Some recently developed Little League World Series (LLWS) rules are having damaging effects on how the LLWS teaches boys to respect the purity of baseball and compete fairly.
The simple things about the game are becoming hard to enjoy because of these rules.
Specifically, I take issue with the rule prohibiting head-first slides.
The new rule is hampering how aggressively the kids can play baseball.
I believe the rule was created in accordance with the LLWS committee’s understood desire to avoid injuries in the tournament.
But perhaps the worst part about the rule is that these injuries can occur even under preventative rules.
This uneccessary rule was most recently applied in a detrimental way during the international semifinal. (The international and American finalists play each other for the LLWS title.)
Chinese Taipei’s team sealed a victory against Panama due to this tournament rule that has no place in the regulations.
A player from Panama hit a double with two outs in the inning, slid head-first into second base without being tagged and was called out by the umpire due to the rule, which exists to cut down on the possibility of a broken finger, hand or wrist when sliding.
But I feel the same could easily happen to a foot or ankle when sliding feet-first.
This rule is an obstruction to the game because some players learn to slide head-first while others learn to go feet-first.
I understand that the LLWS committee is trying to reduce injuries, but outlawing the techniques that kids use most is discriminatory toward certain training methods and is not practicing what the LLWS preaches.
I am not against all LLWS rules.
Good rules have been born from medical concerns, such as the pitch count limit.
This is a rule that does not determine a game’s outcome but protects kids from having to throw 100 or more pitches in a game.
The rule emerged after the LLWS committee responded to medical doctors voicing concerns about the negative effects of a six month-long season on a throwing arm.
The LLWS for ages 11-12 instituted an 85-pitch maximum in 2007, and any batter that a pitcher begins throwing to, for example at pitch number 83 or 84, is allowed to be pitched until the end of the at-bat.
Sometimes the limit forces a pitcher to come out before a coach wants him to, but I have never watched a game in which this limit put a team in a make-it-or-break-it situation.
The whole purpose of the rule is to protect young kids’ arms from wearing down over the course of the tournament.
The rule also stipulates that if a pitcher throws 61 or more pitches in a day, they are required to rest for three calendar days.
Some managers are beginning to adjust their strategies to get around the rule.
If a player pitches 20 or less pitches in a day, they are not required to rest any number of days from pitching. The result is the new 20-pitch specialist.
Washington’s team (which emerged from the Northwest Regional) employed this strategy in their LLWS quarterfinal game against the Southwest Regional team from Texas.
Washington has one player who throws a fastball well, one who throws a breaking ball well and a third who throws both well. The coach had the first two throw 20 pitches each before having the third boy pitch the last few innings.
Employing this tactic can be good for a team’s defensive strategy and can upset an opponent’s offensive rhythm.
But the tactic is taking away from the purity of the game, and the committee overseeing the LLWS is responsible.
The committee should instead enforce a maximum pitch count and leave the rest to the coaches.
The LLWS committee has created rules under pretenses, not facts. They are attempting to protect kids from possible injuries, but are injuring the game in the process.
Their intentions are good, and the tournament still stands as one of the most popular and worthwhile sporting events in America.
It offers a healthy atmosphere for the players to meet former Major League Baseball players and get a full range of experiences both on and off the field.
The constant media attention is a real-world experience as well.
Also, the existence of the LLWS is a testament to baseball’s popularity throughout the world.
Although it is America’s pastime, baseball has moved like a shockwave through Latin America, the Far East and now into Europe.
Each part of the world has learned from the others and developed its own style.
But there are side effects to regulations that are more impacting than any injury could be.
After all, nothing the LLWS committee does can prevent a line drive from hitting a shortstop or a base runner from colliding with an infielder.
I say let the boys play.