Armstrong Athletics offers Divisions of Play in the following National organizations:
Little League Baseball
Little League Baseball is a global organization spanning over six continents. Virtually every state in the United States has leagues throughout. Each league has a board of directors; positions are usually filled by parents that have kids in the league. The coaching staff of each team in the league is mostly made up of parents of one or two kids on the team (or in the league). Even though there are parents who are good coaches, the majority of Little League coaches are first time baseball coaches and learning on the fly.
The Little League game schedule usually consists of around 15 and 20 games with each game consisting of 6 innings. Players are required to do tryouts and the coaches do a draft assigning all registered players to a team for the season. As a parent, unless you are the coach, you have no control of what team your son or daughter will play on or what coach they will play for (unless you get to know coaches ahead of time and lobby for your child to get picked by them…but even that is relative control as someone else could draft your child ahead of your preferred coach).
In Little League, player age can differ by as much as 3 years within a division. The younger players within each division often lack physical maturity and ability to compete with the older players and it can be hard for them to socialize and interact with the older players in that division because of the emotional maturity difference. The younger players find themselves spending more time on the bench, even though there are playing time requirements.
For tee ball, the entire roster of players present for the game bat in rotation and get equal playing time in the field. For all levels afterward, every player on the roster is required to play a minimum of 6 defensive outs in the field and must have at least 1 at bat every game throughout the season (Rules as of 2017). The field dimensions progressively get bigger as the players get older, but the rules do not change much, once the players advance past tee ball.
Little League is the biggest and most well-known league which has only gotten more exposure when ESPN started showing the entire Little League World Series on its network.
Here is a breakdown of the field dimensions that Little League Baseball uses:
Little League Baseball Field Dimensions
|Division Name||Age of Players||Distance Between Bases||Distance Between Pitcher’s Mound and Home Plate|
|Tee Ball||4 and 5 years old, (league option for underdeveloped 6 and 7 year olds)||60 Feet (league option for 50 Foot bases)||Hit off a tee, no player pitching|
|Minor League||7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old (league option for well-developed 6 year olds)||60 Feet||46 Feet (league option for machine pitch or coach pitch)|
|Major Division||9, 10, 11 and 12 years old (league option to allow 9 and/or 10-year olds.||60 Feet||46 Feet|
|Junior Division||12, 13 and 14 years old||90 Feet||60 Feet, 6 inches|
Pony Baseball is a nationally run organization that originally formed as a bridge from Little League to high school baseball. It provided 13 and 14 year olds the opportunity to transition to the regulation size diamond in preparation for high school baseball. As popularity increased, Pony started adding divisions starting with an 11 and 12 division then a 9 and 10 division, next a 7 and 8 division and their youngest division, 3 to 6. Pony now offers a 15 and 16 division, a 17 and 18 division and a 19 to 23 division which are geared towards high school and college aged players.
As you can see, most divisions only include two age groups which mean that the players are relatively close in age, maturity level and ability. This creates less of a spread in ability which makes the games more competitive and beneficial for the players. This is one of the biggest advantages of playing Pony Baseball when compared to Little League.
For the youth levels (3 to 14 years old), teams consist of between 12 and 15 players. For the older divisions, teams can have up to 25 players on their rosters. All divisions up to the 9 and 10 division play 6 innings per games while the 11 and 12 division (and higher divisions) play 7 inning games. All teams play a minimum of 12 games per season and can play as many as 25 games in a season.
Depending on the type of Pony league, teams can be formed by either holding organizational tryouts where the coaches, usually parents, draft their roster similar to Little League or a coach can register their pre-assembled team in the league to play against other pre-assembled teams. The teams that register in pre-assembled Pony leagues are usually travel ball teams that want to play in a league or a parent that wants to create their own team and have all of their kid’s friends on the same team.
There are limited participation rules in Pony Baseball; but each league does things differently. Many leagues suggest that each player plays at least 2 innings per game but most leagues do not have playing requirements. Pony uses “real baseball rules” – teaching baserunners from age 9 how to properly lead off and steal bases. Pitchers are taught how to hold runners and utilize pick offs to keep the base runners close. Even though this provides young players with the ability to practice these skills, it puts a lot of added pressure on the pitchers and takes away from their ability to focus on throwing strikes – throwing strikes is the most important part of the success of youth baseball (game flow, hitting, pitching…all of it). One key difference between Little League and Pony Baseball is that Pony Baseball scales the size of the baseball field to the physical capabilities of the players in each division. The distance between bases, pitching distance and homerun fence distances are based off experimentation; they resemble the probability of major leaguers’ reaction time and capability to make the same plays. Because of these dimensions, infielders and outfielders play in a position proportionate to that played by major league players and have relatively the same time to react. Here is a breakdown of the field dimensions that Pony Baseball uses:
Pony Baseball Field Dimensions
|Age of Players||Distance Between Bases||Distance Between Pitcher ‘s Mound and Home Plate|
|5 and 6 years old||50 Feet||No Player Pitching|
|7 and 8 years old||50 Feet||No Player Pitching|
|9 and 10 years old||60 Feet||44 Feet|
|11 and 12 years old||70 Feet||48 Feet|
|13 and 14 years old||80 Feet||54 Feet|