What is Youth Baseball and How Does It Relate to Little League Baseball?
Youth Baseball is a division of Little League Baseball that is considered more difficult and advanced due to the age brackets of the players. In fact, Little League started a pilot division for pre-teens as early as 2009 to 2010 to help players transition to youth baseball. As a category, the age bracket of youth baseball is from 13 to 18 and because of this, they have different and more advanced rules, like being able to lead-off and steal when the pitcher breaks. There are also different field dimensions, using longer base paths (90 feet which is the same as the Major League or MLB) and longer pitching distance (60.5 feet from pitcher’s mound to home plate, again, similar to MLB). Metal spikes in cleats are also used, along with the molded plastic spikes used by the Little League.
Generally, the majestic sport of Youth Baseball, which also consists of 11 players in the field, have three age divisions; Junior League is for children aged 13-14 years old, Senior League is for children aged 14-16 years old, and Big League is for children aged 16-18 years old. Most Universities and Colleges in the US have a Youth Baseball team like The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Titans and the Stow and Whitnall Youth Baseball Team. All these major cities, suburban areas and states in the US have a youth baseball team including Smyrna and Powder Springs GA, Hudson NH, Maryland, Arizona, Simi Valley, Carlsbad, Alexandria, Escondido and San Francisco, California, Bixby and Moore Oklahoma, Texarkana, Bentonville Arkansas, Batavia and Barrington, Lancaster, Medina and Palatine Township Illinois, Arapahoe county and Olathe Colorado, Omaha Nebraska, Cooperstown and Carballo NY, Cottondale Florida, Chelmsford, Quincy Rochester and Attleboro MA, Danbury CU, Prattville AL, Fayetteville NC, Farmington and Hartford CT, Kansas City Missouri, Hattiesburg, Myrtle and Pascagoula Mississippi, Noblesville IN, Hueytown and Opelika Alabama, and even in the north-west United States like Meridian Idaho. Youth Baseball is one of the many specialty sports that is governed by USSSA and it also serves as a recreational sport for kids to play at the park or the beach.
When parents and kids take a tour to the sports equipment store like Wilson and Rawlings, with respect to buying baseball equipment, the process of choosing starts to become a daunting experience. From gloves to bats to shoes, bags, belts and even to backstops, the choices abound, which just adds to the confusion, rather than simplify it. Some parents resort to reading reviews and forum postings from MLive (www.mlive.com) before buying equipment, but the problems is, most of the equipment manufacturers have their own reviews as well. But there has to be some guiding principles that can help you select youth baseball equipment before you freak out. Here are a few:
1. Consider your budget
This should be your primary consideration because there is no point in wanting to purchase gear you cannot afford. Added to that, you need to prepare a good amount of dollars when you take a trip to the sports equipment wholesale store because there are always some miscellaneous things that you can find like books and videos. Even games like Broken Arrow (BA) Youth Baseball are nice to buy for your kid. The best thing to do is to shop online first, so that you have a good idea regarding the current running rate of equipment, before going to each store physically. A Chart of the things that you need and a budget should be made. Some allowance may have to be made because online rates and actual store rates often differ. Some stores offer equipment packages or bundles that fuse some things together for a lesser price than when bought individually. Looking out for some closeout sales is good.
2. Consider what fits your child, especially when buying a glove and bat. You also have to consider whether he is right-handed like Steve Rogers or left-handed like Gary Timberlake, because there are gloves for different handedness. It won’t count if you buy the most expensive brand only to find out that it doesn’t fit your child because it has huge clearance. It can ruin his game no matter how hard he tries to improve it. Bring your child along with you at the store and let him try different equipment so he can see for himself what fits him well.
3. Forget about the brand
This should be obvious considering the previous principles given. While it is true that certain brands like TPX Pro have certain merits compared to others, in most cases it is only there to justify the price tag. That is because equipment makers know that people always fall for branding. Some even sponsor their own paid review just to lure you.
All brands of equipment including Champro Sports claim to improve your child’s game but that is not always true. Equipment does have a purpose even though a bad bat doesn’t usually have a bearing on your child’s batting average. The truth of the matter is that nothing can replace old hard work in honing your child’s skills, not even incantation and voodoo. The principles we state here can be used in buying youth baseball equipment.
Hitting a baseball is a challenge, especially for young players. The bat is round and the ball is round, making it a difficult job? Add to that the fact that your child could be carrying the wrong bat because it is too heavy for him, you escalate the problem to a near impossibility. Here are some tips in choosing a youth baseball bat.
1. Choose a bat with plate coverage
Before buying a bat, let your child try his teammates by letting him go to the plate and try a series of swings. If the bat reaches the outside of the plate, then you have yourself a bat with the right length because it can cover a wide area. Take note of the bat’s length before going to the equipment store.
2. Choose a bat that fits your child
Once you are inside the store, pick the bat with the right length and have your child swing it for comfort. Make sure to keep a safe distance from other shoppers in the store. With the length considered, your child should be able to choose the bat that fits him well.
3. Choose a bat that is the right weight
To choose the right weight, let your child hold the bat by extending his arm from his shoulder and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds. If he can hold it that long without wavering, then the weight of the bat is right for him.
4. Choose the right material
There are now plenty of materials used to make bats aside from the traditional wooden one made from BWP red oak or the Nokona maple bats. Although the old-fashioned wooden bat is still good, it has the tendency to crack. There are metal and carbon fiber composite materials, rated to perform similar to wood, and although expensive, are well worth your money because they last longer.
Depending on your budget, buying the bat that fits your child and has passed the standard ratings is best. Most tournaments allow any kind of bat as long as it meets the proper specs, as the barrel circumference should not exceed 2 5/8 inch diameter. The correct size bat has a direct bearing on your child’s batting average. Along with constant practice, the right bat can make the difference between a good game and a lousy one. There are plenty of things to choose from at Anderson company – you can find Pyrotech XP, Miken bats, the DeMarini CF3, Vexxum, Easton F3, SV12, Quantum sc900 0 and CXN, Lt 260, LSV2, Mizuno Prospect Series GPP1101, Combat DA B1YB1 Bomb and other B1 series; they would probably give a discount if you buy a good number or if they are on sale.
Choosing a youth baseball glove is a tricky business. If you buy the wrong on, your child might outgrow it in a few months. If you buy one that is too big, his performance will be hampered because he cannot fold the glove. Some tips are necessary to guide you in your decisions.
1. Even if your child will just outgrow the glove in a few months, it is worth the risk to buy him a glove that fits. The reason behind this is that performance will be greatly hampered if the glove doesn’t fit well. Try to let him fit a glove and have him close and open his catching hand with it. The new glove will tend to be stiff but if your child can’t open or close it, it means that the glove is too big or not game ready. Light stiffness will go after you have broken the glove in through playing catch, however.
2. Choose only leather gloves because it will form a natural pocket for the ball when it is broken by constant playing. Synthetic gloves on the other hand, don’t have this natural pocket. This natural pocket is important because it gives additional hold on the ball.
3. Since the rules allow different colored gloves, buying one that fits the child’s personality is good. A brightly colored one that looks fun to wear is one example that differentiates it from the usual brown or tan-colored gloves used by most players. A good example would be the Mizuno Prospect Series GXF101 mitt. This also prevents other players from mistakenly taking your kid’s glove.
4. When your child’s finger reaches the top of the finger hole, it is time to buy a new glove. You will know this because your child will start to complain when his fingers begin to cramp inside the glove. This is a fact that you have to accept considering that your child is growing fast.
After you have purchased the glove, playing catch with your child at home so that the glove is already broken before use in a game is important. There are reputable companies that specialize in making baseball gloves like Akadema in Hawthorne NJ and Alleson Athletic.
Using baseball cleats that provide good traction for the player is key, but the number of options can be confusing. The first thing before deciding is knowing about the different league rules and field surfaces. It would be useless to be buying things which your child cannot wear because they do not comply with regulations. After that, you can let your budget and the shoe comfort guide you in the purchasing process.
1. There are various rules in different tournaments, so knowing these things before you decide to purchase is necessary. In the case of Youth Baseball, Little League International for example, allows cleats with metal studs in the Junior, Senior and Big League Division.
2. Inquire about the kind of surface your child will be playing on. Generally, shorter studs are for hard and packed surfaces and longer studs are for softer playing field with zero rock present. For practice, turf shoes are usually sufficient. The coach will be your best source of information regarding this.
3. When buying, let your child wear his usual playing socks so that he can get the right size shoes. There are a lot of sizes to choose from and if he is not wearing the usual playing socks, you could easily pick the wrong one. Sizing must be precise because it can cause a lot of discomfort to your child with the wrong size shoes.
4. For more comfort, buying a baseball cleat made from leather is generally best. They allow more breathing space for feet during the game. However, shoes made from synthetic materials are also good choices, especially because they are cheaper and your child’s feet are still growing quickly. The most important thing to remember when buying youth baseball cleats is that they will have to be replaced often because your child is still growing. This means that you have to prepare a good budget and not be surprised when replacement shoes are needed, even if their current ones are barely used. Adidas and Nike are leading makers of aero cleats.
If you are the manager of a Little League Team, the task of deciding what color the team uniform apparel will be, might fall on you. This can be a daunting one considering there are many choices out there. In order to choose the right custom-made jerseys, caps, hats and other apparel, consider what the other teams are wearing and the weather conditions that your team will be playing during so that you can get some ideas. The hat is especially crucial because it is the crowning glory of all teams.
1. Again, before deciding on the color of jerseys, consider league regulations. Some tournaments and leagues have guidelines regarding what colors you can pick. This limits the number of choices and gives you a better idea what to pick. Pinstripe jerseys are historically favored in baseball.
2. Know what other teams are wearing is crucial because leagues don’t allow two teams to use the same color scheme. Of course, sharing the same colors can be confusing to umpires, players and spectators and is why most leagues and tournaments prohibit it. In some cases though, it is possible to share the same color scheme. For example, when one team has a gray trim and white jersey, the other can have a grey jersey with white trim.
3. Discussing the options with team members, the coaches and other management is good so that they are part in the decision-making process. In most cases, you can base the color scheme of your team from it namesake. For instance, birds are common namesake among baseball teams, you would use this namesake and color as a pattern for your jersey.
4. In most cases it is impossible to please everybody, so you should decide which color scheme will make a good number of members happy.
If your team is having a hard time with summer humidity, it is not a good idea to use dark colors like black because they trap in the heat, even if they provide a little stealth. Players, who are too hot, will struggle all the more. Wearing baseball sunglasses to minimize the glare of the sun during the summer season is advised.
While deciding on the color of the jersey is important and probably the most difficult to put a finger on, deciding on the youth baseball pants is equally difficult. When choosing pants, comfort should be the utmost consideration because mobility depends on it. When teams are uncomfortable with their pants, it brings out the worst in their performance. Here are some things that you have to look for in youth baseball pants:
1. As mentioned, comfort is of utmost importance
As already mentioned, comfort is of primary importance because performance depends on this. A player that is uncomfortable with what he is wearing is likely to perform badly. Discomfort can hamper focus and along with it goes good performance. For this reason, the piped pant style is favored among baseball players because the piping ensures that the pants stay in place. Champro has some good youth baseball pants.
2. Check the materials of the pants
The typical material for youth baseball pants is polyester and poly cotton – both of these two are great. Poly cotton may be the better one because of the ventilation comfort that only cotton can provide.
3. Choose a pair of pants with good padding
Padding provides protection from injuries as it absorbs all the impact that your child can experience in the game. Being sure that the crotch area is well protected, at all times, is vital. Just because baseball is a tamer sport compared to other contact sports, this doesn’t mean that injuries are not experienced from time to time so adequate protection is necessary.
4. The pants should fit your child
Finding a pair of pants that fits your child is a bit difficult because they grow so fast. It’s wrong to buy them something bigger just to save money and because their performance may be affected with the bigger size pants. Even if it means constant replacement and more expense, buying a pair of pants that fits according to his age and height, is of paramount importance.
The pair of pants should be checked after each game for wear and tear and for parts that have been blemished. The padding may need replacement or patching and failing do this, may cause your child to incur some injuries because the pants no longer provide the protection that they need.
Youth baseball training drills aid players in learning the basic skills of the game which when mastered, will give them the edge during the game and will allow them to develop more complex techniques on their own. Mastery of skills is important and the knowledge of baseball drills are also important when coaching baseball.
1. The tag-up drill
The tag-up drill only needs three players; the base runner the catcher and the outfielder. Give the outfielder a pop fly ball and tell the base runner to run to home plate as soon as the ball is caught. This drill will teach many basic skills; for the runner, when to run and when to slide. This drill will also instruct the catcher and the outfielder what they need to do during a pop fly balls.
2. The Cut-off drill
To perform this drill, the ball is hit to the outfield. The outfielder throws the ball to the cut-off infielder and they throw it to the catcher at home plate. Repeating this drill with variations to all outfield positions, left-center or deep right, with the same instruction for the corresponding infielders and outfielders is good. This drill teaches players how to hit the cut-off man when throwing the ball back to the infield and for performing the correct relay throws.
3. The up-the-middle drill
The up-the-middle drill is for a slugger who swings at the ball a little too late and for those who swing too early on the pitched ball. Put a cone in between the first and second base and another cone in between the second and third base. The cones will serve as targets. Each time the batter bats, he must try to hit the ball between the two cones on the side of the field that the coach instructs him to. Continual practice of this hitting drill will help players timing and decrease their negative hitting tendencies.
As you might have already observed, these drills teach the basic skills which are central to the game like base running, catching, throwing and hitting. When your child is able to master these fundamental hitting, throwing and fielding drills, you can expect them to grow into an exemplary player.
The purpose of youth baseball is not all about winning the game, even though many parents and coaches do not believe this. Many get so fired up with the excitement, to the point that they push players to win the game at all cost. The purpose of youth baseball is for the kids to play with each other, learn the fundamentals of the game and other things like teamwork and sportsmanship. With this in mind, the rules are designed towards allowing every player to have a chance for plate appearances and fielding chances.
1. Mandatory play
It is a requirement for youth baseball coaches and managers to let all their players play. Players must to play at least two full innings with at least one appearance at the plate. This rule is not applied when the game is shortened by rain or when the mercy rule is enforced. In little league baseball, when the coach or manager does not allow a player to play, he can be suspended for two games. Travel leagues do not always have such rules, unfortunately.
2. Pitching rules
It has been a common experience among good young pitchers to be unable to play when they reach high school because of arm injury and because of this, pitching rules are, or should be, enforced in youth baseball. First, pitchers should not be allowed to pitch beyond 75 pitches in a game. If a pitcher has pitched 51 to 75 pitches, they needs to rest for three calendar days before they pitch again. If they pitch 31 to 50 pitches, the rest period is two calendar days and one calendar day if 16 to 30 pitches. The pitcher can pitch the next day if he has thrown 15 pitches.
3. Safety equipments
Every batter that comes to the plate must replace the cap with a protective helmet. When the player reaches the base, he still wears the helmet. The same is required the moment he leaves the dugout. Although face masks are not required on the helmets, it is heavily encouraged. The catchers must wear a catcher’s mask with a throat protector, shin guard and chest protector which looks much like armor.
In the US, there are so many youth baseball camps like the Northern California Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth, Jenks, Frenship and Dixie Youth Baseball. The 1st Dixie Youth Baseball and Softball camp originated in South Carolina in 1955 as a break away from the all-white Little League organization in Pennsylvania. This organization has the main purpose of providing preteens with a baseball program. By 1962, what was known as Little Boys Baseball Inc. was changed to Dixie Youth Baseball Inc.
In its humble beginnings, Dixie Youth Baseball was initially 12 leagues with 573 teams but as time passed and the road paved, it spread like a virus and has become the second largest pre-teen baseball association in the world. Perhaps the catalyst of this success is the fact that it has overcome racial and ethnic boundaries that plagued Little League at that time. Some of the most famous players of Dixie Youth Baseball are Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Reggie Sanders.
Today, The Dixie Youth Baseball tournament has hundreds of Leagues in various Southern States like; Laguna, Grapevine and Lufkin Texas, Goodlettsville Tennessee, Williamsburg Virginia, Montgomery and Hudson Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Alabama, Midlands SC and Louisiana and Midwest like Minnesota, Michigan, Louisville, Glenview and Lexington Kentucky, with the welfare of youth the primary goal. This organization is governed by a National Board of Directors, all elected from its affiliated leagues. As opposed to other similar organizations, Dixie Youth Baseball officials do not receive any salary and are volunteers with a mind for service and the welfare of the youth that they are working with.
The best feature of Dixie Youth Baseball, which sets it apart from other youth baseball organizations, is that it sponsors educational scholarship grants for former players. Those who get this scholarship are players who have the highest recommendation from their coaches and are able to prove that they need the scholarship. The scholarship programs are made possible by the excess of funds from membership fees and other sources of revenue. In case you are having trouble finding the next Dixie Youth Baseball tournament, there is no need to travel far because you can simply use an online locator.