Little League is a United States based nonprofit organization created by Carl Stoltz in the late 1930s. Initially, Stoltz organized a very small group in Pennsylvania, with three baseball teams for kids that competed against each other. From this early start, Little League has grown to a huge size, with over 2 million players participating each year. Baseball programs for kids and teens can choose to affiliate with Little League, which widens opportunities for kids to compete with lots of other kids, and if their team is successful, may allow them to move on to games with teams in other divisions of the country. The organization has affiliates in the US, 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 towns there may be several Little League affiliates, organized by school district or area. Generally, to belong to a certain group, you have to live within the geographical boundaries for that group.
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Depending upon the size of each program, teams are organized based on ages. The youngest players, from the ages of 5-8 play Tee ball, where no pitching occurs, and scoring may be relatively unimportant. Kids from the ages of 7-12 may be placed in one of two groups, Minors, for kids with a small amount of experience, and Majors, for kids with more athletic skill. Minors may be further divided for younger ages by using pitching machines. It’s quite a jump for kids to move into pitched games, since pitches are often wild, and more walks than actual hits occur. Decision as to where a child is placed in this age group may be determined by tryouts.
Little League also has Junior and Senior Leagues, and Big Leagues, and age requirements may be flexible. Though Juniors are typically for 13-14 year olds, an experienced child in majors might play on Juniors team. 14-16 year olds could play on Senior teams, but a 16 year old might play on a Big Team too. Some groups may also offer softball teams, though many groups allow both boys and girls to play on baseball teams. A few large groups have Challenger Division teams for children who have disabilities.
Participating in Little League can be a rewarding experience for children, or it can be difficult. Though the organization has standards emphasizing fair play, and good behavior of parents and kids at games, not all leagues are created equal. Much depends on the degree to which parents are involved, and the skill of coaches and team managers. Moms and dads, siblings, or other family or community members coach teams, manage them, help set up fields for games, run snack bars, referee games, and keep score.
Some groups are notoriously competitive, and children may feel extraordinary pressure to compete. Others are much more laid back and are simply about having fun together and learning how to play baseball or softball. Senior or Big teams tend to be the most demanding, since children who play on these teams may be considering professional or at least college participation in baseball teams.
There may be two different prices for participation, a parent volunteer price and a parent non-volunteer price. If you aren’t willing to commit time and effort into helping with your child or children’s team/s, then you may have to pay more. You must provide most equipment, like bats, gloves, pants, socks, and shoes. A few groups have funds to help out kids with few resources and may either waive fees for participation and/or help pay for needed supplies.
For many, participation in Little League is simply about playing baseball or softball locally for a few years. Others thrive on competition and the best teams will compete with other districts, and can even move up to competition in the Little League Baseball World Series, held every August in Pennsylvania. Kids who get this far compete with both American teams and teams from other countries.