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A Division Baseball Rules of Play

A Division Baseball Rules

Following are guidelines on conducting games at the A Division level of play. Please keep in mind we are a development league and our primary goal is to prepare our players to move up the Little League ladder and eventually play in the Majors.

1. Pitching

In the A Division of NCLL, pitching is done with the use of spring-arm mechanical pitching machines. During gameplay (and at practices) a coach for the team batting will operate the pitching machine (PM) to pitch to the batters. These machines work with a peddle to release a spring-loaded arm which throws the ball to the plate. These machines have adjustability controls for pitch velocity and trajectory. These controls are typically set up prior to he game when the machine gets setup on the field. The PM remains on the field for the duration of the game.

a) The coach or parent operating the machine has the following responsibilities:

  • ​to set the controls (velocity/trajectory) to the proper levels for their players (typically the machines are set to one of the lower velocity settings, but can be moved to pitch the ball faster for more experienced players).
  • ​place the ball on the pitching arm and alert the batter that the pitch is forthcoming.
  • ​release the foot peddle which will project the ball to home plate.
  • ​keep players from attempting to use the PM on their own (only coaches or parents should be operating the pitching machines).

​b) Who operates the PM: A coach or parent for the team who is at bat.

c). Where is the pitching machine place on the field: The PM should be placed (set up prior to the game) just in front of the closest pitching rubber to home plate. Depending on how each particular machine functions, this may have to be adjusted.

d) Pitching machine set-up: Prior to a game, the home-team manager is responsible to setup the pitching machine. Generally the PM is set to one of the slower pitching speeds and the trajectory set at one of the middle settings. The desired outcome is to have the machine throw the ball so it has a slight arc and lands just behind home plate.

e) Catching: A catcher (position) is provided by the defensive team. Many players can catch the ball, but few have learned to block the ball at this level. This skill will be developed with practice. Catchers must wear the protective equipment (helmet w/neck guard, chest protector and shin guards) provided to each team during gameplay. Catchers must also be wearing a protective cup.

f) Position: The coaches must make sure the catcher is in a squatting position facing towards the PM before the pitch is released.

g) Batted ball off the pitching machine: If the PM is struck by a batted ball in a game, the ball is still in play.

h) Extended rules if PM is damaged or not operating: In the case where the PM is broken or available for a game, then the teams must use a coach or parent to pitch to the players (to their own team). In this case, the coach or parent should stand just in front of the closest pitching rubber and pitch the ball at a speed appropriate to the players.

2. Hitting

a) Balls and Strikes: We play a modified count.

b) Walks: There are no walks in the A Division.

c) Strikeouts: 3 strikes (swinging) is an out.

d) Courtesy strike: The players on each team will have a variety of skills and abilities. The courtesy strike can be used for those players who need more time to develop their offensive skills. In the beginning of the season, you may choose to implement the courtesy strike rule to your whole team, basically playing a 4 strike count. As the season continues, try to move your team to a 3 strike count. Discuss how you plan on calling strikes in the game with the opposing manager before the start of the game; then let your team know how the counts will be played.

You should discontinue the use of the courtesy strike in the following conditions:

  • ​Your team is clearly better than your opponent offensively and/or defensively.
  • ​You build a lead of 6 runs or more.

​e) Outs: 3 outs in the field or strikeouts, switch sides.

f) Foul tip: Foul tips do not count as a third strike, player "stays alive".

g) Throwing of bats: If a player throws the bat following an at bat, that player is given one warning. If a player throws the bat again following the warning, that player is removed from the game for safety precautions. The warning and removal are at the discretion of the Umpire or Managers.

3. Base Running

a) Single or more: In the A Division, we need to teach base running skills and that means not every hit is a single as in Tee Ball. Players who hit a legitimate double should take two bases and three on a triple, but the main point to teach is get out of the box quickly and look to your base coach for instructions. Almost every player on your team will watch the ball roll after they hit it; try to break your players of this very normal tendency and look for their base coach.

b) Advancing on an error: The A Division has many errors. Try to help your opposing manager by taking just one base on an error. Although the player may be able to advance more, try to limit this type of play.

c) Base coaches: In the spirit of player development, you should always have a 1st and 3rd base coach. This is an excellent job for that Mom or Dad in the stands. If they have not participated in practices, you will need to teach them hand signals and how to instruct the players.

d) Stealing / leading off: There is no stealing or leading off at the A level.

4. Fielding

a) How many players in the field: To get the most playing time for your team, you can have 10 fielders. Your extra player plays only in the outfield, left and left center, right and right center. It is okay to play 10 defensive players even if your opponent has only 9 because this allows for playing time but does little to change the competitive level of play.

b) Infield positions: 6 players per normal baseball lineups.

c) Outfield positions: 3 or 4 players. Outfielders should keep their feet on the grass.

d) Encroachment: While there is not a specific rule regarding encroachment, try to avoid this type of play. Even your players who need the most development still need the opportunity to make a play.

e) Player Rotations: You should attempt to play all team members an equal number of innings in the outfield and infield during the season. There is no position specialization at the A Division.

5. Umpire

a) The defensive (fielding) team will provide a field umpire (coach or parent) around 2nd base. The coach pitcher is responsible for keeping track of strikes. These two adults have final say on any call in the field and should confer on any call in question.

6. Other considerations

a) Ball we use: Official RIF5 safety ball, a squishy ball.

b) Bats we use: Bats must be 2 ¼ inch barrel and Little League approved.

c) Where to keep the bats: During a game, keep bats under your control. There is no warm up circle in Little League, so your on-deck batter needs to be in the dugout. Keep the bats on the fence OUTSIDE the dugout.

d) What do my bench players do: Organize the dugout during warm-ups and they are your cheerleaders. Know and teach some baseball chants to your players.

e) Inning run rule: We play a 5 run rule per inning. Once five runs are scored, the inning is over and the batting team returns to the field.

f) Time limit/Inning limit: Games have a time limit of 75 minutes or 6 innings, whichever comes first. For warm up prior to your field time, have team members move to the deep outfield to warm.

g) Dugout assignment: For all games in NCLL, the home team will take the 3rd base dugout and the visiting team will take the 1st base dugout.

h) Pre-game warm-ups: Pending field availability, each team will receive 10 minutes to warm up prior to 1st pitch. The visiting team will warm up first; the home team will warm up second and stay on the field to begin the game. If 20 minutes is not available prior to the scheduled game start time, teams will agree on a number of minutes for warm ups.

7. Equipment checks

a) Gloves: Gloves for this level of player will be between 9-11 inches. Take a look at your players' gloves and make sure their names and phone numbers are on them. Advise the player's parent if they are playing with equipment that is not appropriate. While specialty gloves (1st base, catcher, etc.) can be used at this level, try to discourage this. Most of these gloves are too large for A level players.

b) Bats: Bats should be approximately 24-27 inches and approximately 13-17 oz. A batter should be able to hold the bat with only their left hand (if right handed batter) and move it slowly across their body on a level plain without dipping. Be on the lookout for a bat the player picked because it was cool, but is too big for him/her. You may not be able to convince the player to use another bat, but limit the use of that large bat to just the owner.

c) Helmets: Check for cracks or missing pads. There has been some concern in the past regarding lice. If a player has those concerns, they can purchase their own helmet. Again, the manager is the final authority on anything safety related, so any player-owned equipment must meet your satisfaction.

d) Catchers Gear: Your equipment bags will have a complete set of catchers gear including glove. Some players will love to catch, others will like to avoid it; try not to find that player who wants nothing to do with catching as you ask him to gear up in the 1st game. I've always tried to encourage Mom or Dad to get their player ready to catch while we're up to bat. On the safety side, all catchers' masks must have a dangler attached to be used in a LL game. If you are missing one, ask for a replacement or share the helmet with the dangler between teams until yours can be fixed.

8. Final thoughts

While we are a non-competitive division in Little League with no score keeping, it's inherent to sports that there will be individual and team successes and failures. At all times in the game, find the good in each play. The ball that sails over the 1st baseman's head is still a "strong throw" from the player. Every strikeout has at least some number of "good cuts" in it. Be your team's advocate and head cheerleader.

Parents are welcome to participate in practices and game days at the A level. However, anyone participating with the players on a regular basis is required to complete a background check and be cleared by NCLL to participate. If needed, invite your parents to participate in the activity, these willing parents are our future managers and coaches.