Many baseball organizations use coach-pitch baseball as a way to introduce children to the game and get them comfortable with seeing live pitching and swinging the bat. As a transition between T-ball and machine-pitch or kid-pitch, it can be a valuable teaching tool. Coach pitch isn’t governed by a national body that mandates a certain set of rules, so local leagues are free to set their own standards – but many adhere to a similar set of ideals.
Setting the Lineup
Unlike standard Little League, every player at a coach-pitch game is usually inserted into the batting order, and hits in turn. Some leagues have everyone play the field in every inning as well, even leagues that don’t tend to urge coaches to rotate players between the infield and the outfield, so that nobody gets stuck in a poor position the whole game. That doesn’t mean every player has to play every position, however – someone who's just learning not to be afraid of the ball, for example, doesn’t need to be placed at first base.
As the name suggests, coaches are responsible for pitching to the players on their own team. Coach pitch generally limits the number of pitches each batter receives. This can be a set number of throws, or it can be a number of swings by the batter. Once that allotment has been exceeded, a tee may be brought out to allow the batter to hit, or the batter may be considered struck out. Coaches may informally agree to waive that rule, which makes sense early in the season when new players may still be adjusting to hitting live pitching. Regardless of how poorly a coach is throwing the ball that day, there are no walks.
Focus on the Basics
Because coach pitch is for younger players who have less experience with the game, advanced strategies may not be allowed. Generally speaking, stealing and leading are not permitted. There’s no infield fly rule, and runners may be prohibited from sliding or bunting. Runners can advance just one base on an overthrow in most leagues. When a ball reaches the outfield, the play is usually considered dead once it is returned to the infield and an infielder has control of the ball. At that point, runners are prohibited from advancing further.
Time and Sportsmanship
Two other concerns addressed in coach-pitch baseball are the length of games and the player attitudes. Coach-pitch baseball games have a fixed length, either in innings or time. Innings can end after three outs; once everyone in the batting order has hit; or after a specific number of runs have been scored. Sportsmanship is almost always emphasized, with players encouraged to treat their teammates and opponents with respect. Every game ends in a handshake, and players telling each other they had a good game.
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