I’m sure most of us enjoy watching Little Leaguers showcase their talent on ESPN every summer, but I never have.
Here’s why: there is baseball already being played at a higher level than what your watching for the same age group. The fence is further back, base paths are longer, lead offs are allowed, as well as stealing and pick offs. To me this lends itself to produce a more competitive game.
An early start on learning the true rythm of a baseball game can be the difference. That’s not to suggest that guys from Little League can’t go on to have successful high school, college and professional careers. I’ve seen the graphic on ESPN that shows which Big League’er played in the Little League World Series as a kid. It can happen (Pictured from top to bottom:Ali Castillo, Gary Sheffield and Jurickson Profar). It’s just my belief that if two ten-year olds are playing two different versions of baseball and one uses the same rules as the professionals (for the most part) that has got to provide some decided advantage.
It is my experience that kids molded from a traditional baseball program had far more success over the entirety of their baseball careers. I started out in Little League. No leading off or stealing. That always bothered me because I would watch Major League Baseball on TV and see them leading off and stealing, then wonder why I’m not affored the same luxury in my league.
Thankfully by the time I was 11 years old my mother finally grew tired of me begging her to make the switch to what I called “real baseball” and let me join the crosstown league where all my elementary school buddies played. Once I made the switch it was like learning a new game in a sense and I actually HAD a concept of “real baseball” rules to begin with.
Being able to lead off and steal with the threat of becoming an out adds a new element of awareness to the game, thus requiring added skill. Being able to swipe a bag with two outs, while getting into scoring position can be the difference between a win and a loss. Conversely, as a pitcher, developing a good pick off move can save you outs and also be the difference in the game. Both are reasons why starting your son, cousin, nephew in a traditional league is so important. Imagine a kid on the bubble, not too sure if he even wants to spend this much time playing baseball? It could lose him. I saw it happen to many decent ball players who couldnt adjust by the time we got to Pony ball.
Baseball is such a mental game. As you progress, the less you should have to think and the more things should become second nature. I also can say from personal experience, that the level of competition in Little League didn’t even compare. My new league had guys hitting bombs with regularity as well as kids who could K 10-plus a game. Now one could make the arguement that perhaps my community was in a “golden era” if you will and all the best players happen to end up in the more advanced league. I can tell you having been affiliated with both styles, that Little Leagues’ by design don’t promote heathly competition as well as traditional leagues and thus don’t produce the same level of talent. If you truly envision your loved one making it on the high school, college or professional level one thing is certain, he or she better not be scared of competition. Its estimated that 1 out of every 15,000 little league or youth baseball players make it to the Bigs so competition is immense. (Source: http://EzineArticles.com/2025326. )
I’m curious to know what the opinions of others are, especially from guys who made it this far, both comming from Little League as well as Youth baseball leagues. Or anyone who has any kind of expertise or knowledge in this area…You can keep the conversation rolling by reaching out to me on twitter @ImInTheGameQA
The Tenth Man,