Little League is a non-profit organization founded in the late 1930s in the US, with over 2 million players annually. Teams are organized by region and age, with tee ball for ages 5-8 and Minors/Majors for ages 7-12. Little League also has junior, senior, and big leagues, and some groups offer softball or Challenger Division teams. Participation can be rewarding or challenging, depending on parental involvement and coaching. The top teams compete in the Little League Baseball World Series each August.
The Little League is a United States-based non-profit organization created by Carl Stoltz in the late 1930s. Initially, Stoltz organized a very small group in Pennsylvania, with three children’s baseball teams competing against each other. From this initial inception, Little League has grown to a massive size, with over 2 million players participating each year. Children’s and youth baseball programs may choose to affiliate with Little League, which expands children’s opportunities to compete against many other boys and, if their team is successful, may allow them to move on to games with teams from other divisions of the country. The organization has branches in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Canada, Asia and Australia.
United States Little League teams are organized by region, and each region also organizes its teams by age and experience. In large cities, there may be several Little League affiliates, organized by school district or area. Generally, to belong to a certain group, you must live within that group’s geographical boundaries.
Depending on the size of each program, teams are organized by age. The youngest players, between the ages of 5 and 8, play tee ball, where no toss occurs and scoring can be relatively inconsequential. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 can be placed into one of two groups, Minors, for children with a small amount of experience, and Majors, for children with more athletic ability. Minors can be further subdivided into younger ages using pitching machines. It’s quite a leap for kids to transition into pitched games, since the pitches are often wild and more walks occur than actual hitting. The decision on where to place a child in this age group can be determined by tryouts.
Little League also has junior and senior leagues and the big leagues, and age requirements can be flexible. Although Juniors are typically for 13-14 year olds, a major-savvy kid might play on the Juniors team. 14-16 year olds could play on Senior teams, but a 16 year old could also play on a Big Team. Some groups may also offer softball teams, although many groups allow boys and girls to play on baseball teams. Some large groups have Challenger Division teams for children with disabilities.
Participating in Little League can be a rewarding experience for children, or it can be challenging. While the organization has standards that emphasize fair play and good behavior by parents and children during games, not all leagues are created equal. A lot depends on the degree of parental involvement and the skill of the coaches and team managers. Moms and dads, siblings, or other family or community members coach teams, manage them, help set up playgrounds, run snack bars, referee games, and keep score.
Some groups are notoriously competitive, and children can feel tremendous pressure to compete. Others are much more relaxed and just have fun together and learn to play baseball or softball. Senior or big teams tend to be the most demanding, since children who play on these teams might want to consider professional or at least college baseball team participation.
There can be two different prices for participation, a price for parent volunteers and a price for non-volunteer parents. If you are not willing to put the time and effort into helping your child or the children’s team(s), then you may have to pay more. You must provide most of the equipment, such as clubs, gloves, pants, socks and shoes. Some groups have funds to help under-resourced children and may waive membership fees and/or help pay for needed supplies.
For many, participating in Little League simply means playing baseball or softball locally for a few years. Others thrive on competition, and the top teams will compete against other districts and may even move on to compete in the Little League Baseball World Series, held each August in Pennsylvania. The guys who make it this far compete with both American teams and teams from other countries.