On ESPN, days and nites are filled with continuing coverage of the Little League World Series. But what you can't tell by watching the games on television is that these boys are not playing real baseball. They're playing a watered-down version of the game.
Players in the Little League World Series are at the "12 and under" age level. By this age, in St. Louis, all big league rules apply. Players are allowed to steal bases, lead off, and try for first base on a dropped third strike by the catcher. This makes for a faster, tougher, more challenging game of baseball. In fact in St. Louis, the real world rules of baseball take effect by the time kids are in the third or fourth grade.
Not so in the Little League World Series. In this nationally-televised tournament, players are not allowed to steal bases, lead off, nor try for first on a dropped third strike. These rules substantially slow down the game and take tremendous pressure off of the pitchers and catchers -- which are at the heart of the action. Not only that, the outfield fences are positioned a mere 165 feet from home plate, turning mediocre hitters into possible home run threats.
In St. Louis, youth baseball is the real thing. As a result, teams are more competitive, and players develop much sharper skills. The Kirkwood Athletic Association operates one of the areas more competitive programs. In Kirkwood, the off-season draft and recruiting of players is in full wing.
For parents and players seeking a less competitive approach to baseball, the Catholic Youth Coucil, or CYC offers a variety of youth sports. Youth need not be Catholic to play. Around St. Louis there are many other recreational baseball programs.
However, as a young player develops his or her abilities, they are often eager to advance to more competitive programs, and they can find their fill in St. Louis.
One of the reasons we left the San Francisco Bay Area for St. Louis was to be able raise our son in a true baseball environment. Little did we know at the time how true that really was -- at so many different levels.