Pay-to-play club sports eroding high school teams

Oct 1, 2013 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

Seven hundred dollars gets you just four innings on the bump, pitching each weekend for six weeks, and hours upon hours in your mom's minivan with your friends for trips to Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Montana.

Eleven hundred is what it will cost you if you are your team's every-game shortstop.

Plus, you'll be responsible for your own travel expenses.

Any takers for fall club baseball?

Don't forget, you're also a high school student.

So go the lives of Post 22 American Legion baseball players from Rapid City, whom we met Sunday night at the McDonald's in Rawlins. The kids, packed in their vans with their moms, were headed back to Rapid City, hoping to get home before their cell phones said it was Monday.

They had just played a weekend tournament in Salt Lake City.

A trip to Arizona was still on their autumn travel itinerary.

Their caps, with "Big Sky Baseball" stitched on the back, made conversation easy while we were waiting in the fast-food line.

A few of questions were on my mind.

"What about football?" I asked.

"We don't have time for football or any other sport," was the reply.

"Is it worth seven hundred bucks to pitch four innings a weekend?" I wondered.

"I'll go anywhere to get a few innings in," the pitcher said, adding that he was hoping to get an opportunity to throw at a small college next year.

"Do you guys play high school baseball?" was my next inquiry.

"We're encouraged to not play on our high school teams," the kids said, implying that their level of baseball, and their coaching, was better than their high school team would offer.

The days of the three-sport or even the two-sport athlete are slowly disappearing across the country.

In Colorado over the weekend, the conversation was the same with our cousin, who will be a senior shooting guard for his Rocky Mountain High School team this year. He gave up his pricey club baseball and other sports when he turned 13. Club basketball for him started again in March, right after his high school season, and it just concluded.

Club basketball teams will become the norm soon in Wyoming, and the temptation to play with the kids from Cheyenne, Gillette or Casper will be hard to resist for more and more of our high school athletes.

It's the sexy thing to do, although in reality, few Wyoming high school athletes go on to compete at the college level. And what about the kids and their families who flat can't afford the cost to play on these travel-dazzle teams?

Let's hope our athletes continue to realize that the benefits of high school athletics, the time with their teammates and sense of community, and continue to give it their best, in all seasons, right here in Riverton.

It's not worth $700 for four innings a week. Plus travel.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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