Little League® International recommends all leagues implement at least a two-week training period prior to beginning any formal game play. This will allow all players to ramp up their baseball/softball activity without rushing to get into game action. As leagues plan this two-week period, some best practices include:
- Week one should consist of at least two practices over the course of the week.
- Look at conducting open practices as frequently as possible. These practices can be for all participants and run by the league, focusing on different skills, such as throwing/fielding, hitting/baserunning, fly balls, etc. Open practices must be set up by division and may not include players from multiple divisions of play.
- During week two, it’s encouraged to weave in scrimmages or exhibition games with some of these best practices:
- Have a one-hour and 30-minute (1:30) time limit.
- Focus on education and fundamentals.
- Game play can be stopped after a play to instruct players on how to properly make the same play. Reset the playing field the same way as it was prior to the play. This educational situation will allow participants to gain the understanding of what to do in that situation.
- Rotate players through different positions.
- Once a local league knows how many teams they have, work to provide each team with the opportunity to hold two to three one-hour practices during the first week.
- If a league is unable to provide enough practice time slots, based off field availability, leagues can look to group teams together to practice.
- Limit practice time to an hour and a half long.
- Leagues can also conduct open practices on the weekends. Pair players of like ability from the same divisions. This will allow groups of players to learn skills and drills together. Practices shall be conducted by approved coaches from the league/division that have completed their required background checks and follow appropriate safety measures.
Protecting Our Pitchers
Little League® has always placed safety as a top priority, and we continually strive to provide children with safe and healthy baseball/softball opportunities. For more than a decade, the Little League program has been at the forefront of promoting arm safety for youth pitchers. Our pitching regulations must be followed throughout all play, and it’s important to give your baseball and softball pitchers the opportunity to properly warm-up and get their arms used to throwing again.
Additionally, we recommend that coaches implement calisthenics, stretches (active and static), and jogging for pitchers, as well as all players, to loosen muscles, build endurance, and work back into the season in a safe and effective manner.
- During week one, pitchers should throw to 1-35 pitches in a bullpen session. Pitchers throwing more than 21 pitches shall observe one day of rest. We recommend throwing 35 pitches on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
- Week two, we recommend pitchers throw no more than 35 pitches in their first exhibition game. Pitchers throwing more than 21 pitches shall observe one day of rest. Pitchers may throw up to 50 pitches in their second exhibition game if they have thrown in a previous exhibition game. If they have not thrown in a previous game, said pitcher may only throw up to 35 pitches. Pitchers throwing more than 35 pitches shall observe two days of rest.
- Little League recommends using as many pitchers as possible during exhibition games. This is a great time to work with and develop players who might not have otherwise had an opportunity to pitch.
- During the first week of game play, it is recommended that a pitcher not throw more than 65 pitches in a game. Pitchers throwing more than 51 pitches shall observe three days of rest.
- Week two of the regular season, regular pitching rules will apply as outlined in the rulebook.
If pitchers have not been throwing during their time off, coaches should ensure that pitchers start slow and gradually work up and into their workouts watching form and providing breaks when necessary. As always, pitchers may also go through the pitching motion without throwing a softball to loosen muscles and work on their pitching form and motion.
- During week one, pitchers should work through their normal warm-up (flips, K-drills, full arm circle, walk-throughs, long toss, full throwing, etc.), focusing on the basics and technique, starting slow, and building up. We recommend that any pitcher who throws (in total with warm-up) for approximately 30 minutes for Minors; 45 minutes for Majors; 60 minutes for Junior and Senior; observe a day of rest. Coaches should watch for signs of poor mechanics and fatigue and allow players to take a break or stop for the day when needed. We would suggest pitchers throw on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
- During week two, we recommend pitchers throw no more than 2-3 innings in Minors and Majors, or 4 innings in Junior and Senior, in their first exhibition games. Pitchers throwing more than those inning guidelines should observe a day of rest. We would suggest coaches permit pitchers to throw 2-4 innings for Minors, or 4-5 innings for Majors, Junior, and Senior in their subsequent exhibition games. As always, managers and coaches should watch for any breakdown in mechanics or fatigue in their pitchers and substitute when appropriate.
- Little League recommends using as many pitchers as possible during exhibition games. This is a great time to work with and develop players who might not otherwise have an opportunity to pitch.
- During the first week of games, it is recommended that a pitcher not throw more than 4 innings in a Minor game; or 5 innings in a Major, Junior, or Senior game; depending on inning length. While all regular season pitching rules apply, managers and coaches should watch their pitchers for signs of fatigue or poor mechanics to ensure pitcher safety and substitute when appropriate.
During week two, and depending on each pitcher’s progress and endurance, managers may permit pitchers to throw additional innings; however, managers should speak with players and player parents to have a good understanding of how each pitcher is feeling – mentally and physically.