The Ugly Side of Upper Dublin Travel Baseball

The travel baseball program in Upper Dublin needs to change.

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.


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T4E1 October 22, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Perception is reality.
fed up with sports in UD October 22, 2012 at 09:04 PM
i know at the U11 try outs this year, kids were cut without ever holding a bat after the 2nd night b/c the 3rd night of try outs is by invitation only. tell me, isn't batting a pretty important part of baseball? how do you narrow down to 14 kids from 30 without ever seeing any of them bat?
CSmith October 23, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I don't mind answering that question, it seems fair. My son and I got involved a few years ago under a great coach who really loved the game. We didn't know him before we started to play. We did have some friends in the organization but they were not in leadership roles and on different teams. I was unaware of any issues with the organization. My son was good and he wanted to play ball. Our experience was initially good but as time went on and I got more involved I saw how things worked behind the scenes. There are some good guys in this organization but there are some that need to go for all the reasons I mentioned in my blog. I have seen that the issues mentioned are getting worse not better, which is what happens when those in power go unquestioned. And, like it or not, many people don't feel free to ask questions and there are many people who have been treated unfairly - some don't even know it. That bothers me. If there were more opportunties to play competitive ball for UD residents that didn't cost a small fortune, we would be gone. My son loves baseball, he loves his team. I don't want to take that from him so I set out to make the system better. You may not agree with the things I said, but I wrote what I saw. I hope the legitimate comments on this blog will at least be considered so things can get better. That was the point, nothing more.
CSmith October 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I agree that for some coaches, cutting kids is extremely tough, as it should be. But just because you say that kids are not picked for the team before tryouts doesn't make it so. It is so. Just because you say that your points are "the facts" doesn't make them so. Others have had different experiences and would like to be heard. And it is also incorrect to assume that the most talented players always make the team. Complaints like this are not always just sour grapes. I know for a fact in the most recent tryouts that the evaluators had agreed that a particular kid was outstanding in hitting and fielding, basically everything but the coach overruled their decision to put him on the team. Again, why have the evaluators at all if you don't plan on listening to them? This happened just a few days ago. I don't know how to get around this type of random input that robs a kid of a spot they deserved. It bothers me. There has to be oversight of some kind because the process is flawed and kids are getting the short end of the stick.
Chad October 23, 2012 at 05:22 PM
That is exactly how they do it. I agree, that is a ridiculous way to compare kids. The crazy thing is that my son has a friend who made it to the batting tryout this year and then was told he didn't make the team because of a play he botched in the first tryout. Why would they even make him go through the batting portion in that case? Also, at school my son found out that one kid made the team that didn't show up for the second tryout. He had an advantage because he had one less opportunity to "botch" a play than the others. By the way he is an assistant coach's son. What a disgrace. The more I hear, the sorrier I am that my son ever particiapted in these tryouts.


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