High School Vs. Travel Ball


As the high school season draws to an end, many of Lakeland High School’s student-athletes move from high school softball or baseball to summer club ball. The values are very different in school ball and club ball; certain things are prioritized differently.

With high school ball, the main priority is the team. With travel ball, the main priority is individual growth. Club ball is highly valued by those who want to move forward in their athletic careers because it allows that player to be recognized by college recruiters. 

Though the high school and club ball seasons prioritize different things, they both are heavily valued by those who play because of the different opportunities each offer. 

High school softball and baseball are very different from each other regarding how the team is set up. The softball program is set up in a way that regardless of whether the player is on JV or varsity, everyone is a family and has a strong team bond. Baseball does not always share this bond, and not everyone has the same passion for the sport. Some players are simply there just because they can be. 

Travel baseball is often favored by players because of the environment and the multitude of opportunities it offers. “In travel ball, we get along a lot better as a team, have a lot more games, and get more chances to prove ourselves to the coaches. We also play a lot of different teams that are at different skill levels,” Jace Cooksey said. 

Cooksey has played travel ball for five years and currently plays for the Northern Lakes Mountaineers. Cooksey favors travel ball because of the experiences and exposure to higher levels of talent. “My main goal from playing is to play at the next level,” Cooksey said. 

Many athletes have a similar goal of playing at a higher level, but Cooksey plans to achieve this goal by working hard year-round. The passion that Cooksey has for the sport is likely to help him play at the collegiate level. 

Tadhg Ellwood has been playing travel ball for three years and currently plays on the same team as Cooksey, the Northern Lakes Mountaineers. He noted how travel ball and school ball are different because of what the player gains during each season. “In travel ball, I learn more about technique with batting and fielding. I feel like school ball is just about getting more reps,” Ellwood said. 

Ellwood enjoys playing travel ball because of the environment and because he wants to play at the collegiate level. Playing at a higher level means taking on more responsibility, but Ellwood showed his capability because of the position he plays. “I am a pitcher and left fielder, but prefer pitching because I have more responsibility and control on the field,” Ellwood said. 

The passion Cooksey and Ellwood share for the sport is something they have in common with many softball girls as they hope to continue their careers in the sport as well. 

Alexis Hanna has been playing travel softball for two and a half years. Unlike Cooksey and Ellwood, she enjoys high school softball more. “There is just a different feel to it. The pressure is different, and I feel like I bond with my school team better than my travel team and have more fun,” Hanna said. She is also very thankful for her travel team because it is important in her advancement to playing at the collegiate level. 

In high school ball, Hanna is a center fielder and plays shortstop. In travel ball, she plays center field, third base, and catcher when needed. However, she prefers center field over any other position. 

Both seasons help with different things. 

“Club ball helps me master difficult drills and get better with each rep I get in. School helps me personally become a better person, teaches me discipline, and how to build relationships with other people,” Hanna said. 

Many people play the sport for various reasons, but Hanna uses softball as a form of therapy. “Softball is my safe place, a release from everything else in the world,” Hanna said. This is part of the reason why she loves the sport as much as she does and why it is so important to continue her softball career. 

Payton Sterling also shares a love for the sport and confides in it more than any other sport. 

Sterling has been playing travel ball for twelve years and currently plays for Lake City Thunder 18U as a catcher. Sterling explains that she does not have a preference between high school ball and travel ball.

“I like high school softball because of the family value everyone shares, but I like travel ball because everyone is there for a common goal, to win and move onto that next level,” Sterling said. 

Sterling hopes to play college softball and is motivated by her team. “There are a lot of things I am doing now to get on a college team. I am always working on my crafts, and I play in a lot of exposure tournaments. I also email a bunch of coaches, putting my name out there so I am known when they start recruiting,” Sterling said. 

High school ball and travel ball are both very important to those who want to move forward in their athletic careers. These players have and will continue to show hard work and devotion to the sport, ensuring a chance to play at the collegiate level.