When joining a travel baseball team, you are expected to pay team fees that can cost as little as a few hundred to as much as several thousands of dollars. Most teams allow you to either pay these fees entirely up front or as part of a monthly or quarterly payment plan.
Those fees generally go straight to the team or facility that manages your team. These fees can cover things like the following:
- Tournament fees
- Practice facility
- Practice field and permits
- League play
- Coaches (if paid)
- Team equipment (baseballs, nets, etc.)
- Other team gear (sweatshirts, bags, etc.)
- Hidden organizational fees
These costs add up quickly. The higher your team fees, the more of these costs those fees likely include. The cheaper your fees, you may find that you’ll be paying for more out-of-pocket.
As a dad and coach, my boys have participated on each end of the cost spectrum. They’ve played rec or Little League for $100-200 and tournament ball for close to $4,000.
Of course, this only includes those set team fees. If my wife and I were to add up all other costs, it could get pretty ugly. But most of these extra costs are completely controllable and optional.
Some other costs can’t be avoided, but you need to expect them based on the team you join. Hidden costs for a team that makes six out-of-state trips will typically be much higher than those for a team that stays local.
So, as you consider whether a particular travel team is right for your family financially, consider these hidden costs in addition to your team fees…
If you’re traveling to a big tournament, you can guarantee there’s a shirt, sweatshirt, or other gear to commemorate the weekend. They typically display the name of the tournament on the front and all of the participating teams on the back. That gear also tends to be overpriced.
And if your son’s team wins that tournament? Forget about it. You’re going to have to get that “champions” shirt.
If you’re traveling to a major tournament, players may be exchanging pins. These cost more than you’d expect. Pins could be part of team fees. If not, it’s yet another cost.
Air and Ground
If you play all of your games and tournaments locally, you still need to consider the costs of gas and, in some cases, tolls.
Is your team making several out-of-state trips that will require an airline booking? Depending on the season (watch out for holidays!), this could be a couple hundred to much, much, more for a ticket. And you want the entire family to go? Multiply that cost.
Before joining a team, make sure you completely understand the travel commitment. In all likelihood, your team fees won’t cover the travel. And if you make several trips — even long trips that can be made by car — these costs can’t be ignored.
This goes hand-and-hand with air and ground. Unless you play all games micro-locally, hotel expense will be a factor. Even for trips an hour or two away, you’ll find yourself considering this expense when weighing whether to hit the road before 6am for an 8am game. The costs for a hotel room may be worth that extra hour or so of sleep.
If your team is playing in a popular tournament, also expect hotels costs to be a bit ridiculous. Rooms can be hard to get, and hotels raise their prices.
While this is certainly connected to travel, know that paying for meals won’t only occur for those hotel stays.
A day of games may end at 6pm. Are you going to travel home and make a meal? Probably not. Instead, you shell out the extra money for dinner out.
This also means the snacks and small lunches in between games. You’ll need to be prepared.
Sometimes, team fees include things like socks and belts. But not always. In fact, sometimes you’re even expected to pay separately for the pants. It’s a small cost, but these costs add up.
Your team fees may — or may not — also include things like jackets and sweatshirts. If not? Beware of that first teammate who buys one. Your son will then “need” one, too.
Uniform Part Replacements
Even if team fees do include things like socks, belts, and pants, it’s common that you’re going to need extras that fall outside of team fees. Not only do kids run through socks and pants (holes, stains, outgrowing them, etc.), but buying extras can also help the inevitable laundry rush during the summer.
If you’re lucky, your son won’t lose his hat or jersey. If he does? A likely special order that will cost you.
While team fees will cover equipment that is used by all players, there is some equipment you’ll need to cover on your own.
Does your team have a bat bag for everyone? If not, you’ll need to buy one.
You’ll need at least one bat and glove for the season, and they can last a couple of seasons. But depending on the level, you may need multiple bats (wood vs. metal, different drop rules). And if your son plays multiple positions, he may need a position-specific glove (first base, infield, outfield, catcher).
Your son’s a catcher? Break out the checkbook. Lots of gear, and you’re going to need a bigger bag.
Sometimes team fees cover shoes, but usually not. One more item to buy.
Of course, you’ll also have options for all of this gear. You can spend $50 or $500 for a bat; $50 or $300-plus for a glove. Sure, the right gear does matter. But level of play and other costs should also influence what you buy. There’s no reason for a rec ball player to shell out $500 for a bat. And if you’re already spending $4,000 for a team, you’ll probably want to get the most out of your bat (though that doesn’t always mean spending the most).
End of the day, the best bat won’t help a kid without talent, and a talented kid will perform well with inferior equipment. But that equipment will still make a difference — if not life-changing.
Camps and Showcases
If your son is in high school and hopes to play at a high level in college and beyond, be prepared to participate in showcases and other camps. The primary objective of the showcase is to get your son seen by scouts.
Camps are typically a weekend and can last anywhere from a couple of hours to all day each day. While they can cover general skills, they are often best when specialized for a single position or skill (like pitching, catching, hitting, or infield).
Camp prices vary from under $100 to much more.
One-on-One and Group Training
I’m a dad and a coach. While I played and I will fiercely defend my knowledge of the game, I never played pro ball. And those who did can offer a very valuable perspective that I simply cannot.
I’ve paid for both one-on-one and group training for my boys. But be aware: A single lesson or a couple of lessons will not be particularly helpful. To get the most out of this type of training, it should be a regular thing.
My youngest is a pitcher, and I have him meet with a pitching coach every couple of weeks or so during the season to keep his mechanics sharp (to note: I was never a pitcher myself). Paying for an individual coach in a one-on-one setting also tends to be a bit pricier for that type of attention (often around $100 per lesson — more or less).
I also have signed my boys up for group or “club” training. These tend to meet once or twice per week for several weeks or months. Since you’ll be sharing an instructor with other players, costs are usually more affordable — I typically see anything from $100 to $300 per month for these clubs.
If your team is part of a facility agreement, you may get discounts for this type of training. But these costs will still be significant.
Understand that not everyone does this. I appreciate the costs involved, and I don’t expect all of my players to do it. It’s a commitment.
Seasonal Play and Training
If you live in a warm-weather state, it’s possible that your team plays virtually year-around and your team fees cover all of that activity. For the rest of us, the heart of travel ball runs from spring to mid-summer.
That means that your son may also be playing fall ball or doing winter training — either with his travel team or separately. These costs can be significant. I’ve seen that fall ball costs can be just as hefty as those for your core summer ball team — running from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
Of course, high school players will also likely be playing for their school teams during the spring. For my sons, this means another $1,000 just for playing.
Family Gear and Accessories
You want to show your support for your son, so you’ll probably buy yourself a hat. Then a “Baseball Mom” shirt. Then a sweatshirt for the cool nights. Grandparents and other relatives start showing up. It snowballs.
Oh, and you’re not just going to sit on the bleachers. You need a bleacher seat. Or a reclining chair. Or you may even go out to get one that has an umbrella or shields you from the elements.
Better get a nice cooler, too. And how are you going to carry all of this stuff? You need a wagon, of course.
Gifts for Coaches
Now, let me be very clear about this: As a coach, I do not expect a gift at the end of the season. In fact, I often don’t receive one (and that’s okay!). As a parent, though, I’ve certainly seen that some groups of parents go all out for the coach.
This can sneak up on you. Be prepared for it.
I’d love to promise you that the potential hidden costs are all listed above. But the truth? There’s undoubtedly more.
I’m not trying to scare you with this list of potential hidden costs for travel baseball. And the truth is that what you pay in these hidden costs is very controllable — you could spend anywhere from nothing to thousands of additional dollars.
That’s why it’s so important that you know what is included in your team fees, as well as what your team plans and expectations are (level and travel) so that you can start budgeting the costs outside of the core fees.
Any other hidden costs you’d include? Let me know in the comments below!