What I learned as a traveling baseball mom

When my son was 5 we signed him up for a little baseball class that was held at the YMCA. He loved it. He wasn’t a natural, but he loved trying to hit the ball off the tee and having fun with his friends. From that he went on to play tee-ball, coach pitch, then regular kid pitching. He had so much fun, I could see it on his smile when he was on a base. He was so proud and so happy.

Then I remember the moment our baseball days would change. While watching my son play a fall game after the regular season ended resulted in my dad and husband telling me that if we didn’t get him on a travel team he wouldn’t progress and get better. What did I know about this anyway, I never liked sports or baseball for that matter until I was there to cheer on my own child. Ask me about what dress to put Alyssa in or what color shoes would look good with her outfit and I could tell you…baseball…nope, it’s all a blank. After talking at great lengths with my husband we decided it would be best for our son to start playing travel ball. We had no idea what we were getting into…NONE, whatsoever!

My son’s first travel team was great. We never had any major issues really and if we did, we addressed them with the coaches and sometimes we may have had to discuss it more than once, but overall, their coaching style we felt was pretty good. They cared about the kids, the kids were learning and the kids more importantly were having fun. They went on to win game after game, season after season, and as they started winning and the next few years went by, my husband and I noticed a change. The parents made a strange divide. One half moved to sit in the outfield while the others sat in the bleachers closest to the field. I wasn’t there to become best friends with anyone, I was there to watch my son and his team play baseball. So, what am I to do? Nothing. I sat closest to the field where I always sat and watched my son play. He was good, he was having fun. When he first started playing he was in the infield or pitching. Then with his travel team, he started playing the outfield, which I HATED seeing him out there bored to death, but he’s the type of kid who would just go where his coaches wanted him to go and he did the best he could. The outfield became his number one position….to my disliking. He was also a catcher. Granted, he wasn’t the first or second choice, he was more like the third or forth, but we started to tell him that if he wanted to improve and move up, he’d have to work hard, but it’s hard to work hard if you aren’t given the opportunity. But still, he was having fun and that was what it was all about, having fun. We always said when he stopped having fun, that’s when we pull him out.

The very last game of our season all Hell broke loose with the two parent sides. He said this, she said that, back and forth, yelling, fighting, tears, it was horrible. I stood there in shock at what I had been blindsided with. I was embarrassed for all of them actually. The team was splitting up. I had no idea all of the drama going on behind the scenes. We lived in a bubble protecting us from all the B.S. that was flying around. However, being left in that bubble, forced us to have to pick a side. What were we to do? I had NO clue. I was stuck. In the middle. And it sucked. My husband and I tossed around different scenarios and tried to figure out what we thought was best keeping in mind that WE weren’t playing baseball, my son was. We had made our decision to stick with the people that we thought would treat our son like one of their own. However, when we asked my son what he wanted, he wanted to go with the kids he’s known since he was 6 or 7 and the kids that he would ultimately go to school with. After a week, we had to decide. We went with our sons decision because he said he liked his first coach {way back from coach-pitch} and he wanted to play ball with the kids he’d be in school with. He was so sad and I hated seeing HIM in that position. No one knows how hard it was for HIM. HE was hurt.

I hated making that decision and looking back, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

Fast forward to this past season. We were told “your son will always have a place on my team”, “I love your son, he’s a great kid”, blah blah blah….then when all was said and done and their “official” tryouts were over, the coach made it perfectly clear that they would be focusing on this team and they wanted to develop the kids so that when and IF they wanted to play high school baseball, they would be ready to step in where ever the coach asked them to go. They’d be well-versed in all positions. All that sounded great in theory, until we noticed they weren’t really developing the kids that may have needed a bit of extra help. Instead, they focused on their “star” players and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. My son struggled all season. He sucked at the plate and I am not even going to lie about that, but a lot went into that. I emailed his coach and explained to him how he was feeling, how I was feeling and I thought he took that into consideration knowing my son for as long as he did. He was bumped from catching all together. He was always at the end of the batting line up…even when he started out ok, he was 7th out of 11 players…then as the season progressed, he was 10th. Again, his batting average sucked. He made some great situational plays and saved the team in a few ways. He made some errors too, but all of them made their fair share of errors.

I saw my son quickly lose interest in a sport he once loved. The team was great at winning…the won a buttload of games, but my son was miserable there. We would tell him that if he wanted to play he needed to step it up and give it his all and he did, he really did. A kid is only as good as his coach and his coach, I feel, failed him. Even though we shared our concerns, we got the fake, “oh we love your son” bull shit. They loved him up until we spent $3000 on a trip to save their ass so they could go to Disney World and play in the World Series. Prior to the trip, we had our son go through the tryout process. I knew what was going on all along, but I wanted to focus on my son and allowing him to have a once in a lifetime experience at this Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports, knowing it would be the last time he played with these boys. I knew it in my gut. We went on this trip and had as much fun as we could with what we were all feeling when secretly, I just wanted it to be over. We were snubbed by the parents and made to feel very uncomfortable and these were people we had known for years mind you. We felt like total outsiders. I couldn’t stand the fake hello’s, it seriously made me sick.

We came home on August 3rd. We didn’t hear from his “coach” until August 14th-ish and he didn’t talk to me…he wouldn’t dare. He called my husband. Why? Because he knew, my husband would be calm, cool and collect. My son was cut from the team. I didn’t know if I was more pissed or relieved, but I was a bit of both at that moment. Instead of taking the team as they were and using the same mentality of developing the kids, the coach was getting greedy, he wanted more wins, he wanted star players, he wanted more and my son didn’t fit that bill apparently. My son, the one that always had a place on his team…the one he loved having around….no longer was wanted. The hard part was in telling my son because up until that moment, he didn’t know what to feel. The coach had told me in his email that he never wanted to cut a kid from playing the game unless he didn’t want to play, because a coach did that to him. Guess the coaching apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, huh? And, I guess, because my son didn’t show enthusiastic post-game excitement or was quietly on his phone after a game or practice, that meant he wasn’t interested in the sport anymore. I am so disappointed in him as a coach and as a person. I have no respect for him and never will again. My son took it pretty hard at first. We asked him over and over if he wanted us to see if we could find him a new team {at this point, all next years tryouts were long over but we’d try our hardest to find one for him if he wanted to play}. Sadly, he decided he was done. This past week, we boxed up all of his trophies & medals and now they will be in a box in our basement until he moves out or allows us to toss them. Easy come…easy go I guess.

I was so angry at the coach. I was hurt by the parents who pretended to be a part of our “baseball family”. I was hurt that not ONE parent texted or called to say they were sorry to hear the news, not one showed any concern, but a couple nonchalantly will reply to my Facebook posts and some I have even blocked due to total fakeness and I’ll probably block a few more. I was upset that the one bad decision we made as parents altered my sons spirit and eventually his love for a sport he had fun playing for years. I believe in karma, and I can forgive, but I’ll never, ever forget.

I stumbled upon a great post about coaches and what makes a good one. It’s one that I feel ALL coaches NEED to read.

With that said, we learned this week that the team was looking for another player because someone left…word travels fast at school. Can’t say I didn’t smile from ear to ear with the news, but I DID use it as a great learning tool for my son. I told him to NEVER, EVER base a decision off of greed, go with what your gut it telling you because if you base your decision off of greed, it WILL come back and bite you in the butt…every time. Case in point.

I’m not going to give this situation any more of my energy. I am going to focus on the good years my son had playing the sport, the fun he had, the great plays and great accomplishments he had both as a team and as an individual and just be proud of him for the young man he is quickly becoming. That may have temporarily hurt his spirit, but he is a great hearted young man and no matter what he does in life, he will succeed, I have no doubts at all. Karma baby…karma.

Have you had any horror stories with travel baseball or travel sports? Did it end your child’s career with youth sports? How did you handle your situation? Share in the comments below! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “What I learned as a traveling baseball mom

  1. I cannot imagine going through that, especially for your son. I remember being on a swim team and I was somewhat decent. The team was during the summer so we had the winter off. My parents couldn’t afford private lessons during the school year/ off season but another girl on my teams parents could. Sure enough, by next summer/season, she was the star of the show. I still remember her name. I remember my coach treating and coddling her like her golden egg because her skills made our team rank higher. My parents were even friends with the coach and that diminished as she became closer with the other girls parents who were paying her to perfect her skills and inevitably become her ‘golden ticket’ to a high ranked swim team. I hated swim team after that and never continued. Looking back at this moment after reading your article, I wonder if that is why I never went on with it? I remember my parents begging me to try out for the high school team. I purposely didn’t swim one out of the four strokes (butterfly) during tryouts (which automatically disqualified me from joining the team) because, to be honest, I didn’t want to be on another swim team— even if it was a different team, through my school. I threw the towel in just as your son did! Where is the healthy balance between competition (not every kid receiving a trophy for ‘participation) and not treating these young kids like theyare trying out for the damn Olympics?

    1. Ashley, that could possibly be why. I fully believe after this last season that a coach can make or break an athlete whether they are good or not so good. I also believe that there is so much pressure on kids to “be the best” that when they fall short of that in a coaches eyes, it crushes their spirit. I can only speak for my son, but I know, he was hurt. He may not verbalize it because he’s a shy type of kid, but when it’s just me and him, I know. A mom just knows.

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