A few weeks ago we wrote our dissent on the decision to change the Little League bat standards to a new USA bat. But that will not be the biggest change to affect Little League baseball in the coming seasons. The age change, moving the cutoff birthday from May 1st to September 1st effective 2018, will disrupt teams across the country much more significantly than a change in bat standards will. Although some details on the change and how it will affect other leagues has yet to be determined, we now know enough to put together some details you may be searching for.
On the whole, we are not opposed to the change even if we think it is much ado about nothing. But, we are against the utter silence other organizations have maintained while teams do their best to form this year. Cal Ripken, USSSA, Babe Ruth, PONY and so forth have made no statement, at least publicly, on the matter. For many, that is a frustrating approach.
2018 Baseball Age Changes Article Contents
2018 Baseball Age Changes Sources
A number of serious publications have covered the age change rules and implications for Little League. Little League’s second announcement on the age change rule is the most authoritative. They are, after all, the group creating all the hubbub. Among other dominant publications, ESPN put together an announcement on the matter, too. This makes sense considering their Little League World Series is a flagship presentation on ESPN’s late summer broadcast.
We also exchanged emails with a couple different folks at USSSA corporate offices.
2018 Baseball Age Change Rules
The rule change is simple enough. Age birthday cutoffs for a given year will change from May 1st to September 1st. This rule goes into effect beginning 2018. In the first year it will not apply to 12U, or said differently, those born May 1st to August 31st 2005 can play 12U baseball. Otherwise, expect summer birthday boys to become the youngest on Little League team, rather than the oldest.
In short, this makes it so no one playing in the Little League World Series, or other major baseball tournaments sponsored by Little League, are 13 years old in a 12U tournament.
The claim Little League makes is that the age birthday change puts them more in line with international age birthday cutoffs. Although wreaking havoc in some circles, the idea does make some sense.
Baseball Age Change Fallout
If Little League International was the only governing body on the planet, this shift would be rather simple. Summer birthday kids could simply expect to find or create a new team for 2018 and beyond. At a maximum this would be irritating and inconvenient.
But the problem extends beyond this because Little League is not the only governing body on the planet for youth baseball. Indeed, USSSA, PONY, Babe Ruth and a host of other competitive baseball groups, including Triple Crown and Perfect Game, use the May 1st birthday cutoff. When teams are created at a neighborhood level, it is not uncommon for teams to play across multiple associations as they are not tied to a governing body. As such, it will now be possible to put together a team that is ineligible in some leagues.
On a somewhat humorous note, there was a petition on change.org gaining signatures against the age change. Apparently this was even handed to the Senior Vice President Of Operations of Little League International.
Unaffiliated Travel Ball Teams
Many unaffiliated travel ball leagues are struggling to find a solution, especially as major non-Little League organizations have been rather quiet on the matter. Considering we no less than 10 months out, and many teams formed now are also based on next year’s run, you can expect some anxious coaches and parents.
Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken
PONY, Babe Ruth nor Cal Ripken have yet to make any public announcement they are following suit. Their webistes (here, here and here respectively) are a place we look often. You can also find them on twitter for updates too. The fact none of these organizations have said anything publicly encourages us to think they simply won’t be changing. However, the fact they have not confirmed they are not changing makes us wonder if they are still deliberating.
PONY Age Changes
We have been told that PONY baseball is also changing their age changes to August 1st for the 2018 season. They have yet to put any information on their site, but through the grape vine we were told they announced it at a meeting during president’s day.
USSSA Age Change
We sent two emails to different people up the chain of command in the USSSA administration. The first, our local Rocky Mountain office, said there has been no official announcement. The second, a national administrator for USSSA baseball based in Phoenix said, “USSSA will not be changing our current age cut off for baseball.“
However, they also have nothing on their website.
If the National Administrator is right, and we suspect she is, then it is probably a good idea they starting telling the people that work in the organization, so they can get the word out to those organizing teams today. And if USSSA’s response is indicative of other groups’ responses to Little League age changes (as in no change and no response), we offer the same advice to PONY, Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth, etc.—let your people know so they can let coaches and players know how best to prepare for coming seasons of baseball.