Good news for baseball fans! In the younger age groups there has been a slight uptick in baseball participation. Hopefully this will continue! Baseball is fortunate now to have two rookies
Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger who may become the face of Major League baseball. Everything adds up. Baseball has also been pushing their “Play Ball” program to try and increase participation. We’ve seen baseball lose players to lacrosse and soccer over the last decade. Until we see lacrosse players switch to baseball, it is still a big challenge to retain young players.
Retaining players all starts in t-ball. Leagues have got to give their t-ball coaches the best instruction possible. Remember that t-ball will be the first involvement on an organized team for many. I’d like t-ball to consider four small changes.
1.Softer balls and no gloves. Yes, you saw it right! How about the first quarter of the season have the players play the game with their bare hands. Combine that with a softer and maybe bigger ball. Remember that catching balls bare-handed is the best way to learn fundamentals. After say four or five games, players then play with their gloves.
2. Make bases 20% bigger. I’ve been a huge proponent of this for a long time. Bigger bases means less collisions. Also let’s color or label each base. My idea is to make them red, white and blue. Some t-ballers will know the color of the flag before they understand baserunning. First base is red, second is white and third is blue. Home can also be white. Also write right on the base in huge letters 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Home.
3. An alternate bigger ball. Players even at 5 and 6 will vary in ability. Let’s use a bigger ball for some or even everyone for a few games.
4.Bat 1-12, them 12-1. I started this in our t-ball league which played 3 innings. My theory was the number 11 and 12 hitters don’t experience the baserunning. After they get to bat, it’s time to take the field.
5. Consider only 6 on a team. How about only infielders in t-ball? Most of the balls are not hit to the outfield. Or better yet play with only infielders the first half of the season and then field both infielders and outfielders the second half of the season.
T-Ball is one of the most fun organized games around. There are tons of what people of my generation would call “Kodak Moments.” I’ve seen people who never even smile have a small change in their personality and look like they are having fun! Fun can be contagious. Parents who are competitive will have plenty of time for that in a couple of years. Let’s tweak t-ball to keep players engaged and to keep them playing the great game of baseball.
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