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Upper Dublin Travel Baseball Takes a Strike

Still Ugly in the World of Upper Dublin Travel Baseball.

Several months after I opened a discussion in this blog about ongoing issues in Upper Dublin’s travel baseball program, I am happy to report that there have been some changes. However, I’m not implying that I had anything to do with them. They are the work of some dedicated parents and coaches who finally said enough is enough. It is true that I had hoped by encouraging a discussion that UD baseball might listen to our voices, both inside and outside of this blog, but in reality they dug their heels in deeper, were defensive and basically kept the status quo. The only significant change that occurred prior to the latest tryouts was the elimination of that horrendous contract. Other than that, the tryouts were basically as they have been. I checked in with parents throughout the league and as before, the U11 and U12 teams still seemed to generate the most controversy. Yet, despite disappointing records, and accusations of unfair tryouts, these two couches and the core of their teams remain. In the case of the U11 coach, I am told he has actually moved from Upper Dublin but despite this he has stayed on and his son has taken one of the 12 coveted spots from a UD player. His past assistant coach’s son also made the team without even attending all of the tryouts. How does this happen? Don’t the other kids who show up for all three tryouts actually deserve the opportunity to be judged against all of their competition? I’m sure he’s a great kid and all, but he isn’t a superstar and shouldn’t have a spot reserved for him because of his family’s relationship with the coach. These are the kinds of maneuvers that make people angry. But, the beat goes on. Frustration with the U12 team truly reached its peak this year.  It grew to the point where some parents decided that they needed to find a better choice for their kids, and they did, by starting their own travel team in Ambler. They didn’t just start any team; they started a Cal Ripken team. That’s a level of competition not available to the UD team at this point. And, last I heard, they were joining the Suburban League and leaving the Montco League behind. This will allow these kids to compete against more than 20 teams from all over Montgomery and Bucks Counties, where the Montco league tends to have 4 or five local teams. And, with this change, UD baseball will effectively be shut out of the Suburban League as the new team has registered to accept kids from throughout the area. In their announcement in the Patch inviting kids to try out, they invited players from the area specifically mentioning those who hadn’t made the UD travel team. These guys get it. They know that UD has missed the mark and that there are a lot of talented kids in this area who just want to play baseball at a higher level.  They are about inclusion not exclusion. With that in mind, there may be teams in additional age brackets added in Ambler next year. So, the change I had hoped for did not come from UD Travel Baseball, but it did come. And with the new team in Ambler, comes opportunity for more kids to play and improve their game. Listen up, UD Baseball, because that’s what it’s all about.

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joe gentile March 12, 2013 at 02:43 PM
I followed the last post. Gotta love those parents and coaches. The Suburban League has A and B teams too so if the Ambler teams take off, maybe there will be an opportunity for a lot more kids to play. Shame on you, UD.
CSmith March 12, 2013 at 03:16 PM
The people have spoken and headed to Ambler. The long time leaders are still in place at UDJAA and they just won't deal with any criticism. They need to rethink their entire program and realize that it's falling short.
Sue M March 12, 2013 at 04:45 PM
My grandson joined the Ambler team. My daughter was so happy with the process. The coaches are great. Our grandson had tried to get on Upper Dublin but they kept telling him he was "almost there." But then in the summer they would invite him to play in tournaments and he would show them that he "was there," but it still wasn't good enough. It was very frustrating and confusing for him. Now he doesn't need to worry about what they think. I read somewhere that Michael Jordan didn't make his high school basketball team. It just goes to show you that the best kids don't always make the team and it seems like in Upper Dublin kids make it for all the wrong reasons.
CSmith March 12, 2013 at 05:08 PM
The great thing is that now there is an option, at least for the U12 kids. Hopefully there will be other age brackets next year if a parent or coach wants to step up. That is what has been lacking in Upper Dublin. We have all been at the mercy of a few people and some inexperienced coaches that clearly don't know what they are doing.
Sue M March 12, 2013 at 05:20 PM
I hope they start some teams in Ambler for other age groups so more kids get to play.
Curmudgeon March 12, 2013 at 06:24 PM
While the UDJAA has done some great work, it is run by an incestuos group of people who now play more to their egos than the benefit of UD residents and their children. Maybe they will ultimately get our broke School District to turf the High School football field. Talk about misplaced priorities!!!
CSmith March 13, 2013 at 03:40 PM
I agree with your assessment of the UDJAA. And I have recently heard that it is likely the football field will be resurfaced. Of course they say the money they'll use is only able to be used for capital improvements and could not be used to help the district keep teachers or programs. Either way, it's a tough sell and poor timing for sure.
Dr Steven Greene March 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM
To be fair... No one will ever make everyone happy. It is a positive that the discussion precipitated positive changes and alternatives. As a fan of baseball I am pleased that there is so much interest from kids to play this great game (even with all the cliche distractions and other sports that they can participate in nowadays. It's also cliche that when we grew up there were less options.. baseball football basketball... now there are also lacrosse, soccer,swimming, and moreetc etc.. ) It's always good to have options. I do maintain, as I did in the past 'discussion' that our son has had a positive experience with UD travel. He does participate in a division older than the ones that this thread has target (he is in U14/15 now vs U12, U11 that seem to be the most contentious ages) but I didn't think it was entirely fair to indict the entire process. There are well meaning, and hard working and dedicated volunteer coaches who do care about the boys and girls and do care about the game who put in a LOT of volunteer time and energy. Look... this is not limited to baseball.. case in point.. a few years ago some unhappy parents effectively drove the long time UD HS girls basketball out of town - and the story goes that it was because certain players weren't getting enough playing time? ... so no one can ever make everyone happy.
CSmith March 14, 2013 at 02:15 PM
I'm glad to hear of your positive experience. I'm sure there are others who feel the same way. My goal is for more people to be able to report the same. This isn't about sour grapes, but rather lack of opportunity for kids in the area to play the game they love at the level they deserve. The issues in UD are caused both by limited teams and a selection process that has more to do with relationships than talent/ability, at least at the U12 and U11 levels. That is what I hear over and over again from baseball families. If what I have said didn't at least have some grain of truth, then the team in Ambler wouldn't have been formed. Whenever someone complains in the world of youth sports there is always the accussation of sour grapes against the accusser. But sometimes, there is a legitimnate reason for the complaint and change is needed. Obviously that was the case here.
Dr Steven Greene March 14, 2013 at 02:53 PM
there are always going to be unhappy circumstances when there are only 12 or so spots and 40 people trying to try out for the spots. I understand that the complaint seems to be that some of the team spots are pre-set due to the relationships (coaches kids, etc) or some sort of nepotism. That happens in probably every sport in every town in the US. Is there a good solution to this? likely not.. except to expand the opportunities which happened.
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 05:11 PM
My child has played baseball and basketball for UDJAA. In addition, he has been on one of the travel baseball teams for many years. UDJAA is an exceptional organization filled with leaders and volunteers that do much to improve our community. With regard to travel baseball, the comments on this post and the previous one smack of sour grapes. Any time you have a program, whether it is athletics, theater, robotics, etc, where there are cuts based upon skills you are going to have disappointed participants and parents. It is easy to determine who the top 5-6 kids are in any given activity. It is exceedingly difficult to select which kid should be the 12th kid and which will be cut as the 13th. In fact, the team that my son is on has had some changes every year. When evaluating the last kid intangibles are likely to play a part and those are probably things that a parent, looking through rose-colored glasses as we all do, will not see. Coaches kids have been cut. I do not envy the coaches that must make these difficult decisions. With regard to the team that was set up to play in the Suburban league, I wish them all the success in the world. However, to say that there is not an outlet for kids to play competitive baseball if they do not make the UD travel team is ludicrous. The intramural program has many excellent coaches and after 6th grade the intramural program involves travel to surrounding communities. The games and they are competitive and fun.
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 05:11 PM
PS: There is still a committment letter that must be signed to play travel baseball. It fully spells out the committment so that parents and kids are not blindsided and so that kids who are not willing to make such a committment are culled out early on. It is straightforward and well-written
BPulli March 14, 2013 at 05:33 PM
I started the Ambler u12 travel team with the permission of AJB. I did not leave UD because we hate the program...My family has been here since late 1800's.. we love UD! I did that because my son was cut from UD Travel baseball after 3 years of playing on that team. My dad, brother, cousins, and I all played on these same fields. Remember....there are and have been many many wonderful coaches, volunteers, and people who genuinely care about this town over the years. My motivation to start the Ambler team was so my son and I could continue to share the great game together for a few more years. Bill Sharkey, John Tralie, Jim Breslin, Mike Klein and others truly care about all of these kids. The time they have put in volunteering is the "show and prove" attitude that should garner them the respect they deserve. Tough decisions and having to tell youngsters bad news is not the highlight of their coaching experience. It is a necessary part of playing higher level competitive sports. Everyone could just be more action oriented toward helping the process & send out more positive energy through the community, the process can only improve. A little more about "what can I do to help." For now, 11 more local kids will play 14 games of travel baseball this year... it's really not a bigger deal than that. I hung up my spikes 20 years ago. So, for me, the look on a kids face when they succeed is why I do this..That expression never seems to get old for me. That's why I coach!
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Bravo coach Pulli. It is nice to hear you support UDJAA. Good luck with your team.
BPulli March 14, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Try to be inspired by the kids excitement and think of ways YOU can participate, or start a new team, league, pick up games etc...let's all try to volunteer and participate in our kids lives in a positive way.
CSmith March 14, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Glad you've had a good experience. I too have had good experiences in this sport and with others at other times. I too have coached and know it is difficult and appreciate what good coaches do. Everyone is not a good coach. And, because you are a coach, it doesn't mean they/we are immune to criticism and it doesn't discount the fact that there continue to be issues with this organization. Sour grapes.... haven't heard that one before. Not every decision that is made by a youth organization or coach is a good one simply because they have volunteered their time. Not every decision made by a youth organization can be excused with the assumption that they have done their best. When it comes to travel baseball, the UDJAA clearly has not. So, I'm glad it's worked out well for your familiy and others as well. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. And for a travel level player, intramural play isn't enough and it shouldn't be all that is available. Maybe now with the option of the Ambler team and hopes of expansion, more qualified kids will get the opportunity that your son has been given...maybe even a better one.
CSmith March 14, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I applaud what you've done. You've given more opportunity to kids to play at a higher level. You may not hate the UDJAA (neither do I for that matter) but it obviously didn't offer your son an option that fit his talents and abilities. There are lots of other kids in his cleats. The idea of starting additional teams in UD had been tossed around for years but nothing was done. I even heard the top tier say that there just weren't enough good kids to justify even a B team. That's just not true. You can defend the top tier at UDJAA, and I understand why you would, but again, they should not be immune to criticism. Positive energy is a good thing and it often comes with change. Change comes from considering new possibilites and listening to other voices. You have brought some positive energy to our community and our kids. I thank you.
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I don't understand why you have the opinion that UDJAA travel baseball has not done there best. I believe that they have and I would say that the majority of those involved would agree. You are also assuming that there are 10-12 kids that don't make the travel team that are "travel level players" That is not the case. There are typically less kids cut than that. In fact at the higher levels there may be only 1-2 players cut because there just aren't as many kids trying out. I applaud Coach Pulli but I am sure that many of the kids on his team were not cut by travel-they come from other communities, i.e. Ambler or they did not try out for some other reason.
CSmith March 14, 2013 at 07:10 PM
You are on the inside looking out. It's a different story for others. Can you consider that your experience is not everyone's experience? I know for a fact that the numbers trying out have been affected with some families being scared off by the former contract and just from hearing others negative experiences. But having said that, there are more than 1-2 players that don't make the team and more than that capable of playing at either the A or B travel level. I know it's hard to hear but the kids on the travel teams are not always the best baseball players in UD for a number of reasons. Sometimes it's because the coaches choose incorrectly despite their best efforts (a fact of life) and sometimes it's because others were put on the team for the wrong reasons.
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I don't understand your comment regarding "B level". If we had another layer of travel it would dilute the level of play in intramural and we would still have parents/kids who were upset that they did not make the travel team. When does it end? Everyone does not get a trophy. There has to be a cut off at some point. You seem to believe that there is an underlying conspiracy to keep talented kids off of travel teams in lieu of less talented kids who happen to be friends with the coach. Your view is skewed. It is not one individual who makes the call as to who is on a team and who is not on a team. They are evaluated by multiple coaches at various levels of travel who all have input.
CSmith March 14, 2013 at 08:43 PM
The Suburban League has both A and B teams as well as intramural teams. In most areas they require that travel players play on both their travel team and an intramural team in their age bracket. It works well for more than 25 teams in surrounding areas. The level of play for all of the kids is elevated and more kids get to play at the travel level against some very competitive teams. So forgive me, but it is your view that is skewed. As far as the tryouts go, you are repeating what you have been told. That is what they tell the kids and families that the process is like. I have been in "the room" when the decisions are made. The coaches like to tell the kids that the cuts were made by someone else. Sometimes they are but often it just makes it easier to break the news, like they had nothing to do with it. Yes, there is a group of guys that evaluate, but the truth is that the head coaches do rule kids out even if others make the recommendation that they be on the team. And, they keep kids on the team from the previous year with terrible records. In some cases these kids are on multiple years. That is a fact. On the U11 team you can have a mediocre record as a player for multiple years, fail to attend all the tryouts to be compared to other players and still make the team. So, exactly how can that be? Just one example.....
Dr Steven Greene March 14, 2013 at 09:03 PM
UD had 2 teams in the Suburban league at the U14 level last season... Some towns have 3 (Chestnut Hill and Roslyn). Some of these teams stack their 'star' players and create what amounts to a Varsity and JV team. They could spread the talent out as well... but observing these teams and from the outside of course, they likely have all of the same internal politics and disgruntled feelings as anywhere else. The reality is that some players are better than others.. and travel is, by definition, a competitive league (not a recreational league) and the teams want to field their best team. Of course a parent would like to think that their child should be on a team ahead of another. it's been brought up that some players were chosen who didn't attend all the tryouts.. while others that got cut were at all of them... you could argue that just going to practice won't make you a better player... of course. in the end, some judgement calls have to be made by the coaches and that seems to be where the contentious feelings arise. ...
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 09:13 PM
So you are "on the inside looking out"? Are you a former coach for one of the teams c smith? Are you still coaching one of the teams?
Jenny B March 14, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Dr. Green-I believe you are referencing the Montco League, not the Suburban League. As for the two teams I believ that is because there is no 13U so UD fields two teams at the U14 level, one made up of primarily 13U kids and a second made up of primarily 14U kids. Thanks for the positive feedback.
Dr Steven Greene March 14, 2013 at 09:19 PM
yes. montco.. my error. basically the may > July summer league. the good news was that the UD A team (mostly 14 year olds) won the league title and the B team went deep into the playoffs. So overall UD was well represented.
David Franklin March 17, 2013 at 03:00 AM
WHAT in Upper Dublin is NOT corrupt???? It's a way of life for that township and school district.
David R. Joseph October 23, 2013 at 10:19 PM
My child stats are empirical proof of the injustice and faulty system. Three children under were picked and he was cut. All four children were on the town team together. My son hit .703 with 67% OBP only 5k all season. Of the children selected, the closest to his numbers was .406 BA. He had 14k. The next had a 300 BA with 1 RBI all year. My son had 13 RBI and 13 runs scored. He led the team in every category. How do I explain these lesser players were chosen over him? The coach said his fielding needs work. I agree. However, anyone with knowledge of the game knows fielding can be learned. His current coaches even stood up for him and rave about his play. His teammates, including the three picked over him, can honestly say they are not better then him. When You can't offer a reasonable explanation, you clearly speculate unreasonable and illogical reasoning. The stats are clear proof something is amiss. The fact that the children all were on the same team, is further proof of preferential treatment. Anyone wants to see the stats email me at notguilty@me.com. Moreover, I fear other factors are at play, in light of your article referring to Catholic school. We are Jewish so we are not part of that inner circle. Maybe that is where the truth lies because the stats don't lie. The current commissioner , despite numerous request, will not contact me. My kid will look elsewhere. What goes around comes around. Someday, I'll send all parties involved his rookie card. until then, my son got a crash course in corruption and favoritism. We need to get rid of these bums who sully little league. it is shameful.

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