Of all the rules of baseball, the rule that distinguishes a ball from a strike can have great impact on the outcome of an at bat. The strike zone in Little League baseball is slightly different than the Major League Baseball strike zones, to make it proportionate to the abilities of younger, smaller players.
The purpose of the Little League strike zone is to provide a fair game of baseball. When pitches are thrown into the strike zone, they are easier for the batter to hit. If a pitcher throws outside the strike zone to keep the batter from swinging, he is penalized with a ball, four of which can result in a free base for the batter. The use of a strike zone also allows little league players to learn and adhere to the conceptual rules that will apply if they continue into high school, college or professional baseball.
The strike zone is an imaginary box over home plate. In Little League, the strike zone extends horizontally from either edge of the plate, and vertically from just below the batter's knees to the batter's armpits. This is different than the Major League strike zone, the top of which is defined as a mid-point between the batter's belt and shoulders. In either league, the measured height of the strike zone can change based on the batter's individual stance. The horizontal zone over home plate always remains the same, no matter how close the batter stands to the plate.
The longer strike zone in Little League baseball gives young pitchers more opportunities to throw strikes, which can build their confidence as players. The clearly-defined top zone also provides umpires with a specific strike zone instead of relying on judgment calls that could change strike zone size from player to player.
When a pitch passes through the strike zone, it is considered a strike whether or not the batter swings at the ball. However, if a pitch bounces before going through the strike zone it is not a strike unless the batter swings. If a Little League batter holds his bat in the strike zone during a pitch, it is considered an attempted bunt, which results in a strike.
In Little League baseball, a pitch needs only to pass through a portion of the strike zone to be officially called a strike. This is contrary to beliefs that a pitch needs to pass through a majority of the strike zone, or that the ball needs to be caught in the strike zone.
- Photo Credit home plate image by kelleyjoy from Fotolia.com