Youth baseball is a sport that kids can learn to play at an early age. For most, picking up a ball and throwing it is instinctive. Baseball is ingrained in many of us.
Due to the sport’s popularity with kids, it can be tough for a player or team to stand out. Some smaller rec leagues aren't able to support and challenge youth players that want to grow to play high school or college baseball.
The solution? Travel baseball. But where do you begin if your community doesn't have a travel program? It can seem daunting to learn how to start your own select baseball team at first, but we'll walk you through the steps to get started below.
How to start a travel baseball team
- Find coaches and volunteers
- Budget for the season
- Create a brand and generate interest in your team
- Promote your travel baseball team
- Schedule tryouts
- Collect payments
- Register your teams
1. Find coaches and volunteers
Volunteering to help coach or manage a travel baseball team can be a big commitment. Especially when most parents have a hard time remembering to pick their kids up from school.
Inform coaches and volunteers of the time commitment needed to help with your program. You may even consider having your volunteers sign a travel ball commitment form or code of conduct.
There are a few routes that one can take when recruiting coaches and volunteers:
- Parents and other family members: This will be where most volunteers and coaches come from. Having parents involved is very helpful, especially since most will be present during practice and games, so they are more than likely willing to assist.
- Former coaches: Many former coaches are always looking for ways to still be involved in the game of baseball. This may even be a good way to recruit the best players, as athletes usually run in the family. Former coaches also have the experience to help lead other volunteers.
- Former/current players: Coaches and volunteers won’t be able to make every practice or game. High school or even older players can often serve as fill-ins when necessary. This also gives the younger players something to strive towards as they interact and learn from players they can admire.
Once you have reached out and spoken to several interested parties, it’s a good idea to schedule a meeting in which you can establish expectations and assign responsibilities for the upcoming season.
The last thing you want is for members of your support team stepping away because they didn’t understand the level of commitment that was required. Once you have your leaders and volunteers in place, it’s time to analyze the finances needed to help your travel team succeed and grow.
2. Budget for your season
Managing a travel baseball team has many moving parts. One of the tougher ones to tackle is understanding the costs. Below are some items that would be helpful to consider as you learn how to start a travel baseball team.
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Many public parks allow ballpark rentals per hour. If there is ever a rainy day, indoor batting cages can be a viable backup plan. Classroom sessions are also a great idea when bad weather ensues.
Thinking Baseball has a useful app that helps baseball players know what to do and where to be on every play. It’s perfect for on and off the field teaching sessions. It’s important to plan your practice schedule ahead of time, so you have options.
Uniforms and team equipment
These items can get worn out over the duration of a season, especially with all of the traveling. It’s important to look into uniforms and equipment that isn’t too expensive but is durable for the long haul. Having to spend additional money on replacements certainly can add up.
It’s also important to be clear on what you designate as team fees and player fees. Of course, this always comes down to clear communication.
When learning how to start a travel baseball team, it’s important to understand the amount of time and money involved when traveling.
Food, lodging, activities during downtime or between travel baseball tournaments, and gas are all factors that need to be considered. It’s helpful to plan out each tournament so you can keep the unexpected costs at a minimum.
Fundraisers and sponsorships
These are terrific ways to help raise money in order to better manage your travel baseball team. There are numerous websites, programs, and creative sports fundraising ideas.
Having everyone involved at some level is great for early team building. Sponsors could be local businesses or other larger national brands that support youth sports leagues.
3. Create a brand and generate interest in your teams
In order to put a travel baseball team on the field, you’re going to need to recruit actual players. This requires making the public aware that you exist and are serious about forming a team.
There are a couple of things you will need to gain interest and form a team.
Logo and brand
A logo not only helps with credibility but it brings excitement in that players will want to be a part of something new and fun. It also helps tremendously when marketing your travel baseball team. It demonstrates commitment and organization.
When creating a new logo, it's important to have a few different versions so you can use them on uniforms, hats, and social media profiles.
- Your logo should have at least one color version as well as a black and white version.
- You should also make sure you have a logo with no text (for content like social media or hats) and a version that includes the name of your team.
An experienced designer can easily create a brand for your team, like the image above, and it doesn't have to be expensive.
Not an artist?
Website for your travel baseball teams
A sports website will give parents and potential players all of the information they will need about the rosters, schedules, necessary forms, and team payments. A website will be the central hub for everything related to your team.
You can also post coach profiles, team accomplishments, your Mission and Vision, and anything else to help promote your organization to newcomers.
Setting up a website can be a great way to build credibility for your program, manage administrative tasks like scheduling and payment collection, and promote your teams in future seasons.
Never built a website before? Try a simple website builder made for sports, like Jersey Watch.
4. Promote your travel baseball team
Once you've established a strong online presence by setting up a website, you can begin to promote your team. Listed below are a few great marketing tools you can use to your advantage.
Use Google Keywords online
One way you can promote your youth travel baseball team with your website is by utilizing keywords. For example, if you're a travel baseball team in North Carolina, you can plug keywords into your website and target people who search the term "travel baseball NC" on Google.
Because we know people who search that term are more than likely living in North Carolina and are interested in travel baseball, we can safely assume they're more likely to register for a baseball team. You can also target keywords such as: "How to get on a travel baseball team" and "travel baseball teams near me."
💡PRO TIP: It can take a bit of time for a new website or social media account to show up in Google results. Need more help getting your site in search results? Learn more by reading How to Get Your Organization to the Top of Google Results.
Build relationships with local schools and rec baseball teams
The most surefire way to promote your travel team is by reaching out and building relationships with schools and rec baseball teams in your local area. Whether they are high school programs or youth programs, the coaches and administrators for these programs likely have connections to athletes who are looking to get into travel ball.
Ask the coaches or board members if they'd be willing to post information about your baseball program on their website, or include info in their email information to parents.
Run free baseball training camps and clinics
If you have a talented coaching staff who have a little bit of free time, ask them if they'd be willing to host a free clinic to help draw interest to your program.
Running a free camp in the offseason is a great way to introduce real players into your program. You can also use the camp to collect contact information from parents so you can keep them posted about tryouts for your teams in the future. Plus, it's always great to help out young athletes in your community!
5. Scheduling tryouts
Travel baseball teams are an exciting thing to be a part of as a player. It’s possible that you will receive interest from more than enough players.
Tryouts will allow you to choose the players that you think will give you the best chance to compete. Tryouts let you see the different types of skill levels and abilities that players have. For example, you can identify who the best pitchers or shortstops are to build the most competitive team possible.
Make sure you choose additional players for when families go on vacation or are unable to make tournaments for other reasons. Schedule more than one tryout. This gives players a fair chance to make sure they can attend at least one.
6. Collect payments
Registration can be used for tryouts, collecting team fees, or both. Either way, it is important to gather as much information about your players in order to serve them better and make things easier to run.
Online registration is the best way to collect funds, gather contact information, choose jersey size, and agree to waivers and other forms that your town may require.
You can also give your players the option to pay in automatic installments, so it's super easy to collect your team fees before your season gets started.
Online payments will make it much easier for parents to pay their fees and save you tons of time running your program.
7. Register your teams
Now that you have recruited your coaches and volunteers, delegated responsibilities, organized your finances, marketed your team, and conducted your tryouts, you’ll need to register your team.
In order to participate in tournaments, you’ll have to be a recognized travel baseball team. In some cases, if you're already sure of what baseball league you'd like to be a part of, you may be able to speed up the process by focusing on how to start a USSSA travel baseball team.
Below are some organizations you can look into joining:
Difference between travel baseball and high school baseball
Overall, travel baseball is more intense. It demands more time from an athlete and requires more money. However, college coaches may look for talented players who played on a travel ball team.
Travel baseball games tend to be on the weekend in a tournament format, where players enter pool play before heading into single elimination. Athletes can play up to 8 games over a two or three day weekend, depending on how good they do.
High school sports give kids the chance to play with classmates in a more structured environment, balancing baseball with other school activities. Everyone gets equal playing time on a high school team, and there are no entry fees or expensive equipment required to play.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the two:
Do MLB players play travel ball?
Yes, many MLB players played travel ball when they were kids. According to data collected by Baseball America, in 2017, there were an estimated 5,000 MLB players who participated in a travel baseball league. Surely that number has increased over the past six years.
Is travel baseball worth it?
Yes, travel baseball teams are worth it if you are looking for a high-level baseball experience and better player development. They offer the chance to compete against other players from different areas, allowing for a more competitive experience and the potential to gain more exposure for the more serious players.
Many former American MLB players share their experiences with travel baseball. Matt Antonelli, former second baseman for the Padres, says “I think travel ball without a doubt is worth it.” He shares his thoughts in the video below.
Getting your travel baseball team ready for next season
Factoring in the budget for your season and the level of competition is important when assessing your team's schedule and tournament entries.
Learning how to start a baseball team doesn’t have to be a painful process. You can start small with just one age group and add more ball teams in future years as your program gains traction and notoriety.
Start by finding other volunteers to help you coach and manage a travel baseball team. It’s pretty simple to begin promoting your team by creating a logo, setting up a website, and beginning to recruit all-star players for tryouts.
Now that you know how to start and manage a travel baseball team, you can search for tournaments to enter and start winning those trophies!
Starting a travel baseball team FAQ
How much does it cost to start a baseball team?
It depends on many different travel baseball costs, like facility fees, equipment, uniforms, and more—but you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars to start a team.
At what age should you start travel ball?
Starting travel baseball can depend on many factors, but generally speaking, one should consider a travel team when the player is around 12 years old and has developed the necessary skills to compete at a higher level.
How often do travel baseball teams practice?
Travel baseball teams often practice 2 to 3 times per week.
Is travel baseball better than Little League?
Travel baseball offers more competitive play than Little League, and can provide a bigger challenge for players looking to take their game to the next level. However, it requires a greater time and financial commitment, so it is important to consider if the benefits of travel baseball outweigh the additional costs.