The Baseball Hierarchy
Kids participate in sports for a variety of reasons. Every kid is different, and every kid has different skill levels. Some kids enjoy the amount of social time they get to spend with their friends outside of school. Some kids love to meet new friends to play with. Some kids just love to play sports and will play any sport just to be doing something.
Then there are the kids who are just plain good at baseball. Whether their talent is natural, or they have worked very hard to become good, it’s only fair to these talented kids that they have the opportunity to explore their interest in baseball and thrive in a situation where they can play against kids with the same level of interest and skill as they have. If kids are not challenged, then they will lose interest.
You can’t force your kids to love sports; you can’t force them to be good at sports. However, you can provide them with the opportunity to decide for them if these sports are something they would like to pursue and develop for them. In searching for teams with like-minded kids and parents there are different levels of baseball to consider getting your kid involved in.
Many kids start out as early as age 5 by playing tee-ball. Playing with a tee gives the kids a chance to develop the hand-eye coordination and swing techniques without having to worry about being hit by a pitched ball. Kids learn the basic technical rules of baseball, and get to play various positions defensively. Towards the end of the tee-ball program when kids are getting ready to level-up, sometimes the coach will step in as a pitcher to familiarize kids with having to hit from a pitch. The tee is usually nearby and brought back in if a child is having a difficult time getting a hit from the pitch. The goal is to keep confidence high, yet prepare them for the next stage of the sport.
Typically around the age of 8, kids begin playing in the “A Division” of recreational league teams. Anyone is allowed on the team, and everyone gets a chance to play. Everyone is encouraged to explore their talents, and often kids get to play each position so they can feel out what they enjoy and where their talents lie.
A step up from the recreational leagues is the “AA Division” teams. These teams have try-outs to permit more competitive play, and they typically play against other local and regional teams. A typical age range for this division is ages 9-11. This level is great for kids who have basic skills in hitting, catching and throwing, and a basic understanding of the rules of the game. This may be the first time that game scores and player stats are kept track, putting a little more pressure on the kids to do their best, and not just show up to have fun.
Triple A Division
The last level of official Minor League Baseball in Little League, this level is geared toward kids age 9-12 who are ready to improve their skills while in a highly competitive environment. League standings are kept, and kids are watched by managers who will draft them into the next level of game play based on the quality of their current abilities. These teams are more competitive and often travel to state or national tournaments.
Major League Baseball is the highest level of competition in Little League. Any league players age 10-12 are eligible; however players must be drafted to this league by a manager. Once a kid is drafted to a Major League team, that kid remains playing for that team for the rest of his Little League career. This league is for the top competitive teams in the country.
These divisions and age ranges are somewhat flexible and may be better based on a child’s ability and skill set rather than age. Check your local programs to find out what they offer, as programs differ from area to area. No matter what division your child will thrive in, be prepared to help practice with your child at home, become involved in their practices, and possibly be a team coach. This is potentially a great way to interact with and teach your child a lifelong skill.