When asked what inspired him to start a travel baseball squad in Highland Park, coach Rob Kaplan-Sherman gives credit where credit is due: to his wife. “My wife, Alicia, wanted me to get out of the house and do something besides work! So she was the one who really encouraged me to go back to coaching youth baseball.”
Serendipity combined his wife’s urging led Kaplan-Sherman to the Owls. “It was really being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Just as I was getting back into the swing of coaching, in 2018, the Highland Park Recreation Department decided they were going to offer a 12 and Under (12U) travel team managed by Jeremy Renna. I got involved in coaching that team and started to lead the travel program in the Fall, and the rest is history.”
The program has grown since 2018, and the Owls currently have three teams – 10U, 12U, and 14U – designed for kids ages 9-14. In 2021, the Travel Owls branched off from Highland Park Rec and the team became an independent nonprofit baseball club.
The town has long had a recreational youth program but Kaplan-Sherman aims to offer kids the next level of competitive baseball. “In my experience, Rec and Travel are very different,” said Rob. “In our competitive travel program, we focus on building both personal and team skills, as well as teaching our players how to play winning baseball. Once we combined the mental and physical instruction into our program, our teams started winning, which created a ton of excitement among our players, families, and the town.”
Indeed, while the Travel Owls are a newer program, they’ve already met a great deal of success, winning seven championships, throwing 21 no-hitters, including one perfect game. However, Kaplan-Sherman notes “our focus is always the same — to teach the players how to execute baseball, we never focus on winning games — that’s usually the outcome of excellent execution.”
Sam Solomon, Highland Park public school third grader and an avid Mets fan, enthusiastically endorses the Travel Owls. “I love playing baseball on the Travel Owls, the coaches are really nice and help us be better players. Plus it is a lot of fun.”
The 2023 Travel Owls season begins on February 5 with the team tryouts at The Fields recreational complex in East Brunswick. The Owls welcome all families from Highland Park and surrounding areas as well as any adult volunteers who would like to get involved. Practices will begin during the second week of February and games will start the first week of April. To learn more and to sign up to try out on February 5, visit www.HPOwls.com, or email Rob Kaplan-Sherman at email@example.com. Let’s play some ball!