By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
Games will look more like high school and pro baseball
Kids are getting bigger and bigger.
Anyone who watches Little League baseball realizes that players are literally outgrowing the fields they play on. More and more, you see kids who are 11, 12 and 13 years old standing 6 feet tall or more and weighing in close to 200 pounds.
Allied Gardens Little league officials have decided to accept that trend, and are moving the big kids into what’s called the Intermediate division set up about 10 years ago by Little League International.
That means, first of all, a bigger playing field.
“We look at it as a matter of safety, first of all,” said league president Pete Famolaro. “The mound is 50 feet from home plate, instead of 45. The baserunning distance is 70 feet instead of 60, and the outfield fences are 225 feet instead of 200. It’ll also look a lot more like regular baseball. It’s more of a hitter’s league, which all the kids want anyway.”
One of the major safety factors will be some restrictions on what kind of bats players can use. So-called “hot bats,” designed for superior power, will be unusable. Some leagues may even return to wooden bats.
Among other changes, players will no longer have to stay on base until a pitch crosses home plate. They’ll be able to take leads off the bases, steal if they think they can do it. Pitchers will have to learn to pitch from a stretch to hold runners. In short, just like high school baseball and the pros. Balks by a pitcher, not called in Little League, will be in Intermediates.
Games will be seven innings rather than six.
Until the last year or so, the Intermediate division was more or less a well-kept secret. Not all that many knew about it.
They didn’t know that the Intermediate division has its own World Series –– not in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, but in Livermore, California. (A South Korean team won it all last year.)
“We thought about doing this last year, but there was really no competition for us until North Park Little League made the change last season. Now, with at least two leagues in our Little League district playing Intermediate, there’s local competition available,” Famolaro said.
Famolaro thinks more and more Little Leagues will make the decision to enlarge their fields and take up Intermediate ball. He believes Escondido, San Carlos and 4S Ranch are among leagues considering this move.
It will also help the kids make the transition from Little League fields to high school and travelball regulation distances.
Allied Gardens is certainly not walking away from the several programs they offer for younger children.
The BubbaBall and T-ball programs for the 4 through 7 year olds will remain as is.
The 8,9, and 10 year olds’ programs will remain with a few changes, but nothing major.
Does this rule out the Majors Division, which is the division that currently sends players to All-Star teams that could wind up in Williamsport? No, it doesn’t, not completely.
Many leagues nationwide have allowed Intermediate players to step back and play in the Majors divisions for purposes of going to Williamsport. Little League International has wisely allowed local leagues and districts to work that out among themselves.
Parents will be able to make decisions about where they want their kids to play, so long as the kids fit into the age restrictions rules.
By Opening Day on Feb. 27, Famolaro thinks the league will be up and ready to run with the Intermediate program.
“It’ll look a whole lot more like the baseball we all grew up playing and watching, and it’ll be fun,” said Famolaro. “And that’s a good thing.”
Walk-in registrations for the upcoming Little League season were held Dec. 5 and 15. If you still wish to enroll your child in Little League, visit aglittleleague.org for online signup. Early registration saves you $10 and ends Dec. 31.
––Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Write to him at email@example.com.