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Saving Youth Baseball and Softball

Youth baseball and softball haven’t really changed???  It seems like the games and life itself used to be so much simpler twenty or so years ago. 

Babe Ruth League was founded as a program that would teach fundamentals, sportsmanship, teamwork and many other valuable life SWINGING SB PLAYERSlessons.  Local business sponsorships helped keep participation costs low and root the teams in their communities.  To this day, defined area boundaries from which each local league can draw players prevents competition of an undesirable nature.

Travel ball, by contrast, is not cheap.  Participation fees average approximately $2,000 per player per year.  Teams recruit players from all over the region.  Players and their families spend many hours commuting to out-of-town and out-of-state games and tournaments.  Year by year, ballplayers go from one travel team to another, switching teammates and uniforms, with a name splashed across the front of their jersey usually signifying something other than their home town.  Travel ball eliminates local community pride and unity. 

Usually by the time baseball teammates got to high school, they were like family.  They were already a team, picking each other up, playing for their community.  Now players arrive from a bunch of different teams, and they know the players in the other dugout better than they know each other.

So goes the all too common narrative for American youth these days, an adult driven, hyper competitive race to the top in both academics and athletes that serves the needs of the adults, but rarely the kids.  We have a generation of children that have been pushed to achieve parental dreams instead of their own, and prodded to do more, more, more and better, better, better.  The pressure and anxiety is stealing one thing our kids will never get back – their childhood!

We realize all parents – parents of babe ruthers or travel ballers – want their children to become the best they can be.  We realize parents are so scared that if they do not have their child specialize, or if they do not get the extra coaching, or give up the entire family life for travel ball, their child will get left behind. 

But there are physical and emotional costs.  Major Leaguers are speaking out about the high number of youth suffering arm injuries.  Babe Ruth League graduate and Hall of Famer, John Smoltz, during his Hall of Fame speech, had an important message for parents.  “Baseball is not a year-round sport.  It is more than okay to put down the baseball at times during the year and pick up a basketball or football.  It’s better for your child’s future.”  Smoltz himself played baseball and basketball as a kid.  Smoltz warned, “Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses tell you this is the way.  It is not normal to have surgery at 14 and 15 years old.  Allow your kids the opportunity to be athletic and play other sports.” 

Travel ball also amplifies the risk of mental burnout.  For too many kids today, the genesis of a kid’s passion to play ball is being lost in the full-time travel movement.  It is troubling when parents and coaches intervene in the process to the extent that kids just aren’t enjoying the game anymore.  The games have become very serious and many kids aren’t enjoying it.  As an organization that cares about the welfare of youth, it is so sad to see kids react to the games (of baseball and softball) we love so much and have put so much faith into helping youth develop strong, clean, healthy bodies, minds and souls.

Babe Ruth League is about a sense of community.  Teaching kids the concept of teamwork, of sacrificing individual needs to work together in seeking a common goal.  And we have always believed that if we teach our youngsters to pick themselves up when the success they are seeking eludes them, then we will be teaching them how to be successful adults.

Don’t get us wrong.  We are not against competition.  Learning to compete to win is important in the development of a player.  But competition without preparation, without learning and honing the basic fundamentals, will result in kids leaving the game. 

So if you think your child playing Babe Ruth League and for their local Babe Ruth Baseball, Cal Ripken Baseball or Babe Ruth Softball league is beneath them, think again.  We have an exciting and fun tournament trail for those children who proudly earn their way by learning, practicing and sharpening their skills season after season.  We have a network of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and resources to create a fun environment in which they teach our participants the fundamentals of the game and provide an endless procession of life lessons.

In fact, in just a few weeks, the culmination of the prestigious Babe Ruth League Tournament Trail, our 12 World Series, will begin.  In addition to offering a competitive athletic experience, the Babe Ruth League World Series also promises the participants a diverse cultural and social experience.  From the local flavor of a new community to participation in World Series events and games, our young athletes are left with a host of memories to cherish for the rest of their lives.

Ripken PlayersFor all World Series news and results, visit baberuthworldseries.com.

Babe Ruth League has host of affiliates who want to do right by the kids than there are those whose egos and wallets have been leading our youth down the wrong path.  Babe Ruth League is proud to put our participants on a road to somewhere, one paved with balanced childhoods, exploration, enjoyment, and yes, multiple sports.

 

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