Travel Ball Teams in Huntsville Alabama

ELKMONT BASEBALL/SOFTBALL: THE RAGE - TRAVEL BALL TEAM

The baseball pilgrimage to Pleasure Island lasted for five weeks this summer. The various Global World Series of the US Specialty Sports Association brought nearly 700 teams to the beach to play in more than two dozen tournaments of 25 or so teams from as far away as Texas , Missouri and Illinois.

Most of the teams in the tournaments play a form of baseball that hardly existed a decade ago. The game hasn't changed; it's the teams that have.

Not that long ago, youth baseball's structure was dominated by kids playing at their local ballparks, never facing a team from another park, let alone another town or state, until the postseason All-Star competitions sponsored by the Little League, Dixie Youth and Babe Ruth baseball organizations.

Many of the teams that played at the beach this summer don't fit that description. They've spent their seasons traveling to most of their games. And that's what this comparatively new style of youth baseball is called - travel ball.

But don't call the teams at the beach "travel-ball" teams, said Scott Mobley, USSSA's state baseball director for Alabama. Instead, he said, they should be called tournament teams because they spend so much of the baseball season playing in tourneys, such as the USSSA events at the beach.

"Travel ball anymore is a misnomer, " Mobley said. "These are tournament baseball teams. They can be All-Star teams from rec leagues.

"The majority of our teams are neighborhood-based teams. It's just a different format."

Rickey Grabert is the director of the Traction Center for Sports Excellence in Baton Rouge, La., An indoor baseball facility that fields five teams. The youngsters learning the game at the baseball academy play 50 to 60 games a year on a schedule that includes four trips involving at least 90 minutes to reach their destination. Grabert coached a 12-and-younger team from his facility at a USSSA tourney this summer in Orange Beach. It was the team's longest trip of the season.

Grabert said the origins of travel ball are easy to understand.

"I think it started out the first couple of years, it was the normal rec or field guys looking for better competition, " Grabert said. "What happened was All-Stars wouldn't start until June or July, and you'd get a couple of tournaments like that. I think the idea came about that early in the year of just taking the select kids in the local leagues and start to travel around just for the upper-level kids to face a little bit better competition on a day -to-day basis. "

Grabert has been involved in travel ball for a decade and, in something of an arms-race scenario, has seen it grow so much that now it has skill classifications. He said Louisiana has about 150 AA teams, 60 to 70 AAA teams and around 20 Major teams, including his.

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2005-08-01 16:17:59 by Tackleberry

Part 2/2

According to a report in Wednesday's Times, two buses -- said to have departed from someplace in South Carolina -- pulled into the parking lot of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in Huntsville, Alabama sometime after midnight on Mon...l transcontinental around-the-world (or at least mostly around-the-world) race course format. The locations that the teams have visited so far would also appear to add credibility to another The Amazing Race 8 rumor -- that the upcoming "family edition" will be a big summer "field trip" and "family vacation" of sorts, with many of the course's locations being historical or educational in nature.

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