In recent years, many say favoritism, questionable selection practices and contracts for young players that practically require a lawyer’s explanation have become part of the world of Upper Dublin travel baseball. In a community where sports and recreation programs are often touted as exceptional, many believe its travel baseball program falls short and leaves a black mark on an otherwise stellar reputation.
Over the past several years, some involved say that the program has been taken over by an overzealous group of dads with questionable motives. It’s now largely understood throughout the local baseball community that kids with no connections need not tryout. In just one example of this, it’s now become common to have three parent coaches per team which assures that their kids will make up 25% of those selected before a tryout has even been held. Leadership denies that coach’s kids are given an automatic spot on the team but a closer look at rosters over the years says differently. And, with leadership overlapping between travel baseball and UD football programs, kids who excel at football are getting a free pass onto travel teams thanks to their coach connection. Even though excelling at football doesn’t necessarily translate into superior baseball skills, this is another way kids with an insider get the upper hand over their peers.
Once the coaches’ kids and other favored athletes are on the team, despite their skill level, parents say they are often given unprecedented playing time and first pick of positions to the detriment of others and the team’s performance. And strangely enough, in a township of four public elementary schools and two private schools, it’s questionable why some teams so heavily favor kids from certain schools. In one case nearly 50% of the roster attended the local Catholic school along with the coach’s son, while some schools were not represented at all. In another policy that smacks of unfairness, some kids are able to try out for two teams in the same year. If their age qualifies them for an older and younger team, many will attend the advanced team tryout and when they don’t make it they’ll try out for the younger team as well.
It’s no wonder that as word of growing dissatisfaction amongst travel parents has spread; the negative experiences have discouraged many talented players from even trying out. Overtime the program has suffered with both participation and performance at very disappointing levels. At this point, many of the teams aren’t even competitive (finishing below .500) and yet the same coaches remain in place and team rosters remain virtually unchanged from one year to the next.
If you happen to get past the flawed selection process and your child is lucky enough to make the team, it’s largely understood that parents must beware of questioning playing time, positions played or anything at all. An unofficial code amongst travel leadership assures that parents who inquire about or challenge decisions ruin future chances for their child to participate. Some coaches openly admit the unofficial policy and warn parents to back off in advance. This stance is not in an attempt to control extreme parents but rather to send the message that this is their party and your son was lucky just to be invited.
Upper Dublin is truly a great place to live with so many opportunities for kids to participate in sports at a high level. It’s a shame that one organization seems to have an agenda that is focused more on the benefit of a few than the development and participation of the many talented baseball players in the area. Let’s hope travel baseball can get its act together, fix some of these inequities and make the program and the teams a source of community pride in the years to come.