Leading off base?

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  • Why does Little League prevent the runners from leading off? Or stealing? A 10 ft chalk line for leading off starting in the Minors (9-10 year olds) would be great!

    Our league is starting to see an outflow of the better players to AAU, Nations, Pony and other Travel leagues due to some of the restrictions that Little League imposes on the game.

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  • Jobie;

    In my opinion allowing 9-10 yr olds to lead off will turn the game into a free for all. At least around here, we don't see many 10 yr olds that can throw out runners without leads, let alone giving them a 10' jump on a 60' base path. Additionally, most kids at that age are just struggling to throw strikes without worrying about having to hold runners.

    There is no restriction on stealing once the ball reaches the batter. Does your league have some local rule that limits stealing?

  • Because if a runner were allowed to lead off from 60', stealing second and third would be too easy. Couple that with teaching pitchers to hold runners on, and catchers to throw runners out, and the game becomes more about runners.

    I've worked rec leagues (PONY), that do that on the 60' diamond. Any walk turns into a runner on third within two pitches. The games are quite dull, and drawn out.

    Your league isn't losing players because of the size of the field. It's losing players because of the product you're selling. Sure, part of it may be the lure of "real baseball", but not all. Most of it is probably due to facilities, league management, snackbar, location, coaching ability, etc.

  • I agree, lead offs at 9 and 10 on a 60' base path are a bad idea. Lets not forget that LL is about letting everyone play, have fun and learning the game. IMO pretty much in that order. If you started requiring kids to learn how to hold runners on base, how to pitch out on a steal, etc you now have more things you need to teach the kids. This will take time away from being able to teach them the fundamentals. When I was coaching my kids at that age I barely had enough time in practice to teach my pitchers the proper way to throw from the stretch, let alone with teaching pitchers how to hold the runner, how not to Balk, etc.

    I would rather spend my time teaching the kids proper throwing technique, proper batting technique, how to hit a cut off properly, the proper position for the cut off man, etc. Once those skills are mastered then move on to the skills required for stealing, etc.

    At 9 and 10 there are a lot of kids of all skill levels. That is magnified by the fact that LL is rec ball and all kids get to play. If you went full on baseball rules at a younger age then the less coordinated kids would be lagging behind and would be turned off to the game at a young age.

  • I disagree with the OP, 60 feet is just too short of a distance to allow leads, its difficult enough to throw kids out without leads. Every ball that is not caught cleanly is pretty much a free base with the exception of the catcher with a cannon and/or extremely slow runners. Even infielders have to field every ball pretty much cleanly to have a shot at getting most runners out.

    the 50/70 game is where a player will first experience within LL, real baseball. That is If your league has 50/70

    you'd be surprised what a difference 10 feet makes. Not only does it make it much more difficult to steal but infielders have a much better chance at throwing guys out as well.

  • I agree 100% that allowing lead-offs and straight stealing on the 60ft base paths is unrealistic. But, at least in our area (South Texas), we have definitely lost many players to the lure of what they term "real baseball." I do hope the Intermediate Division can at least slow this a bit, but I may just be fooling myself...

  • I really don't get these parents that want their kids to leave Little League for 'real baseball'. My son played Little League all the way through 12 years and did travel starting at 11 where you can lead off. He loved it of course because he could easily steal almost every time on base. He's now almost 14 and it's the same thing with 50/70. Easy steals for just about anyone who makes it to first. When you have runners on 1st and 3rd it is almost AUTOMATIC that the runner on 1st will be at 2nd on the 1st or 2nd pitch. Someone please tell me how is that REAL baseball? It's Boring! Maybe teams can allow 15 year olds to catch.. that way you won't have so many easy steals.

  • Bruce, how is it any different in 60 foot

    Runners on 1st and 3rd in 60 foot, that runner is at 2nd on the first pitch

    At least in 70 foot you have a chance (albeit small) to pick them off, in 60 foot that is not an option. I think there is a greater chance to throw down to 2nd without that runner scoring or having a play where you can come back home with the ball with greater chance of success than 60 foot.

    My personal opinion is that extra 10 feet is enough to prevent the "automatic" steals. I'm not saying its fool proof but that ten feet is significant enough to make a difference

  • Yes, obviously 70 feet is better than 60. Little League is correct of not allowing lead offs for Majors and Minors. At 13, let's see what they can do... but if you watch 13 and 14 year olds play there are at least 10 steals a game. Just wish more attention was paid to the development of catchers as much as they do with pitchers.

  • " When you have runners on 1st and 3rd it is almost AUTOMATIC that the runner on 1st will be at 2nd on the 1st or 2nd pitch."

    Real easy to fix. When the runner breaks on the pitch, pitcher crouches down like the catcher is going to throw to 2nd. Everyone yells "get him". At the last minute the pitcher pops up and "intercepts" the throw down to 2nd. By now the runner on third has broken for home. Nice easy out at the plate.

    Or you can have the SS break towards 2nd. Instead of going directly towards the base he comes in half way between 2nd and the mound. He intercepts the throw and can make a choice to go home with the ball for the out at the plate or go to 2nd for the out there.

    Execute this properly a couple of times and teams will think before trying to take 2nd on you.

  • I was once the President of a PONY League that used the lead-off/steal option at the younger ages (9-10).

    A walk or single basically turned into a triple in two pitches for most runners.

    It was "not" fun to watch and the kids were not learning "real baseball" since runners never steal 2nd and 3rd every time they get on base.

    The problem with 9-10s is that the catcher's arm is not strong enough to get a throw to second quickly enough to get a runner "off with the pitch" from first. Not only that, you're asking a 9-10 to field the throw and make the tag.

    Remember, most LL players are NOT All Stars.

    Heck, it's hard for an 11-12 to throw out a runner on a 60' field if the runner can lead off and steal.

  • Thanks for all the replies. I didn't think about the extra 10 ft and being able to throw them out. Yes it is difficult to throw them out, if the runner knows how to run the bases, and it's and accurate throw.

    I am just a little frustrated since most of these boys that have decided to go play travel I have been coaching for the past 3-4 seasons.....Maybe I am the problem or maybe, just maybe I have helped produce some good products and the travel coaches have poached them! I am hoping the latter is true.

    Thanks again for the replies......frustration is now gone and Let's Play BALL!

  • At 11 and 12 in travel or PONY, a decent catcher should cut down on a lot of the stealing, but the bases are farther than 60 feet.

    The problem, as others have stated, is that LL is rec ball on a small field. The rules have to be that way to prevent a steal fest.

  • "It's losing players because of the product you're selling. Sure, part of it may be the lure of "real baseball", but not all. Most of it is probably due to facilities, league management, snackbar, location, coaching ability, etc."

    That's unfair and rather untrue in a lot of cases. Huge generalization, and also unfair because LL dictates much of the "product" that leagues are allowed to sell.

  • Our facilities are not lacking by any means. We hosted the 9-10 District Tournament last spring and were commended on how nice the fields and park are!

    Most of our coaches are top notch coaches and understand the game very well.

  • Trying to throw out runners on 60 ft base paths with leads is really hard. (Heck, I've had some players who could almost take a base every time without leading.)

    An eight foot lead and going with the pitch give the runner a huge advantage.

    70 ft is better, but only some.

    I think the 51-75 is a best size.

    Throwing out runners at 70 is tough even for the older kids, but at 75 it is much more of a game.

    Seems 50-70 is more popular down south. I've seen more 51-75 in the north, though that seems to be changing because of LL new division.

  • Joe, NEITHER of those really work on the 46/60' diamond. Maybe they will work at 50/70. Sometimes they fail at 90' with the 13s...

    If you have the pitcher intercept the throw and "get" the runner at 3b, that will happen once, and never again once teams know you do it. Plus, the runner from 1b is at 2b.

    If you have the 2b or SS intercept the throw, are you suggesting you will get the runner from 1b at 2b ? With TWO throws when ONE wasn't going to get him anyways ?

    I've done 9-10 50/70 games, and 46/60 games with leading and stealing. Ridiculous. 2 pitches and any runner at 1b is at 3b. Or home.

  • Ok/ Let's clear up a little something here. "Real" baseball is on a 60/90 field. Baseball on any other field, including 50/70, is a modification of the "real" game.

    You can not assess baseball talent until that player plays on a 60/90 field. Yes, if they are good on a smaller field, then there are indications that player will be good at 60/90. However, I've seen way to many "studs" not make the conversion to 60/90.

    The smaller fields are not only for competition but mostly for instruction. Why? Because they are 9 and 10 year olds. Plan and simple. This delusion that some have that 10 year olds play "real" baseball is both sad and comical.

  • In our league, and I don't know about others, there is basically no stealing on a pitch caught by the catcher. All the catchers can basically throw out a runner at 2nd. It takes a passed ball to get a stolen base. I'd be in favor of MAJORS allowing leads. I think it would balance out the stronger catchers at that age. Kinda like how they added "optional dropped 3rd strike" last year, I'd like to see league optional leads in Majors only.

  • Oh boy, Nancy. Wait for it - LOL

    I'm sure you are about to hear that an advancement on a passed ball is not a stolen base. LOL. I've heard that one over and over again.

  • Nancy, what division/s is/are your league not allowing stealing?

  • @John: I didn't say stealing wasn't allowed - I said there was no stealing. The point was that in our Majors division, every catcher can basically throw out a runner who tries to legitimately steal by waiting for the pitch to cross the batter. So honestly, no one tries.

    Yes, Dave, I know that technically its either a "passed ball" or "wild pitch" and I actually record that when I keep score because my manager likes his stats to reflect passed balls by his catchers, but what I was meaning is the only way a runner in our Majors is going to advance without the ball being put in play is a passed ball or wild pitch because straight up stealing wouldn't happen - they'd be thrown out.

  • Sorry, I misread/interpreted what you were saying. In my area, there's not a lot of stealing in baseball majors, either (regular or tournament season). There are a few speedsters that do steal and make it on pitches caught by the catchers.

  • @Nancy, I agree with your comments regarding that there's less stealing in Majors due to the ability of catchers and no lead off. There are multiple problems with adding lead offs to the current Major format.

    1) How do you control the lead off distance.

    2) At what point do they get to run.

    3) There's no balks, so in essence a runner and/or pitcher is getting an unfair advantage.

    4) If you give a lead off on a 46/60 foot field can you imagine how many steals there would be in a game.

    The only possible solution that I can think of is either leave it alone (most likely) or just allow the major kids to run at the time the ball is released. That would probably be the best of both worlds on this size field.


  • @Kirk: What's wrong with just free stealing? Obviously they'd have to bring the balk rules down to the small diamond. In our travel league around here, free stealing is introduced at 10U with 65' bases and the plate the same. That's not a big difference than little league. I think by 12 years old, the less 5 feet for the catcher would be balanced by the lead of the runner and actually make for some "close" plays at 2nd. It would definitely make for some agressive plays at 3rd in a close game!

  • My experience is very different. Leading and stealing at 60 feet, that is taking off on pitcher movement, means an almost sure extra base.

    Maybe we have never had a good catcher, but as I said even at 70 feet, it is hard to throw runners out.

    I agree that on 60' if the catcher cleanly catchers the ball, they good ones will throw out runners leaving at the proper time. But with a head start, and leaving on motion, the runner only has to go about 30-40 feet to be safe.

  • @Nancy: I can only reference a couple practice games that might boys travel ball team had when they were 10u. We played a couple practice games during the LL off season with another travel ball team. We used a 46/60 diamond because it's all we had available. Stealing on the 60' diamond with lead offs was just too easy. The 65' or 70' diamond is better suited for lead offs.

  • If a runner got to lead off, then take off when the pitcher starts his motion toward the plate, all by the slowest runner would make it standing up, with time to tie both his shoes. Even without a leadoff, if a runner could go a first motion, 95% would get there without it being close.

  • @Nancy, in the grand scheme, it would be a farce to allow leadoffs on the 60-foot diamond. Your league sounds like it's blessed with stud catchers, and you might have a few close plays at second and third with runners leading off. But that's not true LL-wide.

    I may be wrong, but I betcha LL used to allow leadoffs many years ago. But then they changed the rule when they realized walks and singles turned immediately into triples after two pitches. I doubt LL will ever go back to those days.

  • @Manny: Maybe it is just our league or our area. Catcher development is something we see as pretty important and we start allowing stealing against kid pitching in our Single A division (that division is a mix of kid and coach and we allow stealing against kid only). We also wrote the rules to not allow advancing on overthrows of a throw down to second, to encourage the catcher to throw. We don't allow stealing home or coming home on a passed ball. Every division moving up gets more and more flexibility with regards to stealing against the catcher. We certainly have some, even in majors, who have trouble getting it down to 2nd, but I would say that each Majors team has at least 1 and probably 2 catchers who can get it down to 2nd reliably enough to curb most stealing.

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