‘Select’ sells a baseball fantasy

And you can buy in too, if you’re willing to pay the price

Ever wonder what it would be like if your son played professional baseball? These days you can find out — while he is still a teenager!

It’s called Select baseball. Or Premier League. Or travel ball. Or Elite.

Almost anyone can join! All it takes is a moderately talented kid and parents with pockets as deep as the Mariana Trench.

In Select baseball, as I’ll call it here, your son will experience all the thrills real Major Leaguers do as they journey through the Minors toward The Show.

Junior’s team will play as many as 60 games between Memorial Day and the end of July, many out of town.

He will get to travel long distances — sometimes in airplanes — stay in hotel rooms, and play double headers! He gets a uniform with his name on the back (perhaps with three or four different color combinations), and a team-branded baseball bag!

He will play at least three or four games a week, but sometimes five, or six, or seven. There will be games in minor-league stadiums, college fields, maybe even a Major League park!

Almost every weekend brings a new tournament, in which teams can win trophies taller than 8-year-olds.

Is your son a pitcher? He can start getting used to playing every fifth game as early as 14 — just like a Major Leaguer!

Is your son a catcher? He can start catching every game, with an obligatory rest every two or three weeks, as early as 11 or 12. Just like a Major Leaguer!

Is your son a prospect? He won’t have to wait long to find out.

At the upper levels of Select ball — ages 16–18 — college coaches and Major League scouts helicopter: watching, measuring, testing, clocking, encouraging, dangling the prospect of scholarships and signing bonuses in front of mesmerized teens.

In addition to Junior’s regular summer team, there will be invitations to showcase tournaments and prospect camps — in Arizona, Florida, Southern Cal — which coaches and scouts treat like a cotillion for baseball debutantes.

If your son catches a coach’s eye, he will additionally invite Junior to his school’s prospect camp (on your dime).

This means if your son also plays high school ball, he can count on doing something baseball related — playing a game, practicing, traveling to a game, fund-raising, or training individually — nearly every day from early March through the end of summer.

He’ll eat, drink, and breathe baseball, just like a Major Leaguer!

Then, after a month-long offseason, he will start practicing again in October, so that next summer, by gawd, he will be strong enough, fast enough and good enough to catch the right eyes and make it to the next level.

Just like a Minor League prospect!

With all these summer games and camps and tournaments, of course, there’s no time for formal team practice. That’s done in the winter, and it’s called training.

Most Select clubs — at least here in the Pacific Northwest — have indoor facilities, with batting cages, pitching mounds, and weightlifting gear. Players are expected to attend training sessions two to four times a week; it’s voluntary in the same sense as NFL OTAs.

At training, your son will lift weights, take cuts, throw bullpen sessions, field grounders, tweak mechanics, sweat conditioning drills.

Training season is also the time to work on individual mechanics: to correct swings, improve footwork, perfect a circle change, etc. Your Select coach will help Junior with these things.

Of course, as with all coaches, some are better than others, and most are better at teaching one or two specific skills rather than a broad range.

To ensure Junior gets the coach best suited to the skill he wants to learn, Select organizations offer individual classes — on pitching, hitting, catching, infield, outfield.

And if your Select program does not have a suitable tutor, you can tap into a growing network of private coaches and training gurus — just like a Major Leaguer!

Select ball is better than a one-off “Major League Fantasy” camp; it’s an entire Fantasy League! And Junior can play it every year until he gets that college scholarship, gets drafted out of high school, or decides to go to junior college for a couple of years “to work on my game.”

It’s the path that leads through college baseball, the low minors, and, if Junior is truly gifted, to the door of The Show itself! Just like a Major Leaguer!

It’s not free, of course. Oh no! Not for an experience this special. Coaches must be paid, facilities rented, tournament fees allotted, and uniforms ordered. That’s just for starters.

Your standard Select baseball fee starts at $2,000 to $3,000 a year. That doesn’t include gas or plane fare to tournaments, nor hotel rooms and road meals, nor the spectator admission fees often charged at larger tournaments. The fee for my son’s team didn’t even include uniforms.

Should your offspring be lured to a “showcase tournament” or “prospect camp,” you can count on another $100 to $200 registration fee per event, plus travel and lodging.

Want extra tutoring during the offseason? Budget $40-$100 an hour.

It adds up, all right. But think of the payoff! Your son, the progeny of your loins, might actually earn a college baseball scholarship!

Or at least a partial one.

Each college baseball team, you see, has 11.7 scholarships to grant each year, which must typically be divvyed up between 25–35 players. So your son’s actual offer will probably be for 75 percent of a full scholarship, or 50 percent, or 25.

But hey — it’s a college scholarship! To play baseball! Your son! And if that happens, he has a chance to get drafted, down the road, by an actual Major League team!

And if that happens, he gets to do what he’s been doing — traveling to podunk towns, staying in cheap hotels, and trying to move up the ladder — for a few more seasons.

But in that case it’ll be different, see. Now your son is being paid for enduring grueling bus rides, uncomfortable beds and bland motel waffles.

Now he’s a professional. A professional ballplayer! Your flesh and blood!

Does your son have what it takes? Here’s how to get started.

First, attend a Select team tryout. These usually take place in August. You might have to go to more than one.

Coaches might tell you there are only x number of slots available at your son’s age level, but most organizations are loathe to reject money. One year my son’s Select club used six leftover players who didn’t make the team as the nucleus of a second team at his age level and recruited six more players to fill it out.

The next year they added a third squad.

So take heart! If you have money, and your son is an average or better player, there is a Select team out there, somewhere, waiting to select him.

He’ll soon be on his way to the Majors!

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