Over the holidays, many of you sent us photos of your teams collecting canned goods, hosting toy drives and delivering turkey dinners to those less fortunate. These pictures spoke volumes about the character of your team and the life lessons your players are gaining. Every travel team should do service work of some kind.
Recently, I learned about FACTR Baseball, a youth travel organization that isn’t just win driven. They’re mission driven as well! The acronym, FACTR, stands for “Finding a Cure Through Recruiting Baseball.” Helping children with cancer is their mission.
I emailed Shelby Plante, a team mom and coach’s wife, to learn more about FACTR in order to write an article about them. The message she sent back was so thorough and well-written, I decided to let it speak for itself.
“My husband, Ricky Plante, has been a college coach for about 15 years and eventually worked as a pro scout. The common theme he continually saw was that many of today’s youth lack good, solid character. As a recruiter or scout, many times the decision would come down to two excellent players on the field. So, they would look at who they were off the field. Good character would get the spot every time!
Ricky began thinking about how he could influence the sport of baseball from the ground up. He decided to form a group of players that weren’t just great baseball players, but also great kids. When a college or pro scout asked about one of his kids, they would always know that character was not an issue.
With this mission in mind, FACTR was born. The original idea was developed for high school kids playing showcase baseball, but after more thought, most of those kids have already developed their character, whether good or bad. So, he looked at a group of 9U kids and thought he would start them at the ground up. He would teach fundamentals and emphasize character. Imagine those boys when it’s their turn to be recruited. We started our first season with a 9U and 16U team selected by talent and character.
Half of our boys’ time is spent giving back. We have chosen childhood cancer as our platform, not by personal experience, but in looking for something that children could relate to. We don’t have large sums of money to donate to large organizations, so we sponsor a child currently undergoing cancer treatments from our local area. We do child-friendly fundraisers so that the boys feel they had a part in helping. We choose children from our area to sponsor so the boys feel they have a relationship with the child as well as understanding more about the disease. We did a baseball tournament for a child with a brain tumor. He was a superstar for the day and even got an at-bat. We sold bracelets to raise money for a child with leukemia that needed a bone marrow transplant. We raised enough money to put his family in a hospital condo throughout his transplant. We took donations from tryouts and gave a child with Hodgkins Lymphoma a Christmas she’ll never forget. We make cards, videos, food drives and so many other small events to keep these boys thinking about how to be a part of their community and help with a nasty disease. We have 2 players that are cancer survivors.
We currently have an 18U, 14U, 11U (which are comprised of the majority of the original 9U players) and 10U teams.
FACTR boys spend time on the field playing good, quality baseball. They play cleanly, even if it means losing a game. Or tournament. We have done it before, intentionally. At 9U, coaches run the bases hard knowing fielding is not developed. Ricky wouldn’t allow that of his teams. They run bases properly, field fundamentally well, learn bunting at a proper age, how to win with grace and lose with grace. If we lose a game because of another team playing unfairly, Ricky will discuss with them how playing properly will aide them in the long run rather than a win in the short term. Don’t get me wrong, we win, as well.
Beyond our platform, we operate like any other travel baseball program. All of our teams have local and regional success. Our kids pay dues and fundraise for summer trips. We take our younger teams out of state each year. Our showcase teams play on the national level and travel throughout the southeast. We pride ourselves on having a well educated, well seasoned coaching staff and not playing “Daddy Ball.” Our boys have a lot of educational opportunities through professional coaches and players, college coaches and players, strength and conditioning professionals and any other edge we can think of. We want our players to understand we are all students of the game and can learn from lots of different people and different coaching styles.
I think one thing that FACTR does that many baseball organizations don’t do, we don’t accept players on our teams, we accept families. We prefer to learn about players’ families before allowing them on our teams. We hold our coaches to a higher standard, our players to a higher standard, and so we hold our families to a higher standard as well. No sideline coaching is allowed, no gossiping, etc. Our families sign a contract to hold themselves to the “FACTR standard” and if they are not able to, we will not invite them back for the following season.”
Pretty darn impressive, huh! For more information about FACTR Baseball, visit their website. If your team is involved in service work like this, we want to hear about it. Share your volunteering stories and photos on our Travel Ball Parents Facebook Page.