Field Size leads to Poor Throwing Mechanics

July 29, 2011

Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy

It’s been a thought in my head over the last few years and I now feel as though I have an official standpoint on the issue.  BASEBALL FIELD SIZES ARE TOO BIG FOR THE PLAYERS PLAYING ON THEM!  I have been coaching at or directing Summer Camps and Fall Leagues for almost a decade and have seen all shapes, sizes, and abilities of players from beginners to seniors in high school.  I have thousands of conversations with parents of players who are struggling at the game for various reasons but one consistent thing I see is that the vast majority of players under 9 years old struggle with making the throws demanded of them by the size of the field they play on.

A Little League baseball diamond’s dimensions are 46’ (mound distance to home plate) x 60’ (base paths).  My proposal would be to have all players who are league ages 7-8 play on a field with dimensions of 43’ x 56’.  It may seem like a small adjustment, but throws from the left side of the infield end up being significantly shorter.  Outfielders would also play shallower with the new dimensions which also makes their throws shorter.  When young players have to make throws at a distance further than their bodies allow, their mechanics are hindered and become more susceptible to soreness and injury.

Compare this situation to weight lifting.  Let’s pick a compound exercise like the squat and let’s imagine loading up the bar with a weight that the body cannot handle with proper form.  For this particular exercise, when the weight is too much, the athlete will bend at the waist leaning the trunk of their body over their knees.  While they may complete the exercise for a given amount of repetition, they are simultaneously putting a harmful stress on their back, knees, etc.  Over time, this stress turns from aggravation (arm soreness) to injury. 

Let’s be serious, how many 7-8 year olds consistently can make accurate throws on a line from shortstop/third base to first base?  By keeping the field at the 46’ x 60’ dimensions, we are asking them to consistently perform acts that their bodies are not mature enough to  handle and this is extremely detrimental to the players athletic development, confidence, and overall physical well-being.  

We also see this same issue when the players end up moving on to the “big diamond” or the 60’ x 90’ field.  While we are talking about older, more physically mature players than 7-8 year-olds, it is all relative as their bodies are not physically mature enough to handle the throws they are asked to make.  What’s even a bigger issue with the older group moving to the bigger field is that they are also taking on puberty and some players are growing at an extremely rapid pace.  Stress placed on the growth plates especially in the shoulder and elbow can lead to some real significant physical damage, some causing minor or major surgery.

 While I believe it is just wishful thinking, I wish the town leagues should at least give consideration to adjusting the field size at their town fields.  These don’t have to be permanent changes as the mounds and bases can be moved up to a designated spot for each practice and game.