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It's spring time. It's time for Stan Snell to pull out the checkbook, head down to a sporting goods store and buy baseball equipment for his son, John.'
A new bat. Check.'
Two pairs of cleats. Check.'
Batting gloves. Check.'
A new glove? Not this year, Snell spent nearly $250 on a new glove last season and was spared the cost this year.'
"I just do it; it's a habit," Snell said while watching his son at a recent American Legion game. "I don't think about it anymore, which I probably shouldn't."'
Snell said he spent nearly $600 on his son's equipment this season. That doesn't include the $200 fee for American Legion and the gas he has purchased traveling around the southern part of the state watching John play.'
Is it worth it? '
For Stan it is. He's not sure where the money would go if his son didn't play baseball. He's also not ready to stop spending the money.'
"The hardest part will not be spending any more money," Snell said, "because that means they are done."'
For the Snells, the end is near. John leaves for college in the fall. He's considering a football scholarship offer from Newberry but might not play a collegiate sport.'
But Robert Long, whose son, Wesley, is an accomplished golfer at the age of 9, will be spending money for years to come.'
Wesley has won nine junior tournaments in the past three years, including February's U.S. Kids Golf Jekyll Island Cup -- which featured kids from 27 states and several countries -- and the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Player's Championship last year.'
If Wesley continues this pace of play, Robert knows he will have to fork out money to buy new and improved golf clubs and balls.'
Currently, Wesley is playing with U.S. Kids irons and Robert's old Callaway VFT driver. But in the next few months, Robert will have to buy a new set of irons and a new driver. Fortunately for Robert, Wesley will still be able to use U.S. Kids irons, which are roughly $40 each, instead of buying adult irons. Robert, however, will have to pay nearly $500 for a new driver.'
"It's important," Robert said of buying his son some of the better equipment on the market. "You don't need to buy the best, but you need specifics. You need to buy the right weighted clubs, and I think you need to buy a good driver to give you a few more yards off the tee."'
If Wesley continues to play golf through high school, Robert likely will need to buy his son at least three more sets of clubs.'
"(Wesley) has gone through a lot of growth spurts," Robert said. "The clubs we bought him last year are getting too small. We are going to have to buy him new clubs within six months."'
The retail price of a new set of steel irons (3-iron through pitching wedge) for the serious junior golfer will average about $700. Throw in a sand wedge, lob wedge and putter and that's another $255, on average. A titanium, graphite driver will run around $350 and a 3-wood, also graphite, will run another $175.'
The total price tag -- $1,480, although even the best junior golfers can get by on less.'
But that's just the price of clubs. A golfer also needs a bag, balls, tees, gloves, an umbrella and shoes. You could easily drop another $400 on those items.'
"Price of equipment has gone up a lot," Robert Long said. "With more people playing and more juniors playing, you would think they would try to keep the prices down. They don't give you much of a break for juniors."'
Baseball, softball and tennis also can be fairly expensive.'
In baseball, bats are the most expensive item, with top-of-the-line aluminum models costing $250-$350.'
Glove prices vary with style. A catcher's mitt will run about $150, and all other gloves will be in the $80 range, if not more. Cleats, an equipment bag, a helmet, socks, batting gloves, baseballs, practice pants and a cup and supporter could add another $135 to the tab. Catcher's gear costs another $210.'
Softball prices are comparable to baseball, with the exception of a bat. A good softball bat will run anywhere from $150-$250.'
In tennis, a good racket, will run about $165, Most committed tennis players have at least two rackets, and some have three or four. Balls, an equipment bag, shoes, sweat bands, over grips and string will cost another $200 a year.'
Sports such as football, basketball, soccer and volleyball generally don't cost as much because the most expensive equipment is usually provided by the team. Nonetheless, it can cost between $50 and $150 to get outfitted in those sports.'
If he wasn't spending money on his son's golf, "I would probably being saving for his education or retirement," Long said. "But it would most likely be going to his college education. Instead, it's going for his golf right now. We are behind the eight-ball right now saving for his education."