Inside Pitch Magazine, Summer 2015

Ground Rules: Travel Ball Rules – A Look Into the Positives and Negatives

 By Justin Brown
Field ViewSummer is a time when all ages are in action – specifically within the ‘travel ball’ circuit, a scene that has grown within past ten years. Parents and players are drawn to the travel ball environment to play against high-quality competition and in front of coaches and scouts. These tournaments have created the need for rules and bylaws to help things run effectively and smoothly, but can change the way the game is played:

Pitcher Workload Management
There is a clear push to limit the overuse of young pitchers in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) rulebook. Sets of limitations have been put into place to manage the use of a young athlete and with the rise of arm injuries, a set of guidelines for pitcher workloads is a much-needed asset:

The maximum number of innings a player can legally pitch in one (1) day. Rule 7.05.C.2 Example: In the 7U – 12U age divisions, a player may legally pitch a maximum of six (6) innings in one (1) day. The player would be ineligible to pitch the next day. Similarly, in the 13U – 14U age divisions, a player may legally pitch a maximum of seven (7) innings in one (1) day. The player would be ineligible to legally pitch the next day.

The maximum number of innings a player can legally pitch in three (3) consecutive days.

7.05.C.4(a) A player that pitches more than three (3) innings in one day MUST rest the next day. 7.05.C.4(b) A player that pitches eight (8) innings in two (2) consecutive days MUST rest the next day. 7.05.C.4(c) A player that pitches three (3) consecutive days (regardless of total quantity of innings pitched) MUST rest the next day.”

Modified Team Lineups
In an attempt to allow more players to get playing time, Perfect Game USA Tournament Rules have allowed for a modification to the traditional nine-hitter lineup. While baseball purists may have a fit, this rule allows extra players – who would otherwise be sitting out – the opportunity to hit in the lineup:

“Hitting lineup: Can consist of 9, 10, or 11 batters. The lineup must stay with the same number of batters for the entire game. The 10th and/or 11th hitter if used will be designated as an EH and XH on the lineup card. XH is a 2nd EH. The EH and XH are the same as any position on the field as far as substitutions are concerned.”

Lack of Pregame
One of the things that most baseball purists enjoy is the pregame process to each and every game. Players, coaches and fans alike love the experience of pregame batting practice and infield/outfield practice on the field. At the amateur levels the experience of infield/outfield is an exciting experience that is lacking in the travel ball arena. It also makes it difficult for coaches and scouts, who could be watching a player that never gets the ball hit to them during the course of a game. Being able to watch ‘in and out’ would give them at least a feel for what the player can do athletically and defensively. Furthermore, pregame BP and infield/outfield help can better prepare young players for the game while also drilling fundamentals.

Tournament Formats
In an attempt to get in as many games as possible in large tournaments, games are typically limited to seven innings. Teams are sometimes forced to play two or more games in succession to qualify for or win tournament championships. It’s great to get a lot of games in, and many coaches believe that repetition is the key to improving individual skills. However double – and triple-headers can be very taxing on a young player’s body, especially if they’re asked to pitch in one game and play a different position in another.

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.