Travel baseball might not be for all high school players, but those who play it can’t imagine summer without it.
Travel ball, after all, is a way to establish new friendships and play games in front of college coaches or Major League Baseball scouts who otherwise might not see players from this part of the country.
“It’s definitely for the kids who truly love it because they’re playing every weekend of the summer,” said Greenwood coach Andy Bass, whose son, T.J., a junior third baseman for the Woodmen, is in his second summer playing for the Indiana Bulls. “But if your dream is to play college baseball, summer tournaments is where these college coaches are.”
Typically, summer baseball adheres to a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule. Tournaments are played as close as Westfield’s expansive Grand Park or as far away as another state.
Woodmen senior center fielder Dylan Rosado, who plays for the Indiana Twins travel team, recently returned from an event in Nashville, Tennessee. This weekend the Twins, whose roster includes Nick Coy of Center Grove, Whiteland’s Tyler Robinson and Greenwood’s Connor Stout, play a tournament in Cincinnati.
“Summer ball really helps because it’s good exposure,” Rosado said. “College coaches will come to travel games a lot more than they will high school games.
“I don’t really feel any pressure when I’m playing, though. I just try to play my own game.”
Center Grove junior Ryan Sauter plays third or shortstop for the Indiana Elite. Jordan Martin, Greenwood’s junior right fielder/pitcher, plays for the Indiana Prospects, who are off to an 11-3 start.
Martin began playing travel baseball when he was 8 years old. He, like many other travel players, considers travel ball the best possible summer vacation.
“I get to see my friends on my travel team who are from all over the state,” said Martin, who counts Alec MacLennan, Franklin Community High School junior catcher, among his Prospects teammates.
Whiteland junior Jake Holzhausen, an outfielder/pitcher for the Warriors, suits up for the Indiana Braves travel team, based in Danville.
A travel player since age 13, Holzhausen said the summer baseball experience, facing teams which occasionally include some of the nation’s premier players, improves his overall skills.
“I like it because it’s just a lot more competitive,” Holzhausen said. “Last year I played against a kid who was just drafted 14th overall in the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians (6-foot-6 outfielder Will Benson).
“Sometimes it’s like playing a college team.”
Two of Holzhausen’s Whiteland teammates are teammates on the Indiana Braves — senior Tyler Robinson and junior Chase Bennett.
It works the other way, as well. Greenwood teammates Bass and Martin will be in opposite dugouts at some point in July when Bass’s Bulls face Martin’s Prospects at the East Cobb Tournament in Marietta, Georgia.
“It will be kind of weird because this is the first year we’ve been on different travel teams,” Martin said.
Prospects games are a chance for Martin, who already delivers fastballs in the 85- to 87-mph range, to inch closer to the elusive 90-mph mark before the 2017 Woodmen play their first varsity game.
Sauter, too, is motivated to be better for a Center Grove program coming off its first semistate appearance in 20 years.
“I’m focused on getting better overall as a player,” Sauter said. “It’s fun being out there with friends I’ve known since I was 10 years old.”
A 1991 graduate of Triton Central High School, Andy Bass, who later went on to catch for the Franklin College baseball team, is amazed at how summer baseball has changed since he was a teenager.
It’s a lot of time, travel and work.
“When I was in high school you played for your high school team in the summer,” Bass said. “We had no one who played travel baseball. It gradually started building, and over the years more teams started popping up.”
Local varsity baseball players currently on a travel roster:
Center Grove: Nick Coy, Jack Kellums and Ryan Sauter
Edinburgh: Zack Giles and Zach Murphy
Franklin: Jamie Burnett, Michael Couet, Kyle Davis, Jacob Heuchan, Dane Johnston, Jerris Lee, Alec MacLennan, Isaac McCullough, Luke Miles and Alex VanDyke
Greenwood: T.J. Bass, Jordan Martin, Damon Maynard and Dylan Rosado
Greenwood Christian Academy: Nolan Check, Colton Crick and Joel Stinett
Indian Creek: Trevor Ankney, Eric Braughton, Jeremy Lee, Dawson Read, Dylan Sprong, Max Walls and Joey Willis
Whiteland: Chase Bennett, Nick Carrizales Luke Helton, Jake Holzhausen, Gared Kleyn, Tyler Robinson and Bailey Watson