Starting a Travel Baseball Team/Organization On a Budget
Recently someone asked me for information on how to start an inner-city travel baseball team, with little to no funds. I helped him with a lot of information, but also thought that information may be helpful to others trying to do the same. If your player has a lack of funds there are two options: Receiving a scholarship to play for an established team or finding a sponsored travel baseball team. An example of a sponsored team, is the Flying Squirrels out of Kalamazoo, MI. Close to half of the organization is comprised of at-risk and low income kids and over half of their budget is paid for sponsors, the other half is done through fundraising. Here are the steps to starting a low-income travel baseball team/organization.
Step 1- Find Indoor Facility
Search potential indoor facilities in the previous year around April-July. This will make selling kids on your program easier. If you are indoors from January-April you will need to find some indoor space. It doesn’t mean you need it full-time either. Oftentimes indoor batting cages and facilities will contract out space at reasonable rates. Now it is up to you to research the best way to utilize the time. Typical rates can range from $30-$90 per hour, so figure on $60 for a 2-hour practice. This equates to $1000 and doesn’t need to be paid upfront usually, giving you time to accrue the money.
Step 2-Find Players and Coaches
Find the players and coaches from little league games and select high level players that you think show potential. A good age to start at would be coach pitch or 10u. Maybe you are already in Little League and would like to make a jump to travel for a variety of reasons. Most coaches/kids leave little league because 1. They are unhappy with the politics or other aspects and/or 2. They are wanting better competition for the kids. Travel baseball is a good opportunity for them to play at a much higher level. Another way to get the word out and find players is to hold tryouts and post them to Facebook pages and groups, Instagram, and possibly your school newsletter. In our area tryouts are held in July/August.
Step 3 -Find Fields
A tough part of starting your own team is finding fields. Talk to your local parks, schools, and even churches and tell them your plans. You may be able to get a good deal or possibly get fields for free if they know you are a non-profit. Around here we have a church that lets the community use the field as long as they are maintained. The fields don’t have to be anything fancy, just a place to play ball. At most you may have to pay $75 per practice for field usage, so you will need to make the most of practices, with lots of help. Delegate to coaches and run stations. Try to run two practices a week and it may be necessary to have a practice in someone’s yard, football field, and/or soccer fields.
Step 3-Uniforms and Apparel
Find cheap uniforms. I recently found a Jersey, Hat, and pants package online for $49. This is obviously the cheaper end of the spectrum, but it can be done. Some uniform companies will give you a break on pricing and sponsor your team. Throw in socks and you can get uniforms for as low as $55-$60 per kid. Find used and free equipment on Facebook for great prices. Also, resale shops, Ebay, Craigslist have excellent prices on cleats, gloves, catchers gear etc.
Step 4-Find Sponsors/Fundraise
Being established as 501c3 helps a lot when approaching businesses, because they can write it off at the end of the year, however, it is not necessary if this isn’t setup initially. Find businesses that have a history for donating to causes like this, local Government agencies, people you know, and people from the community that are likely to do donate to the cause. Chip away at the budget. Also, pop can drives, selling candy bars, pizzas, and square boards for football can help raise money. Be sure to be creative here.
Step 5-Enter Tournaments and Play Ball
Look on several websites like USSSA, BPA, Perfect Game, etc. to find tournaments in your area. Test the waters with AA/Bronze first and inexpensive tournaments in the first year and if that is not challenging, register your team to Gold/Major the following year. Another great way to get reps is to find a field and schedule scrimmages against teams in your area. Coaches can ump and you can split field costs.
I hope you find these steps useful in your journey of creating a travel baseball team/organization. Good luck!