August 25, 2012

LLWS: It's Time For Change

By - Jaquan Murphy

It's 2012, and the anatomy of the modern day athlete has changed -- even for the athletes who have not reached their teenage years yet.

Every summer, the best 11 and 12-year-olds converge in Williamsport for the Little League World Series. It's one of the most exciting events in sports.

Photo by: Getty Images
However, there is one problem with it all.

See, the Little Leaguers are not so little anymore -- yet the field remains the same size.

This year's group of Little Leaguers is showing the evolution of the modern day athlete. Roughly five years ago, there may have been a handful of players who were 5'10 and up. In previous years, it may have been one or two kids topping the 6' mark.

This year has seen a big spike in those numbers.

Every team has at least one or two kids that look like they are already in high school.

Now, if it was only one team or one region with these more developed kids, that would be one thing. But teams from all regions all over the world are fielding teams with one or two kids flirting with 6' 170-180 lbs at age 11 or 12. Back in the day, the coach was the largest person on the field. Now, some coaches have to almost look up to some players.

With these more developed athletes, they make a mockery of the 60 feet between bases. The most harmless grounder to second base results in a bang bang play at first. This is not a result of just hustle either. Many of these kids can jog to a close play at first no matter where the ball is hit.

Any ball hit to the outfield will result in a base runner getting two bases. The outfielders have no chance. Even taking no lead can have a runner standing at the next base by the time the ball gets to the outfielder, no matter how hard the ball is hit.

No matter the size, it seems like all these kids are capable of easily clearing the fences 225 feet away. The smaller kids are hitting line drives that are clearing the fence -- and the larger children are giving fans in the parking lot souvenirs with majestic moon shots . Home runs are good for the game, but when teams are jacking five and six every game they play, something needs to be done.

My suggestion would be to modify the size of the field. The purpose of Little League is for the kids to have fun and learn. These kids are only learning the wrong things with bases and fences as close as they are.

Infielders are forced to constantly rush their throws and constantly make backhanded plays and moving throws, instilling bad habits for when they reach higher levels of play.

With fences only 225 feet away, the larger kids only swing for the fences because they know they can easily clear them. Instead of defense winning championships, it's all about what team can jack the most home runs.

If modifying the field sizes is not reasonable, perhaps a change to wood bats is needed. Switching to those would help everyone involved.

Pitchers could actually learn how to pitch instead of relying on trying to either overthrow or throw a ton of curves to keep their pitches from getting sent 300 feet by a 6' 12-year-old.

Switching to wood would also force coaches to implement more tactical strategies, such as bunting for the offense and bunt coverage for the defense.

It would also teach the kids to swing for contact and become line drive hitters as opposed to trying to hit a big fly every time up.

Wood bats would also give outfielders valuable in-game experience that metal doesn't. Metal bats do not result in as many balls outfielders have a chance to make a play on as wooden ones would.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to downgrade the quality of play of the Little League World Series, or Little League Baseball in general. Quite frankly, I think the Little League World Series is one of the most exciting times of the baseball season.

But with the current make up, it sets these kids up to go down the wrong path.

By making these adjustments at a young age and forcing these kids to focus on pitching the right way, it would pay huge dividends for them when they reach high school, college, and even the minors or majors, if they make it that far.

In short -- it will prepare them for baseball in the real world.


  1. Maybe they just need to start testing little leaguers for PEDs too. Lol

  2. There's a few big kids, but I don't think there's any more now then in previous years. I agree they need to move the fence back though. There were a ton of homeruns hit in that game today.