Little League International Introduces New “50-70” Pilot Program
Ever since Little League debuted baseball for teenagers 50 years ago, the standard infield has featured a pitching distance of 60 feet, six inches, and base paths of 90 feet – the same size as a professional baseball infield.
The program grew over the years to its current status as the largest teenage baseball program in the world. A few years ago, Little League added the option of allowing 12-year-old players to “play up” in the Junior League Division for Regular Season and Tournament Play.
Now, in an effort to further ease the transition from the standard Little League field size (46-foot pitching distance and 60-foot base paths), Little League is offering a pilot program for league age 12- and 13-year-olds. The pilot program will be conducted on fields that feature a 50-foot pitching distance and 70-foot base paths. The pilot program will be available to all Little League programs worldwide for the 2010 season.
“We have seen more requests for the intermediate-size field recently,” Patrick Wilson, Little League Vice President of Operations, said. “We are constantly looking for ways to provide more flexibility and to respond to the needs our local leagues. For those leagues with the ability to create a new field for this program, or to modify an existing field, we hope this will be another way to provide an enjoyable experience for the families in their community.”
Additionally, base runners will be permitted to lead off in the 50-70 Pilot Program (requiring pitchers to hold runners on base), runners may attempt stealing at any time, and head-first sliding is permitted. In the Little League division, runners cannot leave the base until the ball reaches the batter, and sliding must be feet-first unless the runner is retreating to a base.
Also for the 50-70 Pilot Program – unlike the Little League division – the batter becomes a runner on a dropped third strike, the bat can have a diameter of 2 5/8 inches, and the on-deck batter is permitted.
Each league wishing to participate in the 50-70 Pilot Program is required to enroll with Little League International prior to initiating the program. At the conclusion of the regular season, each participating league will be required to complete a post-season survey detailing the benefits and challenges.
“We will take the information gathered, work with the leagues and districts, and make a decision on how to move forward in 2011,” Mr. Wilson said. “If the 50-70 Pilot Program proves to be successful, our plan is to offer a full range of tournament play.”
For 2010, there will not be a separate level in the International Tournament for the 50-70 Pilot Program. However, local leagues and districts that are participating in the program will be able to organize tournaments using a Special Games Request Form.
Any player who participates in the pilot program during the regular season will be eligible to participate simultaneously in the Little League Division (for players ages 9-12) or the Junior League Division (12-14). Such a player will be eligible for selection to either age-appropriate International Tournament Team.
However, a player who participates solely in the 50-70 Pilot Program also will be eligible based on his/her age for selection to a team participating in the International Tournament under guidelines established for player eligibility.
Here are some additional details:
- Leagues will be allowed to operate under interleague play and combined teams. However, players will only be eligible for tournament in the league where they reside.
- Leagues will be allowed to structure the 50-70 Pilot Program so that their typical season is conducted, for example, on Monday through Friday. Then on Saturday and Sunday, leagues could offer the pilot program to players who wish to participate. All pitching guidelines apply.
- Participating leagues (and districts with participating leagues) will be permitted to organize tournaments using a Special Games Request Form for players in the 50-70 Pilot Program. Players may participate in both Special Games and the International Tournament under guidelines established in the Baseball Rulebook.
Later this month, Little League International will provide leagues with the procedure for participating in the 50-70 Pilot Program.