Thoughts About Running Up The Score (Youth Baseball)

LoweTek

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May 30, 2005
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After taking a few years off from coaching baseball after moving, I agreed to take a rec ball 15U (Juniors) Babe Ruth team on about 30 minutes notice early in February here in my new town. I had not attended assessments and had little idea about the players available in the draft. The league passed a rule prior to the season which allowed teams to keep their rosters entirely intact from the Fall '22 season unless the player opted out. So the draft was me filling an empty expansion team roster and a dozen or so total picks from the other seven teams. I got some draft assistance from the division commissioner and one of the managers who was not drafting because he was bringing back his entire Fall '22 roster. Generally they steered me in the right direction but the skill sets were extremely lacking after about the 5th round. In a 13 player roster (as of draft day) I have three who cannot field or hit and three others who are extremely challenged either hitting or fielding. I'm talking can't catch a fly ball and can't hit the pitching. As a team we are not competitive. A week plus after the draft, I was assigned a late sign-up kid for a total 14 player roster, yet another weak player. When I questioned the commissioner he told me all the other teams already had 14 so the player went to me. For the record, I don't buy this for a minute. I have not seen an opponent, in the games I have played thus far, have 14 kids in their dugout other than me.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Apparently it's a tradition in this league to conduct an early season tournament among the teams. They did a random draw to schedule match-ups in Saturday pool play, two games per team on Saturday. The results would determine seeding for Sunday, 1 seed plays 8 seed, 2 plays 7, etc. Home team is the higher seed. Take note this past weekend was the first weekend of school Spring Break locally. Most teams were missing multiple players whose families had vacation plans. I was missing both my number one and number two draft picks and the number one pick is by far my best pitcher. This significantly weakened my already non-competitive team. The league also added pitch count restrictions for the the tournament not normally used in league play. These rules required 1 day of rest after 45 pitches - net effect can't pitch on Sunday if any pitcher throws over 45 between two games. They also added mercy rules which were 12 after three innings, 10 after five innings and another I don't recall. So I was working with three inexperienced pitchers who barely knew the rules associated with stretch position with runners on base.

Short version, the team never made it out of the third inning in any of the three games and scored zero runs.

In the first game, against the team managed by the division commissioner, in the first inning they had scored at least four runs on an essentially defenseless opponent and had no outs. My pitcher reaches his pitch limit when he walked his third or fourth batter of the inning with a runner on 3B. I started the walk toward the mound to replace him and requested time out. The umpire raised his hand pointing to the batter who was walking to first base. No problem I thought, he needs to reach 1B before i can be granted time. The ball is in my pitcher's hand.

The first base coach sent the player who walked to 2B while my pitcher was walking off the mound toward me to give me the ball. Umpire refused to send him back. Legal? Yes. Chicken shit move by the 1B coach? IMO, definitely. 13-0 final. They were the home team and batted only two half innings.

Second game, opponent up by 10-0 or 11-0 with one out in the second inning. They continued to steal, run on passed ball/WP, steal 2B in a first and third situation, etc. I barked something to the 3B coach and he ignored me. Final 16-0.

Game 3 same thing. Opponent scored 10 runs in the first inning and continued run up the score. My pitcher who was incapable of keeping a runner close, would be set in his stretch position and the runner on base would start jogging to the next base before he even delivered. Bottom of the second inning they got to 13-0 with two outs. After another score on a passed ball/WP I barked at the 3B coach who was also the manager, "13 not enough?"

Next pitch and yet another player scores on a PB/WP. I said, "So 14 was not enough either?" Another runner scores. "Enough is enough," I yelled at him. Finally the 3B coach instructed the runner on 3B who was a third of the way off the bag toward home to stay where you are. The runner allowed himself to be tagged out for the third out. I said the the 3B coach, "Thanks for doing that albeit too little too late." We went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 3rd. Game over, 15-0 final score.

I was and still am pissed off at these behaviors in all three games. I don't expect them to quit competing but there is no need to take the extra shit, steal bases, and score on PB/WP once you're up 10-0 with no outs against a clearly inferior opponent.

Am I the fool here? I would never, ever do the same thing to a team I was slaughtering after one inning. I believe it sets the wrong example for the kids and demonstrates the poorest of poor sportsmanship. It's rec ball not the World Series.

I'm curious what other coaches, baseball and other sports think about this.
 

Bowhemian

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Yeah, it’s BS for sure. But keep in mind that some coaches believe that going station to station is more humiliating to the other team than just playing like it was a close game. I haven’t played baseball since I was a kid, but see the same stuff in beer league softball. Some guys just can’t take their foot off the gas.
 

Papo The Snow Tiger

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LoweTek, I don't blame you at all for being aggravated, what those other coaches did would have pissed off the Pope. IMHO the point of youth sports is to give enrich kids' lives by giving them something fun to do, make some new friends, learn the game and hopefully help build some character. I helped coach my daughters little league softball teams until she aged out, and while the coaches on my team were all good, I saw far too many examples of coaches living vicariously through their teams. I even literally saw one coach of a girl's little league softball team get thrown out of a game for verbally abusing the umpire. Seriously, what kind of example did that set for any of the girls on hand? I agree that the other teams shouldn't stop competing; try to get hits, throw strikes, make good plays in the field. But taking extra bases and stealing when they're on the verge of a mercy rule win is just plain old wrong.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Yeah, it’s BS for sure. But keep in mind that some coaches believe that going station to station is more humiliating to the other team than just playing like it was a close game. I haven’t played baseball since I was a kid, but see the same stuff in beer league softball. Some guys just can’t take their foot off the gas.
I've heard that too, and I can see the logic. Might even run into a few outs. But I don't think it can extend to things like taking free bases during pitching changes or even stealing when the battery has no chance.
 

moondog80

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Sep 20, 2005
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I've been though this. Especially sucks to see this happen in town ball/rec league. which is supposed to be a bit less intense. All you can do is control what you can control and just laugh at the rest while remaining positive with your kids.
 

tonyandpals

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Complete BS. There's winning and winning the right way. Sure you can't stop a team from hitting, but taking all those extra bases? Scoring on passed balls? Pretty weak.

Also, the keep your team thing is BS too. You're going to have a team of misfits every year. Probably why there was a coaching vacancy too.
 

j-man

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Dec 19, 2012
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yeah i wouild had goten banned from that leauged i would had not allowed them to punkhed my team after they run up the score on me which is why i am not coached youth sports


is there shifet rules in your leauge because i would had put 7-8 guys in the infeld my fastest guy deep in the outfield

and we wouild had watched the bad news bears the 1976 movie not the remake to fire up the team
 

Yo La Tengo

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Nov 21, 2005
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What are the substitution rules in your league? I'd consider emailing the other coaches, acknowledging that your team is not very competitive, and inviting them to either play their less experienced players or, if that is not competitive enough, to remove their starters once the mercy rule is hit and continue to play another couple of innings to give your team some more game experience.
 

Gdiguy

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Jul 15, 2005
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This stuff pisses me off so much that I'm kind of like @j-man , I struggle to not turn spiteful in response (I don't get it, it's not even fun either; kids aren't stupid, if you're up 10-0 in the first inning it's not like it's an achievement to score on a passed ball, is a $3 plastic trophy really that important to you?)
 

MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Jun 26, 2006
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I’m pretty jealous of a town with enough players to field a local juniors league! We have one juniors team and have to round up five other towns to make a league.

Generally, for us, the kids still playing can all do the basics, so it’s rare we get a full blowout.

The keep your team shit is outrageous in a town league. You absolutely have to redistribute the pitching and catching, otherwise there’s basically no way for you NOT to get 10-run ruled. Why would your kids want to keep playing after getting muckled every game all season?

And double headers to start the season with a 45-pitch rule? What?

Yes, you should be pissed, but the commish and board set you up for failure (and the kids!) way before the games started.
 

DJnVa

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Dec 16, 2010
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Yeah, it’s BS for sure. But keep in mind that some coaches believe that going station to station is more humiliating to the other team than just playing like it was a close game.
There's a middle ground though.

Kid hits a ball in the gap, take the double and 2 bases--no one scores from first, etc. No stretching it to possible triple. That's fine. But PB, WP, and stealing bases should stop. The taking of second base on a pitching change? The ump should have had a strong talk with the coach, even if he didn't put the kid back. That's embarrassing for a coach to do that at that point in the game.
 

Minneapolis Millers

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Jul 15, 2005
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J-Man’s the only one close to making a Buttermaker reference? We’re off our game here.

I agree with others; the basic design of this league is awful and treating the kids in a shabby, winning-is-more-important-than-learning-or-developing way. No one likes or benefits from playing in truncated, 15-0 games. What’s the point? Might as well just run joint practices and skills games instead. As for the bad sportsmanship, you were right to call it out, and a more formal complaint to the league and umpires would be justified. It’s hard to do it in the moment without reinforcing the notion that your players aren’t good and/or that they should just quit. I have asked for a quiet conference with the ump and other coach in similar situations, though, to remind them that just cuz you can doesn’t mean you should
 

LoweTek

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yeah i wouild had goten banned from that leauged i would had not allowed them to punkhed my team after they run up the score on me which is why i am not coached youth sports


is there shifet rules in your leauge because i would had put 7-8 guys in the infeld my fastest guy deep in the outfield

and we wouild had watched the bad news bears the 1976 movie not the remake to fire up the team
No, there are no shift rules I know of. Unfortunately, I don't have 7-8 kids who have sufficient skill set to safely play the infield.
 

LoweTek

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I’m pretty jealous of a town with enough players to field a local juniors league! We have one juniors team and have to round up five other towns to make a league.

Generally, for us, the kids still playing can all do the basics, so it’s rare we get a full blowout.

The keep your team shit is outrageous in a town league. You absolutely have to redistribute the pitching and catching, otherwise there’s basically no way for you NOT to get 10-run ruled. Why would your kids want to keep playing after getting muckled every game all season?

And double headers to start the season with a 45-pitch rule? What?

Yes, you should be pissed, but the commish and board set you up for failure (and the kids!) way before the games started.
This local league draws players from 4-5 surrounding towns. This is why they can field 8 Juniors teams. They also have "travel" programs running simultaneous to the regular season. There are 78 teams baseball & softball (softball has 22 from 6U to 18U. Seven of the softball teams are Senior Division 18U teams). As for baseball, there are 56 teams across the age groups from T-Ball through Seniors including the 8 previously mentioned travel teams ranging from 6U to 14U. There are also 8 teams in the Minors division (10U). There are 11 Rookie Division teams (8U), 15 T-Ball teams across two ability groups and 2 Senior teams 18U.

The league two towns south of here I came from and last coached in along with an adjacent town only field one Junior team each and no Seniors to my knowledge. We actually play a game against one of these towns in an "away game" at their facility. Unfortunately, soccer rules in those two towns. There is a lot of baseball travel team elitism as well. Meaning, parents get the message somewhere around 12 years old if the kid can't make a regional travel team, he's pretty much done with baseball. Sad but true. Both leagues fall off significantly at 12U rec ball. They have 2-3 teams if they are lucky.
 

MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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This local league draws players from 4-5 surrounding towns. This is why they can field 8 Juniors teams. They also have "travel" programs running simultaneous to the regular season. There are 78 teams baseball & softball (softball has 22 from 6U to 18U. Seven of the softball teams are Senior Division 18U teams). As for baseball, there are 56 teams across the age groups from T-Ball through Seniors including the 8 previously mentioned travel teams ranging from 6U to 14U. There are also 8 teams in the Minors division (10U). There are 11 Rookie Division teams (8U), 15 T-Ball teams across two ability groups and 2 Senior teams 18U.

The league two towns south of here I came from and last coached in along with an adjacent town only field one Junior team each and no Seniors to my knowledge. We actually play a game against one of these towns in an "away game" at their facility. Unfortunately, soccer rules in those two towns. There is a lot of baseball travel team elitism as well. Meaning, parents get the message somewhere around 12 years old if the kid can't make a regional travel team, he's pretty much done with baseball. Sad but true. Both leagues fall off significantly at 12U rec ball. They have 2-3 teams if they are lucky.
Man, the bolded is so true here and it drives me crazy. Some of these kids are still a couple years away from puberty and coaches and parents are telling them to give it up! We've been fighting it like hell, trying to keep juniors/seniors alive and it's working pretty well. We've got 32 kids in our high school program and only 550 kids in the high school, so not bad!
 

j-man

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Dec 19, 2012
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i play nba 2k23 park a lot i am not great at it and the friends i do play with know that and help me out my point is on that game i am like a 10 year kid that is very casual the park is not so bad its the rec part that is ruthness u make 1 turnover its oh u suck or u are trash
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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Sorry that you are dealing with getting sandbagged @LoweTek

My two observations are that I agree that travel baseball negatively impacts local club and leagues by drawing away the best player and fostering an environment where there is often too much competitive imbalance.

@Papo The Snow Tiger is spot on - in my experience, almost every single kid in that U15 league will be done with baseball within the next five years and the majority much sooner as than that. I also coach this level of baseball and the main goal is fostering a love of the game. The adults who run that league don't get it at all.