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Every year, some of the nation’s best 12-year-olds meet in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to compete in the Little League World Series. Tuning into this event often reminds fans of the joy that the game of baseball can bring to the lives of young players.
One of the more interesting things about watching the Little League World Series is keeping up with the velocities at which these players throw. On the ESPN broadcast, the pitch velocity flashes after each pitch along with a Major League equivalent.
They show this because of the difference in the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate in Little League compared to the Major Leagues. As one can imagine, the Little League mound is a lot closer to make up for the lack of strength in most young players.
Everything about a Little League field is smaller than that of a Major League/regulation size field: the mound, the bases, the fence.
On a regulation-size baseball field, each base is placed 90 feet apart with the pitcher’s mound being 60 feet and 6 inches from home plate.
At younger levels of baseball, the bases are placed closer to each other as is the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Let’s take a dive into the dimensions of the base paths at each level of baseball.
Dimensions at Each Level of Baseball
Baseball field dimensions vary at each level of baseball in order to give players a fair shot at succeeding at the sport.
The following table shows the base measurements at each level of the game.
|60 feet 6 inches
|Home to 2nd
|84 feet 10 inches
|113 feet 2 inches
|127 feet 3 ⅜ inches
It is important to note that the bases are measured from the outside edge of first and third base, the middle of second base, and the back point of home plate.
The different dimensions reflect the developmental stage each player experiences.
At the Little League level, ages 12 and under, the bases are 60 feet apart from each other, and the mound is 46 feet from home plate. Local leagues have the option to decrease the base paths for tee-ball leagues to 50 feet, which most of them do.
Players used to jump from the 46/60 dimensions all the way to the 60/90 baseball diamond after their Little League days ended. However, more leagues — especially travel ball leagues and tournaments — have opted to offer some transition years before bumping kids up to the big field.
Intermediate and Junior League Dimensions: Advantages and Disadvantages
The 50/70 and 54/80 base measurements were created to offer a smoother transition to the regulation size field. This is generally a good thing for players as they are not thrown into the fire right away when they turn 13.
The dimensions are more suitable to where they are in their development. However, it does create some problems.
When leagues started transitioning to these size bases, fields were hard to come by. There are more fields today being built for the 50/70 dimensions, but the 54/80 fields are still a dime a dozen.
These intermediate and junior size fields are mostly used in travel ball, and they cause problems for players who play travel ball and Little League.
12-year-old travel ball tournaments often use the 50/70 field dimensions whereas 12-year-olds in Little League play on the 46/60 fields. When players, especially pitchers, bounce back and forth between the two distances, it usually creates bad habits and inconsistencies in their mechanics.
Also, 13 and under travel ball tournaments are not as standardized as younger ages in the field size required for each tournament. It is not uncommon for a 13 and under team to play one weekend on a 54/80 field and then play the next weekend on a 60/90 field.
Coaches of 13 and under teams should keep this in mind when registering for tournaments. In order to make it easier on their players, coaches of these teams should decide before the season starts to only play on one size field the entire season.
For teams that are more advanced, it may not be a bad idea to go ahead and play on the 60/90 field. For teams with players that are not as advanced, playing at the 54/80 distance will be just fine.
At the end of the day, it is important for coaches not to rush their players along in their development. These intermediate and junior league field dimensions were created for a reason, so take advantage of them if necessary.
Building a Field
When building a brand new baseball field, it is important to place the bases in this order: home plate, second base, first base, then third base.
Ideally, builders should build the backstop first and use the center point of it to place home plate into the ground between 25 and 60 feet away from the backstop.
After that, builders should measure 127 feet 3 ⅜ inches (assuming it is a regulation size field) from the back point of home plate to where the middle of second base would be. After doing this, they should place second base into the ground.
Then comes first and third base. Finding first base is accomplished by measuring 90 feet from the back point of home plate to where first base would be and doing the same from the middle of second base. Where these lines intersect is where the back right corner of the base should go.
The same steps should be repeated for third base.
With the bases being further apart at the highest levels of baseball, baserunners are allowed to lead off of the bases to position themselves closer to the next base.
Contrary to popular belief, a runner on first, second, or third base never actually has to stand on the base once they have reached it. He may lead off as far as he would like, but he must be ready for the pitcher to possibly attempt to pick him off.
At lower levels of baseball where the bases are only 60 feet apart, players are rarely allowed to lead off. This is because the bases are already close enough that it is not necessary, and pitchers often aren’t advanced enough to both throw strikes and focus on a runner leading off.
In leagues where leading off the bases is not allowed, players must wait until the ball crosses home plate if they want to steal a base. If a player leaves the base early and successfully steals a base, he will be sent back to his original base. If he is thrown out by the catcher, then he is out.
On a batted ball in the same scenario, the player will have to return to the base closest to the one he occupied before the ball was put in play.
Some travel tournaments allow players to begin leading off as early as age 11 or 12 when they begin playing on 70 foot bases. The reason for this is both thanks to the longer base paths and an attempt to make the game more like professional baseball.
When leading off, a baserunner may attempt to steal the next base whenever he wants as long as the ball is in play. The ideal time to take off though is when the pitcher lifts his front leg because, at that point, he must throw the pitch to home plate — unless he is left-handed.
Leading off is a key concept to understand in the higher levels of the game because being able to do it effectively as a runner and being able to control it as a pitcher are small details that can make a big difference in the outcome of a game.
How fast can professional baseball players run from home to first?
The average MLB right-handed hitter reaches first base in around 4.3 seconds while the average left-handed hitter gets there in about 4.2 seconds. Byron Buxton leads all of MLB with an average home-to-first time of 3.98 seconds.
More known for his pitching and his power hitting abilities, speed is a rather underrated part of two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s game as he reaches first base on average in 4.1 seconds.
What are the dimensions of the bases?
Bases are 15 inches by 15 inches and anywhere from 3-5 inches tall.
Will MLB ever change the dimensions of the field?
There has been speculation that the MLB will move the pitcher’s mound back at some point, but there is no confirmation as to if and when it will happen.
Some independent professional leagues have moved the pitcher’s mound back to 61 feet 6 inches in recent years to make the game more fair for hitters, but in doing so, they have not changed the dimensions of the base paths.