pregame baseball

Basic Baseball Rules and Sponsoring Organizations:
When we were growing up it was pretty simple, play t-ball at the nearest elementary school field and when we turned 9 (if we were ready) we could make a local youth league team. Of course, our parents had to check out the recreation department’s zoning rules and sign up in the park according to where we lived. Even though some would try to figure out a way to get their child in Park A when they were zoned for Park B (I didn’t always understand that).

Today, there are more choices for a parent, but they may need to do a little homework first, especially around the age of 9-11. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but the old adage is true “You can’t tell who the players are without a program”. Parents need to do a little research to understand the leagues they are signing up for and the baseball rules for that league.

Our oldest children are 26 and 24, now we have an 8 year old (yes, I was 41 when he was born) so we are going through it again for a second time. But this time is already very, very different than the first. This is part of the reason I started this website, to help baseball parents and coaches. We see a lot of great things happening in youth baseball, but we also witness some confusion. (There are also some that are confused and don’t know it yet, but that’s another article). As a high school coach, I realized that many of the youth league players would one day be playing high school baseball, so I wanted to contribute to their development, regardless of where they play high school.

Every city and county has a unique set up with different leagues and baseball rules. Overall, the age brackets and basic baseball rules are similar everywhere (even internationally). In this article, I will give you a break down on some of the basic baseball rules by ages and a link to several national sanctioning organizations for leagues at the state and local levels. This will help you understand the purpose of the organization and familiarize yourself with their basic baseball rules.

This is not an endorsement of one organization over another (you can figure that out on your own). This is designed to be informational and will save you a lot of extra time searching for them. (Most don’t spend the time to find out ahead of time). It may also help clear up some confusion for those that are just getting started or didn’t understand to begin with. Forgive me if I left a few out, there are a lot of them. We included the ones that are the most populated and best organized.

You’ll need to do some further homework in asking questions about basic baseball rules in your area and finding out who runs your local leagues(especially by age 10 or 11). Be sure to read a copy of the local baseball rules and league policies, and understand what sanctioning body of basic baseball rules they follow. With younger leagues (ages 6 – 9) they tend to adopt baseball rules from national organizations, but will adapt them to the local park, (such as a game time length or batters per inning as opposed to outs) which is not a bad thing.

One thing I would recommend is parent involvement. (Volunteer to coach, keep the lineup card or scorebook, help keep the dugout organized when the coaches are in the field, bring snacks and drinks, etc.) If you have experience in the past playing baseball, please help coach. I find many parents that played baseball at various levels from high school to professional. I like to help out, but I try to be careful not over do it. I want my son to have the experience and responsibility of playing for (and listening to) other coaches, but I don’t mind helping.

For many, this can be a reconnection with the game they have taken a break from for a few years. That’s not a bad thing, but don’t get carried away and try to put 8 year olds through drills your college coach used, they may not be ready for them. Keep it simple and teach them the fundamentals of the games. Mainly, let them all have fun and enjoy the game. Many will not play past youth leagues so making the experience enjoyable is important for their overall child development and it will give them fond memories to share with their kids one day.



Basic Baseball Rules: - by Ages

AGES 4-7: T-BALL (or Tee-Ball)

The starting age varies from place to place. Many start at age 6 due to the population of the area and the numbers involved. If you volunteer to coach (or assist) the league organizers will probably let your child play at an earlier age. Finding volunteer coaches at this age is difficult. No experience is needed other than being organized and on time. You will need to familiarize yourself with local policies and basic baseball rules for your league.

Some T-ball leagues have umpires and others do not, leaving it to the parents to umpire the games. We have been involved with both and find at an early age its better not to have an umpire. I’m not sure what it is about yelling at an umpire, it must be a DNA trait for some parents. I don’t see much of it at the T-ball level, but when an umpire is present there is always someone in the crowd that is loud and wants to argue. Of course, there are always parents that “yell” at their child the entire game. “Cover the base”; “Choke up on the bat”; “Throw it home” etc…. I’ll write an article in the future concerning parent decorum, but right now trust me on this one thing…. it’s easy to frustrate a child. Yelling at them from the side is one sure way to frustrate them, although there are plenty of others. Begin “training” them to listen to the coaches. Make a note of trouble they are having and work on it prior to the next game on your own. Preparation is important. Do you remember in school being frustrated and confused when taking a test you were not prepared to take? Or being asked a question by the teacher and not knowing the answer? I remember being asked to go to the front of the room in 5th grade and spell words from a list I had not studied, it was frightening. Help them prepare, but make it fun and enjoyable. Then sit back, enjoy the game, and get plenty of pictures.

Sidebar: Here is a tip to help your player hit better in T-ball. Most of the time, the tee is set up on top of home plate. (The bottom of the tee is a pentagon like home plate with the point in the back) Tell your child to move back slightly so they can hit the ball when the swing is on the way up. This will help them drive it into the outfield or at least hit a line drive. If they stand even with the tee, they usually hit down on the ball (or even get jammed and hit it on the hands) which leads to a weak ground ball. Once they hit it solid a few times their self confidence will build.

T-Ball USA

Basic Baseball Rules for: T-Ball USA

AGES 7-8: Coach Pitched Leagues

This is really an extension of T-ball, for older players, with the coaches pitching to the players. The same basic baseball rules are used as T-ball with some variances. Some leagues will have the players start out with the tee then let the coaches pitch after half way thru the season. In some leagues the player has the option to use the tee again after two strikes.

Recommended Coach Pitch Rules
*See coach pitched basic baseball rules at the bottom of the page

AGES 7-8: Machine Pitched Leagues Similar to the coach pitched league, but a pitching machine is used. Many baseball sponsoring organizations offer a level for both coach pitched and machine pitched.

This format is used in the Cal Ripken "Rookie” level league (see below for information on Cal Ripken Leagues ages 4-12, a division of Babe Ruth Baseball)

Little League, Inc. uses the machine pitched league at the 7-8 year old level (called Minor Leagues), but also gives flexibility to local organizations to have coached pitched or machine pitched at this level. (or both in some cases).
**Below is a sample of machine pitched basic baseball rules from the Auburn Little League Association in Auburn, Washington.

Basic Baseball Rules for: Machine Pitched Leauges

Sidebar: We’ve been involved with our kids in both coached pitch and machine pitched leagues. There are pros and cons to both leagues, but I can’t recommend one over the other. It really depends on the way the league is run and the coaches. We’ve had good experiences with both. I will say the timing on the pitching machine is a little tricky. At the beginning of the season we used a machine that had a red light on it. The light would go off three times then pitch the ball. The players were able to get a “swing rhythm” with the lights, which I really like. Later in the season they changed machines, a simple two-wheel machine, without a light, and it took a little practice to get the timing down.

AGE 9-10: Kid Pitched Leagues

This is where it starts to get interesting. The leagues vary and every city/county will offer different choices. There are also other additional leagues like YMCA or local travel teams. Travel teams start as young as 8, but usually get serious by the time the player is 11. (I’m writing an article on travel ball now for distribution later in January)

Every organization from Babe Ruth to Little League offers a 9-10 year old age division that leads into the 11-12 year old leagues. In some local associations, 10 year olds can try out and make the 11-12 year old league if they have the ability and there is room.

Age 11-12: Traditional Little League

This is the age of traditional “Little League”, although there are plenty of organizational options to Little League. Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken, Dizzy Dean, Pony League (called Bronco at this age), and AAU are just a few. All sponsoring organizations offer leagues for kids in the 11-12 year old age bracket. Below you will see links to many of these organizations.

The “Little League” organization has received a lot of media attention in recent years with the coverage of the Little League World Series (Williamsport, Pa) on ESPN. (Rightfully so as Little League Baseball does a great job in youth baseball)
But many other organizations do a great job with youth baseball. Your city/county may or may not be affiliated with the national Little League Baseball organization, you’ll need to check with local representatives at your recreation department.

This age bracket for the Little League organization is actually referred to as the “Major” division, with the Minor division being the 9-10 year olds. Little League Baseball policy gives a lot of flexibility to local associations to place players between the ages of 8-12 in the league according to their abilities.

At this level the players have already been pitching for a couple of years and the strategy of the game is beginning to take place. The diamond usually has 60 foot base paths with a 46 foot pitching distance. Players can usually advance to the next base on a steal as the ball reaches home plate, but with no lead offs.

Basic Baseball Rules for Little League: See links below

Age 13-15: Junior Leagues, traditional “Pony League”

At this level, the base distances usually move back to at least 75 feet and pitching distances are 54 feet. However, there are some leagues (like Babe Ruth) that begin playing at 90 foot bases and a 60’6” pitching distance. (the same as high school)


National and International Youth Baseball Organizations

Baseball Field Layouts and Overall Field Dimensions

Little League Baseball

Babe Ruth League Baseball

Cal Ripkin Baseball

Cal Ripkin is a division of Babe Ruth Baseball for ages 4 – 12.

Pony League Baseball, Inc

Pony Leauges, Inc (baseball/softball) offers league competition from ages 4-18. Well organized and have been around a long time. Pony, Inc has been doing international baseball since the 1950's and has a very strong international program today.

Dizzy Dean Baseball

In the southern part of the U.S.A., from Texas to Maryland.

Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Baseball

AAU baseball has gained a lot of strength in the last 10 years as it is one of the leading sanctioning bodies for travel team baseball. Organizations are sanctioned at the state levels and a team can be sanctioned without joining a local association or league. Team members pay a membership fee which gives individual players insurance coverage for one year against other competing teams, regardless of organization.

U.S. Specialty Sports Organization (USSSA)

Another popular organization for Travel Ball teams and tournaments that has gained popularity over the past ten years.

U. S. Travel Baseball Association: Basic baseball rules and information on travel ball associations throughout the United States.


Little League World Series Online Site

Neat site promoting the LL World Series - worth looking at...great photos and videos.

Cooperstown Dream Park

This private facility outside Cooperstown, NY offers twelve weeks of baseball tournaments for ages 11-12 (one week for age 10) from the beginning of June thru August. Each week 96 teams compete on twenty-two fields in the beautiful country side of up-state New York. This is a popular destination for many travel teams each summer. A little pricey, but players/coaches are housed (not the Holiday Inn) at the Park’s Baseball Village and feed each day. Teams also receive uniforms as well as other team equipment.

Competing teams are required to bring a qualified tournament umpire, who attends at no charge for the week. Players play a total of seven games during the week. Registration for years 2009-2011 have alredy begun.
(not affiliated with the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown)

Official Website of USA Baseball

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If your son (and you, too) make it through the maze of youth baseball (which is a lot of fun) he may be ready to tryout for his high school baseball team by age 15 or 16. If they excel at that level, there is another door of Travel Teams and Showcases (both regional and national) to go through.

National Federation of State High School Organizations – Baseball Page Source to the basic baseball rules for high schools in the U.S.

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