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Baseball is not only an “America’s past-time”, it has also exploded in popularity around the world! Baseball is gaining so much traction that many people desire further information about this great game and all of its unique nuances. I’ve been involved with baseball for the last 32 years (Player, Coach, and Die-Hard Fan), and through this blog I’ll help you better understand this sport that is near and dear to my heart.
The answer as to whether or not everyone bats in baseball is a complicated one. The short answer is “it depends”. Different leagues have different rules depending on age, skill level, and experience. Let’s take a look at each league.
Little League Baseball
All players between the ages of 5 and 13 start out in Little League. This league provides a great introduction to the game of baseball and teaches the children the basic fundamentals
of the game like hitting, running, throwing, and fielding. In this league every player on the entire roster must bat at least once per game.
The exact rule from littleleague.org states, “At levels of play, every rostered player present at the start of a game must participate in each game for a minimum of six defensive outs and bat at least once.” This is a great rule since it gives each player a chance to earn valuable experience in each game.
High School Baseball
Things change drastically once a player develops and reaches the level of high school baseball. At this level, players are not guaranteed any playing time and must earn their chances at the plate by proving themselves to their respective coaches.
In high school baseball the only players that get a chance to bat are the starting 9 players that are on the field. Players on the bench may be asked to replace a starting player in the line-up later in the game. This is known as “pinch-hitting”.
It is also at the high school level of baseball that the DH (Designated Hitter) rule can be applied. The DH can bat in place of any of the starting nine players in the lineup. The DH is employed in place of the team’s pitcher a majority of the time.
The DH rule does vary based on which country you live in. For example, the DH is very prominent at all high schools in America. However, in Japan the rule is not used at all and all starting nine players must hit for themselves.
The batting rules for collegiate baseball are strikingly similar to high school baseball. One major difference between the college level and high school level is that in college the DH must always hit for the pitcher, whereas in high school the DH can hit for any starter.
Oftentimes, in college baseball, the pitcher is also a very talented hitter. In this case the Head Coach may opt to not use the DH rule and simply let the pitcher hit for himself. One confusing aspect of the college game is that the pitcher can also be listed as the DH.
Professional Level: Minor Leagues
Now let’s cover the folks who actually get paid to play this great game, the professionals. Many people may not know this, but there are 6 different levels of Minor League Baseball. There is Rookie Ball, Class A Short Season, Low-A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
The DH rule is applied across the board in all Rookie Ball, Class A Short Season, Low-A, and High-A games. At these levels (and all levels of professional baseball) the DH must hit for the pitcher. This rule allows the pitchers more time to perfect their craft since they can avoid hitting.
At the higher levels of professional baseball (Double-A and Triple-A) who all gets to bat varies. If both teams are National League affiliates, the pitcher has to hit for himself and the DH rule cannot be used. However, if both teams are American League affiliates the DH rule can be applied.
Professional Level: Major Leagues
Maybe Now we’ve made it to the “Big-Boys league”. These guys are the multi-millionaires who are the absolute best in the baseball world. Let’s take a look at both the American League and the National League rules for who gets to bat.
In the American League, the DH rule applies and the pitcher does not have to worry about hitting. In this league there are always more runs scored since each American League team’s lineup has the benefit of the “extra” big-hitter. The Designated Hitter is often a big, muscle-bound fellow who can hit the ball a really long way.
In the National League, the DH rule cannot be applied and the pitcher must always hit for himself (unless a pinch-hitter is called upon which we will not get into in this article). Many baseball “purists” or hardcore fans believe that the National League is the best league since the Head Coach/Manager must employ a higher level of strategy without the DH.
For a funny clip in regards to the Designated Hitter role, please check out the following clip from the movie “Little Big League”: