Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hooray for 50/70 Baseball!

In 2007 Cal Ripken Baseball decided to increase the base and pitching distances for their Majors division which on the recreation level is primarily made up of 11 and 12 year olds. They also did this with the 12 year old District level. The idea was to offer a interim step for kids moving up to the “big field”. After going through a season of recreation and travel baseball coaching on this new field configuration here are a few observations…

Because of the new age rules which resulted in older players playing in younger leagues, this increased size helps make the game more challenging for the older/larger/stronger players. Pitchers learn to how to hold runners on and about balk rules…Catchers and infielders learn to make adjustments when runners are on base… Base runners learning to lead and read pitchers… All in all learning these skills a year earlier may keep kids in the game longer. Moving up the big field is hard enough without having to learn the new pitching / leading / base running skills at the same time.

One consideration leagues should make when constructing their 50/70 fields is to move the fences back to 220’. The normal 200’ fences are too short for the 12 year olds who now have 4 more feet to react to pitching. Games can become home run fests which doesn’t really help the kids learn the game. Also, having the shorter fence cuts down on doubles & triples dramatically since outfielders can get the ball in to 2nd or 3rd from the fence fairly quickly. Towns should consider moving the fences back or adding height to them.

The other issue I noticed is that the 10 extra feet in the base paths seems to be more of an advantage to the runners vs. the fielders (mainly the catcher). Players are talking a lead of about 8-10 feet, therefore they are still stealing a 60 foot base. Catchers however have to throw an additional 8 feet to 2nd. Thus teams with aggressive running strategies seem to gain an advantage. I guess the positive part of this is it teaches pitchers, catchers and infielders to be more aware of base runners.

This year CRB has decided to allow 11 year olds to play 50/70 in district competition. We’ll see how this experiment turns out. Note.. For both 11s and 12s CRB has a 46/60 district tournament as well. Leagues can have separate teams participating at both levels..

For reasons I can’t understand Little League Baseball has not yet adopted 50/70 for the 11/12’s age group. One would think they would dovetail CRB’s idea fairly quickly but again in 2008 they will have their traditional 45/60 field for all 12 and under divisions. I’ve noticed a number of towns switching charters from Little League to Cal Ripken probably due to this issue. LLB needs to move forward with 50/70 ASAP. While they might have to reconfigure Howard J. Lamade Stadium in the long run it will help all of the kids who play under the Little League umbrella.

All in all the 50/70 experience is a positive one. It keeps the kids interested in the game by adding some complexity and skill requirement at an earlier age. It also helps kids develop and learn the skills needed to play on the big field.

Coach Bob

1 comment:

Sam said...

50/70 is good for the elite players, but the average 11/12 year old is better served by playin on Little League's 46/60. I know of several towns that left LL for 50/70 and came back because they realized that their average players could not handle the increased dimensions.