Youth Baseball Reality
Why it Should Be Focused on Fun
Youth sports should be fun, and children should try different sports. They can learn lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, competition, setting goals, working to improve, recovering from failure, and doing their best when it matters. Those things benefit them far more than any supposed glory as a youth player, trophies, fancy uniforms, or expensive gear.
When parents try to make their child look or play like a superstar before middle school, it rarely produces good outcomes. Too often, parents do it for how it makes them feel, for bragging rights, as an attempt to redeem their own athletic frustrations, or the belief their child will get a college scholarship or even play professionally. They spend huge amounts on expensive travel teams, private lessons, and unnecessary high-end equipment but often their children don't get to try other sports or even have enough free time to just be a kid. Many get burned out and quit, but even for those that keep playing...
The brutal facts...
There are approximately 16 million children ages 6-15 playing youth baseball each year. That's 1.6 million per school grade.
There are only about 300,000 high school varsity roster spots nationally. A youth player's odds of just making his high school team are approximately 4.7% (1 out of 20 youth players). That means at your son's next game, statistically only 1 player from both teams combined will even make a high school team.
There are only approximately 160,000 high school varsity starting positions (excluding pitchers), so a youth player's odds of being a starter in high school are roughly 2.5% (1 in 40 youth players).
There are currently 299 Division 1 college baseball teams with a typical roster of 35 players each, so approximately 1,225 players of which roughly 310 are freshman recruits. That means a high school varsity player's odds of playing Division 1 college baseball are 0.4% (1 in 245). That's IF he becomes a high school player, and as a high school player he may never even play against anyone who ends up playing Division 1 college baseball.
For all youth players, the odds of playing Division 1 college baseball are roughly 0.02% (1 in 5,224). So statistically, even a large youth league might go 10 years without producing a single Division 1 college player.
The odds of getting drafted to play professionally are much lower, so there's no point in even mentioning them.
There are many state and national championship youth teams where NONE of the players became college players, or even high school players. In fact, the player generally considered to have been the best in the history of the Little League World Series never made his high school varsity team. Being a youth star means very little for the future.
Here's the kicker...
If your son beats the odds and gets recruited by a Division 1 college, you will learn that, in terms of scholarships, baseball is different than any other sport. The NCAA sets scholarship limits for all sports. Nearly all sports are full scholarships covering 100% of tuition, room and board, and other expenses, and the number of allowed scholarships exceeds the number of players on the active roster. But not baseball. The NCAA limits all Division 1 colleges (yes, even Florida, Florida State, and Miami) to 11.7 cumulative scholarships for the entire 35 player roster. They are divided up into partial scholarships, even 1/8th scholarships or less. Full scholarships are so rare you can't even calculate the odds. The bottom line is that nearly every college baseball player is paying to attend and play baseball. If you're counting on your son getting a full baseball scholarship... it's probably not going to happen.
If a coach tells you playing for his travel team or paying for his private lessons will result in your son getting a college scholarship... you will almost certainly spend far more money on baseball over the years than your son will receive in scholarships (and that's before considering the investment returns you could earn if you put that money in a college fund). If the coach giving private lessons tells you that your son can play high level college ball, get an indepedent, informed second opinion. Think about how much you pay for private lessons per year. Is the coach going to give up that income by telling you the truth about your son's ability?
I know many, many players whose parents paid for expensive travel teams and private lessons from age 6 or younger, but their sons didn't develop into college-level players. They just didn't have enough ability despite all the money spent, hard work, and time sacrificed. But I also know players who didn't start playing baseball until age 9 or 10, never had a private lesson, and did develop into college players. No matter how much money and time a parent puts into it, they can't make their son into something they aren't made for. And that has a lasting impact on the child especially as a young man. They often either feel they failed and let down their parents, or they focus backwards on past meaningless glory from youth baseball.
"I've seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about their glory days when they were 17 years old.” - Hoosiers - Myra Fleener (played by Barbara Hershey)
North Palm Beach Youth Baseball is a part of North Palm Beach Baseball, Inc, a Florida nonprofit corporation. NPBYB is not affiliated with Little League or any other baseball league, travel team, or national organization. NPBYB is independent and not part of the Recreation Department for the Village of North Palm Beach or Palm Beach County, but we are grateful for the assistance they both provide.