What comes after little league for young players?


#1

Wondering what the next step is for kids in your area following little league ball? When kids turn 13 years old in your area, do they move on to Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, AAU, select or travel teams, or some other organized league setting?

For me in Upstate NY, we went Little League > Babe Ruth > American Legion in the summers, and of course school ball in the spring – 7th/8th grade > Freshman > JV > Varsity


#2

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as my son finished Little League last summer, July 2014, when his LL All Stars season ended. Problem was, he had just finished LL and 6th grade, leaving two full baseball seasons ahead of him (during grades 7 and 8) before he reached high school.

Our Little League has a Senior League for 13-15 year olds on the 60/90 diamond, which he could have played in, but it doesn’t have a great reputation. Likewise, there is a Cal Ripken League nearby, also on the 60/90 diamond, but I knew little about it. Then there are some travel teams, which practice little during the week and play multiple games on weekends, a model that I believe poses excessive injury risk to young pitchers like my son.

One day I came across a friend who is the manager of a Single-A minor league team. He said that since my son is only 13 and was going to have two full seasons ahead of him on the “big field” before high school (during grades 7 and 8), his season during 7th grade would be a “mulligan year”, an “extra year” that many kids do not have after LL (they have only their 8th grade season before high school). He said I should take advantage of my son’s “mulligan year” and just let him adjust to the big field, play first base and outfield (he’s a lefty), work on his batting, and not pitch (yes, not pitch).

I took my friend up on his advice, and this past 2015 season I put my son (while only in 7th grade) on a 14U team run by the local high school coach as a developmental “feeder” team for his high school. The team was all kids out of LL, most of them 14 and in 8th grade, some like my son 13 and in 7th grade. They practiced, trained, and played on the high school 60/90 field, and best of all got to scrimmage with the coach’s high school JV team. Virtually all the pitchers were 14 to 15, some from the high school JV team. So, my son got to bat against older and bigger pitchers than he would have faced on any 13U travel team!

The hardest decision was not letting my son pitch from the 60’ mound at 13. But, after discussing the matter with my Single-A manager friend, my neighbor who is a former DI college pitcher, a former MLB pitcher (pitched in the World Series) who lives in my town, an orthopedic doctor friend who sees many youth pitcher arm injuries, and of course my son, we decided that this past year (during 7th grade) my son would focus on adjusting to the “big field”, throwing the greater distances, position play, and batting, and not pitch.

It has been the best decision we could have made. My son did a lot of throwing - throwing, not pitching - at the greater distances of the 60/90 field, and his arm strength has skyrocketed. When I go out and throw with him, I am astounded at how much harder he is throwing. And, his batting has really taken off, as he has been able to spend more time working on it.

Now that my son has one season under his belt on the “big field”, he’ll be back next year with the same 14U high school “feeder” team for a second season (his 8th grade), and return to the bump at that time.

Like I said, the decision not to pitch from 60’ at 13 was tough. As a lefty, it’s what he does best. But we took the long-term approach, foregoing youth glory for adult health. After watching three of my son’s colleagues sustain elbow and shoulder injuries when they jumped from the 46’ LL mound at 12 to the 60’ mound at 13, I know we made the right decision. My son is strong and healthy, has grown like a weed this past season (growth spurts are not the best time to be pitching anyway), and he is excited to return to the mound next year, still only in 8th grade.

Mariano Rivera didn’t pitch until he was 20. My son is 13. :smile:


#3

Basketball and Lacrosse come to mind. Besides basketball, my son moved on to Martial Arts and Javelin throwing this spring. Prefers the one-on-one coaching instead of sitting on the bench being ignored because he doesn’t throw a curve or is not part of the good ole boys network.

Unfortunately, baseball has lost the lure to attract and keep middle school and HS kids… Major League games are too expensive, it’s boring on TV, and youth/HS coaches fill out the lineup card but fail to invest in their kids. For kids to play beyond LL, parents need to ante up and pay the travel league costs, provide individual lessons, etc. Coaches today are not teachers. They stay in the good-ole boy network, ignoring kids who were not pre-chosen at the age of 8, and showing a blind eye to any talent that would interfere with their plans.

Fortunately, there are many options besides baseball. And once a kid moves on, I’m not sure how to get him back.


#4

Around here there is a local league for 13-14 years old. Over the past few years more and more have opted to play travel & forgo the league. My son is a rising Jr and believe 4 non travel players were selected by school team out of 20 taken in his Freshman class. I think last year it was 1 out of 16 & this year was 0 out of 20 picked from the local league. Whether fair or not and whether coaches will say; there is a perceived difference between travel & rec league players. Not sure if its the same around the country but here to have a chance to play school ball kids better play travel. There is no 7th & 8th grade school ball here.


#5

In SW Missouri there is no Little League - you either play rec league at the park board or play competitively on a USSSA team - sometimes both. Many of our local high schools are now forming club teams from around 10U - 13U that will play USSSA leagues and tournaments. High school ball starts the summer after 8th grade with Rookie/Freshmen playing what equates to Legion ball - however, many will bypass school ball in the summer to play for one of the local travel clubs. While the travel clubs will see more consistently better competition, the school summer teams enter enough outside tournaments to still see some good competition.


#6

After LL here there is Cal Ripken and then Babe Ruth. There is no middle school teams for any sports except basketball, wrestling and track and field.
I cannot remember if there is an overlap in the age in LL and Cal Ripken or not. I enjoy the Babe Ruth league. One of the things I like about this league is the fact pretty much everyone is gonna play. The coaching is hit and miss (although this is true for all levels including high school) but league is hanging in there and has solid numbers. In the last 5 years the number of travel ball “organizations” has gone from 2 (one with a full slate of teams, from 9U to 19U and one with a 12U and 14U only) to like 8 travel ball organizations. This is in an area with a population of only about 220,000 with in 30 min drive. Way too many, so, the talent is watered down there as well. Most of the “organizations” are not good in my estimation. One is well run and has solid coaching, the other is run in a shabby way (to me) but again the coaching is solid.
I was thinking of doing some coaching at the Babe Ruth level, I enjoy working with kids that age and I do enjoy the league.
As a previous poster mentioned lacrosse is growing here although still in a minor sport. From what I can see there is more baseball than ever where I am. Little League, Cal Ripkin, Babe Ruth, Travel ball and High School ball are all doing well. I keep hearing about soccer taking over baseball and I just don’t see it at least on the amateur level. There is a large sports complex close to where I live that hosts softball, soccer, baseball and football tournaments. There are baseball tournaments, sometimes more than one, nearly every weekend from March to October and maybe one or two soccer tournaments a summer.


#7

Unfortunately, the people who have the free time to coach just don’t make the most of it. It frustrates me to see coaches “phoning it in.”

I spend more time with kids than the coaches do and I have almost zero free time.


#8

Amen CoachPaul…
See this quite a bit even with guys that are getting paid.
Summer ball team is good, but, they play so damn many games there isn’t much time for practice. Had a couple of guys interested in doing the program my son has been doing. Actually got the coach to agree to let POs know when they are starting a week ahead so they can organize training around it. Invited a couple of the guys to get on the throwing program.
So, show up, explain it them, watch a couple of sessions to offer tweeks ect. Investing over an hour several times a week and I love it. After a couple of weeks all the guys stopped showing up…so, needs to be a two way street I guess.