Why Baseball Rules Differ for Youth Baseball
There is a fine line with baseball rules at the youth level between playing to win and teaching the game. For example, at the higher levels of baseball it is important to keep runners out of scoring position, to cut down scoring runners and turn double plays, when possible. That is good baseball philosophy for advanced baseball, but at the younger ages of baseball, that is not always best baseball rules philosophy. In youth baseball, the “any out is a good out” philosophy works better. Double plays, getting runners out at the plate and keeping players out of scoring position are very difficult at the youth level. Trying for those often lead to more runs, when players could have gotten an easier out, shortening the inning. Therefore, in youth baseball, I believe it is OK to play to win by having players get the easiest outs, as opposed to teaching the advanced, correct strategies of the game.
At all levels of baseball, the winning team usually produces the biggest run-scoring inning of the game. A team that has a 4, 5 or more run inning wins more often than not. Failing to take an out the easy way, although it may not be the advanced winning baseball philosophy, helps teams avoid the big innings that lead to losing games.
For example, on a routine grounder to the first baseman, when they have a possible force out at second, avoiding that tough throw and taking the out at first makes good baseball sense at the lower levels of baseball. Anytime there is an easy out to be made, it is best that youth baseball players take the out and avoid the big innings. Because of this, it is important to have different baseball rules for youth to be sure of getting an out, somewhere, and anywhere.
This does not mean that coaches should not teach the advanced way as players learn the game better, but until players mature, getting any out and the easiest one, is good coaching. With that in mind, here are youth baseball rules that help that philosophy, along with winning youth baseball games.
Youth baseball rules that win games:
Good Coaches teach youth to:
- Tag the base themselves when close to a base and not risk even short flips to another player
- Avoid unnecessary throws, as throwing when base runners are already at a base
- Throw ahead of base runners to put the brakes on them from advancing, when there is a small chance of getting an out at the base the runner is approaching
- Take an out on a trailing runner if possible, instead of the scoring runner, unless it is the winning run, of course
- Allow certain players to catch balls hit between players instead of the advanced baseball rules that determine who catches balls between two players. For example, having pitchers catch any pop ups near the mound is a good idea, as pitchers at this level are often the better players
- Take the out at first on all bunts, instead of trying to get the lead runner, which is often a more difficult play
Praising kids for getting an out somewhere, even if not the major league way, is good. As players reach the travel ball age, learning the advanced baseball philosophy is necessary. Of course, many baseball strategies are necessary and the same at every level from youth baseball to the major leagues.
Following are good baseball rules for all levels of baseball:
- Mentally preparing players, before each pitch, where the easiest out will be if the ball is hit to them; this usually means where the shortest throw is, but not always
- Teaching players to anticipate off-target throws is key to getting put outs. Assuming good throws, even from players at close range, cause players to be surprised and miss balls or come off the bag when they do not really have to
- Teaching players to call for fly balls and pop ups loudly, clearly and more than once
- Coaching players their responsibilities of backing up bases correctly, so balls are not rolling all over the place on missed throws
As mentioned, as players get a better understanding of the game around travel ball age, then coaches can play with more advanced baseball rules and strategies.