Travel Baseball vs. Grades: the best scholarship option

bigstockphoto_Baseball_572322In yesterday’s post, I revealed my feelings regarding the corruption of travel baseball.  What was, years ago, meant for recreation and fun has turned into a multi-million dollar business, preying on the hopes of players and parents alike, all while taking in money hand-over-fist.

The promise made by the travel baseball coaches, as well as the culture promoted by recruiting organizations, is that their program, their team, and their tournament, will  ensure exposure in front of college coaches and professional scouts.  As they promote this, the innuendo is that exposure will equate to college scholarships.  Innuendo has, at times, been pushed as a guarantee.

Yet, before I continue, let me stop and extol the benefits of baseball, and, in general, team sports.  I can’t say enough about what team sports provide for a child and teenager.  The lessons learned from playing a team sport like baseball translate easily into life-lessons, and these can be applied at any point in life.  Mike Lee lists 7 ways that team sports were a benefit to him in Lessons I Learned from Sports.  I encourage you to read this and work to make these lessons part of your child’s baseball experience.

Exposure = Scholarships

The attraction to travel baseball is the possibility of earning an athletic scholarship.  No doubt, some may be attracted to travel baseball because it involves playing the game against better competition – and, therefore, improves the abilities of your player – but, I would venture to state that the ultimate goal for most parents and players is an athletic scholarship.

Seeking financial aid to pay for college is a valid concern. The cost of tuition at a public university is high and Dollarscontinues to rise.  Private universities and colleges are even more.  So, any financial help that can be acquired from athletics is a plus.

What are the chances, though, of receiving athletic aid?  In his article, “No Athletic Scholarship for You, Next!”, Tom Swyers spells out exactly what the odds are.  He states,

…there were about 451,701 young men playing high school baseball. Around the same time, there were 12,272 receiving some kind D1 or D2  scholarship money for baseball. So the chance of getting any D1 or D2 scholarship money is 2.7% of all players playing high school baseball in the  United States.

College Sports Scholarships, a website dedicated to information regarding athletic scholarships, gives numerical data for all sports.  In baseball, just 6.1% of high school athletes will even play in an NCAA sponsored program.  Of those, less than half will earn scholarships.

Here’s the Catch

In Division 1 baseball, there are 11.7 scholarships that can be divided among 27 players on a 35 man roster.  If you do the math, that’s a lot of scholarships divided up to be spread out among those players.  There are rarely (I’ve only heard of two) full scholarships given for baseball.  Coaches must be creative in providing money to athletes, and they often work to acquire other forms of aid – such as merit or memorial scholarships – to attract players to their program.

Here’s the catch: once you get the scholarship, the work isn’t over.  One player at Villanova, who received $3000 a year in baseball aid, stated,

Kids who have worked their whole life trying to get a scholarship think the hard part is over when they get the college money. They don’t know that it’s a whole new monster when you get here. Yes, all the hard work paid off. And now you have to work harder.

Scholarships are renewed on a year-to-year basis.  Poor work ethic, poor performance, a coaching change, or misbehavior can all be reasons a program can terminate a scholarship.

Merit Money

The well for merit scholarships is deep.  Good grades and, especially, a good ACT score will go a lot farther in putting a dent in the cost of college.  And, once a merit scholarship is awarded, it renews yearly as long as basic criteria are met.


student-studyingPlayers will know if they have a chance to receive athletic money.  Size, skill, coach-ability, strength, speed, and so on will be good indicators of whether a player has a chance to play at the next level.  If those tools exist with your player, there are ways to get him exposed to college coaches.  Plus, word gets around.  If your player is on the high school team and he throws 90+, or hits gobs of home runs, coaches will find him.

There’s a happy medium.  Playing inexpensive, local baseball and hitting the books hard are the best chances to get athletic money.  Coaches are attracted to good players who are academically gifted – and, that translates into getting a good player with little athletic money involved.

So study.  Hard.  Don’t just make good grades…make great grades.  Save the money you’d spend on travel baseball and put it toward an ACT prep course.

While you’re at it, go on a vacation with your family.


Filed under Baseball

4 responses to “Travel Baseball vs. Grades: the best scholarship option

  1. Shannon Everhart

    I can truly say those statistics are accurate! Out of the 20 girls on our daughter’s softball team there were 3 in a 3 year span who actually received athletic scholarships. Yes the hard work is not over once you make that D1 or D2 team…it is just beginning! It is your full time job in addition to your school work. The only difference is you don’t really get money in your pocket for the work, but you do walk away with an education. The education is the most important thing because if an injury occurs and the sport goes away, the education is what you will have left and it is the most important. Because, even after the 4 years is over of college ball, the likelihood of going pro is even lower statistically speaking than receiving a collegiate athletic scholarship!

  2. John Rodgers

    Mark, I was part of the amen chorus yesterday while reading your blog about the big lie of travel baseball and particularly groups offering exposure to your son. I could not agree more. And I was swaying along with you again today but abruptly stopped when I read, “Coaches are attracted to good players who are academically gifted – and, that translates into getting a good player with little athletic money involved.” That has not been my experience. I definitely agree size, lots of dingers, a 90+ mph fastball and, to a lesser degree, skill are the most important factors. Also, as in life, who you know matters. But I don’t believe grades have anything to do with athletic scholarships, at least in baseball or football. If playing on a D1 team and athletic money is what you are after, encourage your child to be 6’4″ and 230 lbs, and everything else will fall in place. Now don’t get me wrong. Of course you should encourage your child to get good grades. As you correctly point out, it is unlikely you will be able to encourage him all the way up to 6’4″.

    • John:

      Thanks for commenting and sharing. I understand what you’re saying, and I think I wasn’t clear when I made that statement regarding coaches being attracted to students with good grades. Let me see if I can clarify!

      If two players of equal ability, size, tools, and so on are being recruited by a college program, coaches will land on the side of the player whose grades will earn merit scholarship from the institution. In D1, the athletic scholarship can be no less than 30%, so coaches will have to provide that. But, if a player with good grades gets merit scholarships that would provide a majority of tuiton, room & board, and so on, athletics would have to provide less than if a player had not merit money at all. To entice a player with no merit scholarships, a coach may be forced to offer, say 35-40%.

      Hope that helps. If not, I’ll see you tomorrow night and I’ll try to clarify more!!

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