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MLB, USA Baseball Introduce Modified Play in Effort to Boost Fun Factor

30 May, 2018

By: Michael Popke

Hit and Run Baseball is a new initiative by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball — spearheaded by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and designed to make the game more fun for youth players. 

As MLB.com reports, the program supports “modified forms of the game that enable players to develop their skills in a more interactive format while also promoting player health and safety. … [I]t will serve youth leagues, tournament providers and amateur coaches with recommended game formats that can be easily applied at all levels of youth and amateur baseball. Leagues and coaches can also create their own modified rules to best suit their individual league, tournament or team needs.”

For example, recommended rules for 8-and-under players include six-inning games, four batters per inning, six players rotating positions each inning and three swings per batter (with no called balls or strikes). If no contact is made in three swings, a tee is used or a coach can side toss to the batter.

“It’s not trying to teach kids how to play the game faster,” Ripken told the Associated Press. “It’s a way to get more reps. To present the game that’s more fun. To get to make it more interactive for kids. It’s a teaching opportunity. There’s a lot of value in there. You get to learn the game better. You get to practice all aspects of the game. Even if you’re not getting any hits, you still can participate in the baserunning and different defensive positions.”

Pilot programs for Hit and Run Baseball have resulted in shorter games with more plate appearances, more balls in play and pitchers throwing fewer pitches, Major League Baseball reports.

“Hit and Run Baseball was created as a teaching tool designed to remind baseball participants that playing our game does not require a one-size-fits-all approach,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said when announcing the program’s expansion. “There are many different ways to structure practice, games and tournaments so that players get the most out of their experiences, particularly through crisp pace of play while also limiting pitch count burdens on pitchers.”

These changes are likely to impact tournaments at local levels, as the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), American Legion, Babe Ruth League, Dixie Youth, Dixie Boys & Majors, Little League International, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF), Ripken Baseball, USA Baseball, NCTB, PONY Baseball and Softball and Perfect Game are among the youth and amateur organizations that support Hit and Run Baseball.

This is not the first attempt this year to revise America’s pastime for younger players. In March, we reported on the evolution of Baseball5 (also known as street baseball) ­— a five-a-side street game that uses a rubber ball and can be played in an urban environment. In Baseball5, there is no pitcher. The “batter” bounces the ball and strikes it with a fist or open hand, then heads to first base while the fielding team tries to get him or her out (just as in traditional baseball). Each game is five innings long, and you can view a fun video of the game here.

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