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Jul. 19 2010 - 7:29 pm | 343 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Youth baseball parents prove easy to sucker out of money for ‘elite travel team’

The saying is that the two dominant emotions on Wall Street are fear and greed; for parents who trades in the futures of their children, the same can apply.

It’s not just sports. Look at the advertisements in any metro area child-focused magazine, and you’ll see plenty of preschools, camps, tutors, coaches and party clowns who sell, implicitly, the promise that time and (lots of) money spent with them will send your little brat on the primrose path to Harvard. Meanwhile, if you don’t shake out all your loose change to pay for these services — well, let’s not even think about that, though let’s remind you that all of your neighbors’ 3-year-olds are getting their Harvard applications under way while you refuse to spend $2,000 on a party clown that speaks English, French, Farsi and Klingon.

So if you’re planning to scam someone out of thousands of dollars, and you don’t know how to execute a pigeon drop on an old lady, desperate, worried parents are a great target. Such as, parents in South Dakota worried that their kids, what with being in South Dakota, were never going to be found by Major League Baseball scouts.

A group of those parents is claiming they were scammed out tens of thousands of dollars by a man who said he was putting together a select team that, thanks to his major-league connections, would give their kids wide exposure to people who could put them on the fast track to Harvard, er, the major leagues. Media reports put the money lost at anywhere from $25,000 to $33,000, though I suspect that’s a bit low. A baseball camp organizer said he lost $18,500, and individual parents report paying — in cash — up to $6,300 for the travel team that never was.

What’s not low is the sense of betrayal, anger and gullibility shown by these parents, and the waste of time for children who were pulled off of other travel teams for the alleged elite of the elites, Team South Dakota.

The complaints, including a lawsuit filed by the guy running the baseball camp, are against Jason Anderson, the alleged mastermind behind Team South Dakota. Even before the complaints against him started, there were other complaints — namely, that his travel team was gutting well-established summer leagues. But who could argue against a guy who said he was a former minor-league baseball player, in the Angels’ system, and could bring Rickey Henderson to town for a camp?

What is readily apparent is that the parents (and the camp organizer) were so in love with the idea of South Dakota’s own ass-kicking, big-time youth operation that they blindly handed over money without asking who was this guy parachuting into the Black Hills with promise of future baseball stardom. Anderson has not responded to any allegations, including one I’m going to make: That he might not the person he says he is. I base this on the fact I’ve combed the Internet and cannot find a Jason Anderson who played in the Angels’ system. I can find Jason Andersons who have played for other teams, but not a Jason Anderson who played for the Angels. (Inside Dakota Sports reported July 16 that Rapid City, S.D., police have opened a criminal investigation, and that Anderson has warrants out for his arrest in Panama City, Fla., and Monroe, Mich., on fraud and forgery charges. As of now, Anderson is nowhere to be found.)

So what you get are heartbreaking stories about a mom bringing her kid and her family to a park for a tournament, and finding out they were the only ones there.

On the other hand, my heart breaks less because the parents let their fear (of their kids being left behind) and greed (this guy is our ticket to stardom!) overwhelm their good judgment. If you want to spend thousands of dollars for your 9-year-old to play travel baseball, there are plenty of outfits whose only fraud is promising you that they can make your kid a major-leaguer. At least they’ll offer actual practices and tournaments. Best you put your fear and greed in check before draining your bank account for the promise of sports stardom. Otherwise, you may well just hire that multilingual party clown.

(Hat tip to SportsJournalists.com for alerting me to this story.)


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  1. collapse expand

    Well Mr. Cook…If you took your time to research various sites you would have found out exactly what teams Mr. Anderson played for. Here is a link with his stats and the years he played…http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=anders001jas

    We didn’t follow this crook for the hopes of our 9 yr. old son to make it to the pros but we wanted to give him an opportunity the Air Force took away from him. We moved here due to orders which required our son to leave his team which this year became a traveling team.

    Now the only thing i haven’t been able to find is any reports of the previous crimes Mr. Anderson has been accused of so while doing my research on this guy I was able to match his career with what he told us. I, for one, was skeptical which reemphasised my demand for receipts, schedules, and documents with all promises listed..Oh yeah and a promissary note for all funds exchanged.
    As you are quick to judge “my heart breaks less because the parents let their fear (of their kids being left behind) and greed (this guy is our ticket to stardom!) overwhelm their good judgment. If you want to spend thousands of dollars for your 9-year-old to play travel baseball, there are plenty of outfits whose only fraud is promising you that they can make your kid a major-leaguer.” Maybe as a journalist you should have spoken with my family then you would have learned that we are not greedy nor do we have a fear of our son being left behind. We love our son and like any other parent we want the best for our son and if it happened to be a traveling team then we will do whatever it takes to make him happy.

    So please next time you want to take on this subject get ahold of the parties involved before you assume what the ppl are thinking.

    • collapse expand

      Thanks for the link on Jason Anderson. At least we know now there is a Jason Anderson who was briefly in the Angels system. How four appearances with the Newark Bears meant he “knew” Rickey Henderson is anyone’s guess, even if they were on the roster at the same time.

      Notashamed, it looks like you did your best to check this guy out. But, still, did you ever ask yourself, how could a guy come from out of nowhere, a guy living in a Best Western, with the promise of all these connections for an elite league? It’s terrible what happened to you and the other parents, but it looks like he also saw you all coming with “we want the best” and “we will do whatever it takes to make him happy.” I mean, every parent feels that way, but on the other hand doing whatever it takes to make your child happy can send you down the wrong path as well. I don’t mean you, specifically, notashamed. One point of my blog is that a lot of the worst things in youth sports are done in the name of doing whatever it takes to make your child happy.

      The unfortunate truth — as all of Bernie Madoff’s victims can tell you — is that we are all vulnerable to getting ripped off if we believe too much that someone is going to grant us an incredible opportunity. I’ve talked to experts on Ponzi schemes, and they assure me that the guys who pull this stuff off are good, really good, especially good at figuring out who can be a victim, and playing on that victim’s fear and/or greed (whether that’s the fear of a lost opportunity or the greed that an opportunity will lead to great success).

      Of course, it’s easy for me or anyone else to wonder what any victim could have been thinking, so easy I’ve already done it. And it would be naive of me to think that I could never be a victim — because as Ponzi experts will tell you, that’s the first domino to fall.

      I’m sorry for what happened to you and the other parents. (By the way, I have a link above in the story about warrants out for Jason Anderson’s arrest in other states.) I have no doubt you all love your children and want to do the best for them. On the other hand — and I’m speaking to all of us parents, not specifically you, notashamed — you have to take a breath when you’re ready to do anything it takes for your child.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I didn’t know that he was living in a hotel/motel. When we went for try outs he introduced us to his “girlfriend”. When asked what brought him here to SD he said he was following his girlfriend because she was offered a great job at one of the casinos. I never thought to ask for his physical address just like he didn’t ask for ours. There was 24 hours between the try outs and the payment during which I did as much research as I could.
        I feel embarassed that I fell for this but had to come out so others won’t fall for this and other scams that fit this profile.
        I will take the name calling and judgements (not from here but other sites) but when those sites start to include my son in the meanness things have gone to far.
        Thank you for your attention to this story for if just one person reads this and comes in contact with Mr. Anderson or another scam artist they will know what is occurring.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Notashamed, I’m not sure who’s being mean to your son. No one is blaming him for this. Nor you, necessarily. After all, you acted in good faith.

    However, all you parents out there, if you meet an unemployed ex-minor leaguer who just arrived in town yesterday to promise high-level elite play for your kid, but demands cash (and a lot of it) in a very short time window, run the other way, no matter how well his story checks out. To me, the request for cash and the need to have it in a hurry are two of the biggest red flags that could be waved.

    Thanks for sharing, notashamed.

  3. collapse expand

    Travel teams were just was to expensive and not an option for my son. He worked hard, transitioned to the pitchers mound as a junior in high school and last year after graduating he was offered a walk on at a junior college. He declined and worked on his pitching for the next thirteen months.

    He circulated a video to about twenty, four-year colleges and received callbacks from about a dozen. He actually tried out for three NAIA schools, recieved offers from each and setteled on the one that he felt was the best fit. It was not the one that had the best finacial package.

    In a few days he will enter college and pursue his dream.

    This story is not to brag up my kid. It is to encourage any youngster to not quit, to work hard and don’t settle for someone’s opinion of their talent and possibilities.

    I can’t imagine how travel ball would have helped, rather the constant play may have been more discouraging than beneficial. I am skeptical of the claims of exposure to colleges coaches and scouts. A thirty-four second online video was enough to get several invites for a private tryout. Sometimes you have to make your own success.

    One last suggestion: Get good grades. Some schools have the advantage of offering both athletic and scholastic scholarships.

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    About Me

    A youth sports blog written by Bob Cook. He contributes to NBCSports.com, or MSNBC.com, if you prefer. He’s delivered sports commentaries for All Things Considered. For three years he wrote the weekly “Kick Out the Sports!” column for Flak Magazine.

    Most importantly for this blog, Bob is a father of four who is in the throes of being a sports parent and youth coach in an inner-ring suburb of Chicago. He reserves the right to change names to protect the innocent and the extremely, extremely guilty.

    You can follow me at facebook.com/rkcookjr and twitter.com/notgoingpro. I'm endlessly fascinating.

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    You can see what I’m up to by following me at facebook.com/rkcookjr and/or twitter.com/notgoingpro. You can also become an official fan of Your Kid’s Not Going Pro on Facebook. I’m endlessly fascinating.