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Photos courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

Maybe you missed Tanner Allen’s recent tweet

        It read:

       “Parents … let your 10 year old be a kid.

       “You’re going to spend all your money on travel ball just for Johnny to be burned out and not want to play high school ball.

       “I promise there is 0 scouts at a 10 y/o travel tourney.

       “I’ve been down this road and seen it happen.”

       The tweet hit home with me. I will explain later.

       Allen certainly has the credentials to express an opinion on the subject. He helped lead Mississippi State to the 2021 national championship. His stats for that season: .383 average, 72 runs, 100 hits, 19 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 66 RBIs. He accounted for 29 percent of the Bulldogs’ 476 runs.

       “I taught kids hitting this past off season,” said Allen by phone from Jupiter, Fla., where he is playing Class A baseball for the Miami Marlins. “It really opened my eyes. I could tell with some kids that they didn’t really want to be there. I even had some parents say, ‘He’s here because we want him to be.’

       “I get it. Parents want the best for their kids. They would love to see their children grow up and play Power 5 baseball somewhere. But parents go overboard. They have nine and 10-year-old kids playing 50 and 60 games a summer. They don’t have time to be a kid.

OMAHA, NE – June 30, 2021 – Mississippi State Outfielder Tanner Allen (#5) during the 2021 Mens College World Series National Championship Game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Vanderbilt Commodores at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. Photo By Austin Perryman

       “When I was that age, I played parks and recreation ball — which is almost unheard of these days. We would play about 14 (regular season) games. Then I would play all-stars, which was no more than two tournaments. And that was it. The rest of the time I was hanging out with my friends, fishing and going to the beach.

       “Look, if a kid is going to be great he’ll do it on his own. I’m all about letting them play when they’re five or six years old, let them learn the game and how to play. But just let them be kids, too.”


       I told Allen my personal story and he urged me to share it.

       Both my sons were good baseball players. And they played on teams with good friends, who were also good players.

       We practiced from the time they were 5 years old. Practiced probably more than most.

       When my oldest was 13,  three dads and I started what is believed to be the first travel youth baseball team in the Madison-Ridgeland area. Other parents thought we were nuts. We played all over Mississippi for two summers, from Gulfport to Tupelo. The parents had a blast and so, too, did the kids. But that 14-year-old season was the last for my oldest. He played football and basketball, instead. Said he was tired of baseball.

       My youngest took Allen’s route — played recreational baseball and then all-stars. But as his 11-year-old season approached, he called me into his room one night.

       “Would you be mad at me if I didn’t play baseball this year?” he asked.

       “No. I would never make you play,” I said. “But why do you not want to play.”

       He shrugged. “I’m just kinda tired of it,” he said.

       And that was that. He played football, instead, through high school.

       Looking back, I probably threw them too much batting practice away from our team workouts. Yes, it made them good. But at a cost. They didn’t have a lot of free time in the summer and as they got older the game was no longer joyful.

       That’s on me. I would urge you parents to absorb Tanner Allen’s words. 

       They’re only kids for a while.


OMAHA, NE – June 29, 2021 – Mississippi State Outfielder Tanner Allen (#5) during game 2 of the 2021 Mens College World Series national championship series between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Mississippi State Bulldogs at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. Photo By Austin Perryman

       Allen almost made a decision he would have regretted: Before his senior year, he informed his high school football coach that he was only going to play baseball.

       He was 23-2 as a starting quarterback.

       “But as the season got closer, I just couldn’t stand it. I wound up playing,” said Allen, 24. “We weren’t nearly as good as we had been A lot of starters had graduated. But I wouldn’t give anything for that final season.”

       Allen, who grew up in Theodore, Ala, (20 minutes from Mobile), was committed at the time to play baseball at LSU. He recalled his recruiting visit to Baton Rouge.

       “I’ll never forget what Coach (Paul) Mainieri told me,” Allen said. “He said, ‘We love the fact that you played football, too. Football guys are gritty and tough and know how to handle adversity.’

       “And he’s right. Football teaches you so much. I’m not saying that’s for everybody. I’ve played baseball with a lot of guys who didn’t play football and they worked out fine. I’m just telling you that football had a big effect on me as a baseball player.”

       He was first noticed in the eighth grade by a pro scout.  Allen had been called up to the high school team and a guy with the Chicago White Sox was at one of his games evaluating another player. The scout jotted down Allen’s name and it wasn’t long before college recruiters were watching.

       He, of course, decommitted from LSU. Assistant coach Andy Cannizaro had recruited him for the Tigers. When State hired Cannizaro as head coach in November 2016,  Tanner chose to follow him to Starkville.

OMAHA, NE – June 28, 2021 – Mississippi State Outfielder Tanner Allen (#5) during game 1 of the 2021 Mens College World Series national championship series between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Vanderbilt Commodores at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. Photo By Austin Perryman

       After the 2021 national championship season, Allen was named the SEC Player of the Year and earned the ABCA/Rawlings National Player of the Year award. The Marlins drafted him in the fourth round, the 118th player overall.

       “I’ve struggled so far,” he said. “I was inconsistent last year — good two weeks then bad two weeks. Fouled a lot of balls straight back.

       “My coaches tell me I’m trying to muscle up on the ball and that doesn’t work with a wood bat like it does aluminum. With a wood bat, you have to be smooth. It’s not how hard you swing, it’s how quick you can get the barrel to the ball.

       “But I’m making progress. I’m gonna work my butt off. I’m going to control what I can control and give the rest to the Lord. That’s what I’ve always done.”