let your child keep playing park ball and not letting them play travel ball. It’s about your child truly falling in love with the game of baseball and what lessons they can learn from it. “Bottom line: If your child’s good, they’ll be found, regardless the path their baseball career follows” (Baseballamerica.com). If your child is not the next superstar, or hometown legend, that is perfectly fine. It shouldn’t be about you and fulfilling your dreams for them, so when they day comes they want to hang up their cleats, whether they’re 9 or 15, let them and take the money you would then invest in their sporting career and invest it into their college fund.
This blog post was written by Samford finance and sports marketing student Drew Jackson.
$4,000 for Youth Baseball: Kids' Sports Costs Are Out of Control (CBSNews) Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/4000-for-youth-baseball-kids-sports-costs-are-out-of-control/
Where the Elite Kids Shouldn’t Meet (ESPN) Retreived from: http://espn.go.com/espn/commentary/story/_/page/keown-110823/elite-travel-baseball-basketball-teams-make-youth-sports-industrial-complex
Looking At Youth Baseball From The Inside - BaseballAmerica.com (BaseballAmerica.com) http://www.baseballamerica.com/high-school/looking-at-youth-baseball-from-the-inside/
College Baseball and Scholarship Opportunities (Scholarship Stats) Retrieved from: http://www.scholarshipstats.com/baseball.htm
Division 1 Colleges. List of NCAA DI schools. (Division 1 Colleges. List of NCAA DI schools.) http://www.collegesportsscholarships.com/division-1-colleges-schools.htm