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Letter to the Editor: Travel Programs Are Ruining Youth Baseball

A letter from Joe Marrotta, the president of the Hickory Hills Youth Baseball and Softball.

As President of Hickory Hills Youth Baseball I am still plagued by the fact that we continue to decrease in numbers. Mostly because of a phenomenon that has hit the entire country like a bad virus: Watered down travel programs.

Nowadays it seems like every guy who thinks he is raising the next Ty Cobb starts his own travel program. Guess what? My rec team beat three of those so called travel teams this past year. All they are dong is taking your money. And according to one family that left HHYBS two years ago and are now coming back, LOT’S OF IT! 

You can look in any chat room and on any website related to this topic and see what a problem this has become for recreational programs everywhere. From California to New York and Texas to Oregon rec programs are showing severe decreases due to these watered down programs popping up everywhere.

Example # 1: HHYBS charges $100 to play. Every Division has the opportunity to play in as many games as the manager chooses to play. During the season every division is also given the option to play on Sundays in a more competitive league. Also, at the end of the year every division chooses an All Star team that plays into the end of July. All for a fraction of the fee of a Watered Down Travel Program.

Example # 2: Watered down Travel program A charges $2500 to simply register for the team. The family now has to buy uniforms, bat bag, shoes, sun glasses, socks, toe nail polish, all matching of course. On top of that you are slammed with ridiculous fundraisers every other week. Not to mention that now you have to take time off of work to travel all over the country and pay thousands of dollars in hotel rentals, rental cars, airfare, etc! Are you kidding me? Only to lose in the first round?

Another thing that makes me sick to my stomach is the ridiculously false rumor that kids must play for a travel team in order to play high school ball. This could not be more FALSE. 

The 2011 Freshman Baseball team was made up of a majority of players from either Hickory Hills Youth Baseball, Palos Hills Baseball or Palos Baseball Organization. I personally know and have had the honor of coaching eight players from HHYBS that made the Stagg Freshman team in 2011.

Another complaint that seems rabid in these chat rooms is the family atmosphere that the kids lose when leaving rec ball. Baseball is supposed to be a fun, life learning experience that is shared between friends. Whether it is on the diamond or in school the following day. When you play for these watered down travel programs you lose that experience. There is no going to school with your buddies that you play baseball with. Kids on these teams live all over the place.

I have put two boys through HHYBS and could not have asked for a better experience. One of my boys is done and is extremely upset about it. My youngest has one year left in HHYBS. Both of my boys were invited to try out for these watered down programs. I could not be happier that we stayed at HHYBS. HHYBS is part of our life, our family and when our time is over with HHYBS I will always be available and willing to do whatever I can to make sure that it stays as strong as it was when we entered the league back in 2002.

I just hope that my little rant stopped some of you from considering leaving HHYBS for one of these rip off, watered down (so-called) travel programs.  Stay with HHYBS where we travel, we compete, we play in excess of 50 game per season, we won't kill you checkbook and on top of it we win championships. 

2011 League Stats

  • Mustang Boys (10u baseball) – Hickory Hills Phillies WON Southwest Interleague Championship
  • Bronco Boys (12u baseball) – Hickory Hills Phillies WON Southwest Interleague Championship
  •  Pony Boys (14u baseball) – Hickory Hills Phillies WON Southwest Interleague Championship
  • PintoGirls (8u softball) - Hickory Hills WON Southwest Interleague 2nd Place
  • Mustang Boys All Stars (10u baseball) – Won 1st Place in Hickory Hills Tournament, Won 1st Place in Midlothian Tournament, Won 3rd Place in Oak Forest Tournament
  • Pony Boys All Stars (14u baseball) - Won 3rd Place in Hickory Hills Tournament, Won 3rd Place in Homer Glen Tournament, Won 1st Place in OFBA Tournament
  •  PintoGirls All Stars (8u softball) – Won 2nd Place in Hickory Hills Tournament

And all of this for a fraction of what these watered down, wanna be travel programs are charging!

 

Joe Marrotta,

President of HHYBS

Jeanette Vugrin August 16, 2011 at 01:22 PM
I think Mr Marota could not be more correct in his letter. We are one family that left Palos Hils baseball for a travel team and came right back. Kudos to Mr Marota for what he does and for recognizing that this is nothing more than a business for some. Some of these people do not care about the game, they are in it to make a buck!
jackie August 16, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Thanks Joe for standing up for what we all believe in: fun for our kids. You are a very upstanding individual in the community and should NOT have your words discounted. So to all the nay-sayers out there that think this is just another motor-mouthed person, SHAME ON YOU! He is one of the last advocates in our area and is well respected!
MIke Lee August 16, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Well said,Joe. places like HHYBS and PBO arent being hurt from travel like some other towns are.The real ones hurt are these kids that get convinced to leave.What we see is guys start their own travel teams either because we won't let them coach because they are knuckleheads, or their kids can't make our travel teams.So they have to go and start their own teams because DAD is so desperate to play "travel". And the thing that really bothers me is they then go out and recruit 11 other kids to fill out their roster.Taking them away from the program they love & from their friends. Like Joe said, undoubtedly these kids realize their mistake after one season of playing ultra-competitive, ultra expensive baseball. some come back to our program,some just quit the game because of their bad experience. Mike Lee President, Palos Baseball
Steve Sams August 16, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Sounds like a ton of whining to me. I played travel baseball on multiple state and even national teams, and it was the best experience of my life. I formed a ton of great friendships with teammates from other schools- which turned into my high school and even college teammates. Playing travel ball is a choice. Maybe some parents want to allow their kids to play travel ball for the same experiences I did. The competition was 1 million times better than "in house" ball, and it made me not only a better ball player- but a better athlete that prepared me for high school and then college baseball. It's about finding the RIGHT travel team, so to make it seem like travel baseball over the place is a joke- that's just not even close to accurate. Go tell Upper Deck, Dupage, Illinois Sports Academy (which produces professional players every year including Michael Bowden from the Red Sox and John Ely from the Dodgers), that travel ball is pointless. If you don't like travel- good for you. Writing a letter, throwing a verbal termper tantrum, while getting on others for recrutiing is hilarious when YOU'RE DOING THE SAME THING HERE! It's great that your kids like playing in your organization- good for you guys. Trying to discredit OUTSTANDING baseball across the country...just another blow hard trying to tell the majority what is right...and what is wrong.
Joseph Marrotta August 17, 2011 at 02:31 AM
Steve, I agree with you to a point. There are some programs that deserve to be "Travel teams". I can think of probably 3 in Northern Illinois. The rest are watered down and are no more better of a team than you will find at any rec league in the area. These travel teams are started by disgruntled parents who are either trying to live thru their kids or are out to make a buck. 1 million times better competition? Did you not read my article? My HHYBS rec team beat three of these supposed travel teams this year alone! The point to my letter was to hopefully stop some of the parents from considering leaving HHYBS, Palos Hills Baseball or PBO for one of these rip off, watered down (so-called) travel programs. If their child is "Elite Travel Program" material? Go for it. I would never fault that sort of move. But 99% of the kids that leave our league are only doing so for these C & D level programs.

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