Youth Baseball

Getting your child into Little League baseball

It's "America's pastime" and an integral part of our culture -- whether playing or watching it, Americans love baseball. Foster your child's love of the game early on by enrolling him or her in a youth baseball program. Not only will your child have fun, make friends, and get exercise, but he or she will also improve coordination, learn sportsmanship and teamwork, and develop a sense of belonging and self-worth. You can even turn it into a parent-child bonding opportunity by volunteering to coach or otherwise assist with the team.

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Little League Baseball Teams

Although not the only one, the most common baseball program for kids in North America is Little League Baseball and Softball. Little League operates just about everywhere and is a full program, organizing teams, providing facilities, and furnishing coaches, umpires, and general equipment. It is a non-profit organization that operates on six continents but has its foundations in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where its head offices still remain.

Children can join Little League at age 5 (tee ball) and continue up to age 16, with an additional two years possible in the "Big League" division. At age 9, players enter Little League proper (or the Major Division). At this point, the division may be further divided into home teams, which play other teams in the division, and tournament teams, which enter the International Tournament culminating in the Little League World Series. All expenses associated with advancing to the World Series are covered by the association.

Youth Baseball Equipment

Early on, you will not need to invest much in equipment for your child -- just a decent glove. However, as your child progresses through the divisions, and especially if he or she wants to join the higher-level or tournament teams, you will probably need to invest in a good pair of youth baseball cleats, as well as, possibly, a youth baseball helmet and bat specifically fitted to your child.

When it comes to gloves, cleats, and even helmets, the choice basically boils down to the best fit and personal preference (though there may be some guidelines set by the league). For youth baseball bats, however, the choice can be more complicated. While personal preference still reigns supreme, there are general guidelines for the ideal length and weight of the bat. Generally, young players (ages 5 to 10) should use a bat under 30 inches long, children 11-16 should use a bat between 30 and 33 inches, and players 17 and over should use a 34-inch bat. To find the ideal bat weight, divide the child's weight by 18 and then add 14. So, for example, a child weighing 70 pounds would need a bat around 18 ounces (70 divided by 18 equals 3.9, plus 14 is 17.9, or 18).

Generally, aluminum or composite bats are preferred because they are lighter and stronger, but wooden bats may be preferred at the higher levels, since only wooden bats are permitted in Major League Baseball.