Have ball, will travelPublished 8:45am Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Travel ball in the United States has seen a large growth in participation over the past several years.
Both high schoolers and youngsters alike have taken up playing baseball and softball across the state during the summer months, getting away from the old stomping grounds to find both teammates and competition.
Travel softball especially has been on the rise, with teams like the North Alabama Kraze helping players to expand their surroundings, skills and level of competition.
Travel softball has age groups from 18 and Under all the way down to 6 and Under.
One local group that has taken up travel softball is the Welch/Scott family.
Dustin Welch, the assistant softball coach for Belgreen High School, and his wife Meegan Scott have an eight-year-old daughter named Mackenize Scott that plays both for the Russellville 8 and Under All-Stars and for a travel softball team.
“Mackenize has been playing travel ball since August of last year,” Welch said. “She enjoys it, meeting the different kids. Last year we played on a team from Athens, and they had kids from Limestone and Cullman counties, and they just gelled. Meeting all the other kids and listening to what their school does helps you during the regular season.”
One of the biggest advantages of playing travel ball is the chance to face stiffer competition than what may be found back home.
“We started doing travel ball because we were going to All-Star tournaments and not competing,” Welch said. “All the kids at travel ball are equals or better. When you get to rec ball all of the kids aren’t totally equal. It makes you that much better. Over and over every weekend you see the same talent level.”
Welch believes that facing better opponents in travel-league softball makes players like his daughter better on the field, but that is not the only thing about the sport that helps out youngsters.
“It makes your girl and all the other girls work as hard, if not harder, because they want to be the best of that team,” he said. “It sort of makes them all compete against each other.”
While the upside to travel softball lies in the opportunities to make young players better, it takes a lot of dedication and effort to carry on with a travel team.
“No.1 is the expense to go. You have to get out there and do it. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday we practice, and we play Friday and Saturday. We play at Madison, Cullman and Decatur mostly. Trussville is the farthest we’ve ever gone for a game,” Welch said.
“It takes a total commitment from everybody in the family.”