Many youth across the country play travel ball in baseball or softball.
Hitting the road to play ball has garnered positive and negative responses nationwide. Some say it increases their chances of injuries and burnout in their sport, while others feel it helps them become better players and makes them more prepared for high school and college ball.
In this final installment of the travel ball series, two local people will share this experiences playing travel ball and what it did for them.
Cleveland resident Emily Hatcher, 21, knows all about the ups and downs and overall benefits of softball, especially travel ball.
She was a member of the Delta Rockers travel team in Cleveland from age seven until about age 14. She also played travel ball with a team in Jackson known as the Reservoir Rampage when she hit her upper teens.
Hatcher said she has fond memories of her times playing travel ball.
“Travel ball just gave me the friends that will last a lifetime,” Hatcher said. “We still all just reconnect every once in a while after we’ve been gone to different colleges. It definitely taught me stuff in life.”
With the attention overuse injuries in sports have gotten, the amount of travel ball played by youth during an average summer has caused concern.
Hatcher said she was able to stay healthy through her travel ball experience.
“I wasn’t the only pitcher during travel ball,” Hatcher said. “I had Kylie Weeks with me to, so we took turns pitching. I didn’t ever feel like I was overdoing myself.”
Hatcher also feels that she played under some good coaches.
“They were all one of the girls' dads,” Hatcher said. “They were all encouraging and they all wanted the best for us. They all worked with us as much as they could just to better us as a person and in softball.”
One concern about seeing kids playing travel ball is if their parents or coaches are forcing it on them.
Hatcher said she didn't feel any pressure to play travel ball.
“We all felt like we wanted to win and wanted to do go, but they always wanted us to have fun and love playing softball,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher played high school softball at Cleveland High School where she was a member of the 2008 4A State Fastpitch Championship team. After graduating Cleveland High in 2011, she ended up playing two years of college softball at Northwest Community College.
Hatcher said playing college ball provided a different experience.
“It was definitely an eye opener, because I had not played with any other girls that I was used to playing rather it was travel ball or high school ball,” Hatcher said. “I played with some of the same girls all my life in high school that I did in travel ball. We all knew how to play together and knew how each other worked and when we should cheer each other on and when we should just let them be.
“I had to figure out all those kind of things about the girls I played with at Northwest. Just as I learned how to play with the girls on the Rockers and in high school, I learned at Northwest.”
Hatcher said the older she got, softball became more tiring.
“Once we were playing travel ball every weekend,” Hatcher said. “I felt I never got a lot of free time which was fine at the time. I was kind of burned out going from travel ball to high school ball and then on to college.”
Hatcher said her time and experiences playing travel ball, she wouldn’t trade for anything.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all those weekends with all those girls, coaches and parents,” Hatcher said. “We all did everything together when we went to tournaments.”
For Cleveland resident Marshall Boggs, 19, baseball has been a huge part of his life.
He played baseball at Cleveland High School from seventh grade to his senior season. In his last four years, Boggs was one of the team’s top hitters. After Cleveland High, he ended up at Hinds Community College where he just completed his freshman season on the team and is looking forward to playing with the team as a sophomore.
When Boggs wasn’t playing high school, Boggs played travel baseball. Boggs played with the Delta Sixers in coach pitch at around age six and then played with the Delta Dodgers in baseball until he reached the seventh grade. He ended up playing with the Mississippi Elite for two years, the Prospects his freshman year and then the Jackson 96ers for three years.
“At a younger age, it helps you interact with others and helps you make some lifelong friends,” Boggs said about travel ball. “It does a lot for you and then as you get older you make some more great friends. You get recognition and people come watch you play. If they like you, you get offered. If they don’t like you, you don’t get offered.”
When Boggs played with the Delta Sixers and Delta Dodgers, he played with many of his local friends and people that he grew up. When Boggs played with some of the Elite teams, he started to play with more kids from different parts of the state.
Boggs said playing with teams like the 96ers proved to be a change of pace that paid off when he got to Hinds.
“When I went to the 96ers, I didn’t know a single person on the team. Then, we just started talking,” Boggs said. “About four or five of us that play with Hinds played on the 96ers. It helped me out when I went to Hinds, because I knew those guys already.”
Boggs said he never felt pressured to play any kind of sports.
“Whenever dad first threw me a ball, it just took over from there,” Boggs said.
One thing about Boggs’ time playing sports is his family has been right there by his side.
“My parents have always supported me and my brother very well,” Boggs said. “They’ve never missed a game that I’ve played in. My grandparents never missed any of my games.”
When young players play any kind of summer ball, the coaches they play under can have a great deal of impact on them.
Boggs said he was pleased with the coaching he got being a member of the 96ers.
“For the 96ers, we always had that guy that was not a dad,” Boggs said. “He played ball somewhere. We had two coaches from Belhaven, and they coached us.”
Boggs said he doesn’t have any regrets and