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Every Major League Baseball player has at least one thing in common: they all played some form of organized baseball before making it to the big leagues. In America, one of the most popular ways for an amateur to enjoy the game of baseball and develop his skills is to play for his high school team.
While only one in every 6,600 high school baseball players ever make it to the Major Leagues, according to norwichcsd.org, all teenagers with the dream of playing for their favorite professional team must start somewhere.
Players have a much better chance of making their local high school team than a Major League Baseball team. While the number of players on a high school baseball team may vary depending on the school and state, most high school teams carry around 15-20 players.
As stated, this can vary depending on several factors which will be discussed in the rest of the article.
What Are the Factors that Contribute to Roster Size?
Some of the main factors that determine how many players a high school baseball team may carry on its roster are as follows:
- School Size
- Freshman and JV teams
- State Regulations
- Coach’s Preference
These are not the only factors that contribute to a high school baseball team’s roster size, but they are the ones that most often affect that number.
Bigger schools have more players to choose from when selecting their team at the beginning of each spring. It is as simple as that.
It is not uncommon to go to a high school baseball game featuring a large school with nine players on the field and 13 more in the dugout and a much smaller school’s team with nine on the field and three in the dugout.
The good news for smaller schools is that there is not always strength in numbers in baseball. Smaller schools with smaller rosters can still compete with bigger schools on any given year as long as the quality of their players on the field is similar to the quality of players playing for some of the bigger schools.
Where bigger schools with bigger rosters gain an advantage is in the depth of their roster. Losing players to injury or graduation does not affect them as much as some smaller schools where the dropoff in talent between starters and reserves is typically much larger.
Freshman and JV Teams
Some schools have enough resources and coaches to have more than one team in their program. It is not uncommon for a high school to have a Varsity, Junior Varsity (JV), and Freshman team, each with full rosters.
At schools where this is the case, the Freshman team consists of freshmen only and often plays against freshman teams from other schools. The Junior Varsity team consists of underclassmen and plays against other JV teams.
These teams are mostly seen as minor league teams for the Varsity team. They may share players in some instances. In others, players are either designated as Varsity, JV, or Freshman team players and do not play with other teams in the program.
Regardless, schools with Freshman and JV teams have the opportunity to keep more players in their program. They do this to give more younger players the opportunity to develop their skill set before reaching the Varsity level when they get older.
Schools that don’t take advantage of Freshman and JV teams are often schools that do not have enough players or coaches to fill out more than one roster. Because of this, they may have less roster spots in their programs, but they often don’t have as many players competing for them.
Different states have different rules when it comes to fielding a roster. Some have a cap for the number of players allowed on a Varsity team. Others have no limit allowing teams to decide for themselves how many players they’d like to carry on their roster.
Most states, however, do not have a roster limit until the postseason. They may allow coaches to have a certain number of players to dress for postseason games and a certain number allowed in the dugout.
Most states allow teams to carry anywhere from 18-22 players in uniform and sometimes up to 25 are allowed to be in the dugout but are not allowed to dress in uniform and enter the game.
For some schools with smaller Varsity rosters, this allows them to expand their roster for the postseason and get some younger players some experience dressing and traveling with the team. Schools with bigger rosters are sometimes required to cut down on their Varsity roster for the postseason.
Schools that have the luxury of big rosters often use the postseason roster limits to guide their decisions on how many players they choose to carry in the regular season. This keeps them from having to trim their rosters too much and tell players who have been with the team all spring that they can’t dress for the postseason.
All in all, states are different when it comes to how many players high school baseball teams are allowed to carry because the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) does not designate a specific number.
Ultimately, the number of players a high school team carries comes down to the head coach’s preference.
Some coaches prefer to err on the side of having more players than needed on their roster. This allows the team to have more depth in case of injury. It also gives the coach more options when putting together a starting lineup creating more competition within the team.
Other coaches err on the side of having fewer players so that there is more playing time to go around.
There are positives and negatives when it comes to both of these philosophies. More players equals more options but less playing time to go around. Fewer players equals fewer options but more playing time to go around.
Overall, most coaches try to balance having a big enough roster that allows for some flexibility when it comes to injuries while also not having too many players in the dugout that are not playing in the game.
A Note About Little League/Travel Ball Rosters and How They Compare to High School
Roster size is often one of the biggest adjustments players and parents face when it comes to the transition from Little League/Travel Ball to High School baseball.
Little League and Travel Ball rosters at the youth level often only carry about 12 players. High School teams generally carry more.
Little League teams also have rules that require every player to play at least a couple innings. Travel Ball teams don’t have the same rules, but it is generally understood that parents pay for their child to play, not sit on the bench.
In High School, no player is entitled to any sort of playing time. Do coaches try to get players in the game when they can? Yes. But will they sacrifice losing games to do so? Not normally.
This is something parents should be aware of as their child goes from competing for playing time against 11 other players to potentially 20 or more in high school. It is best to make them aware of this before they ever get to high school to help set realistic expectations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many pitchers are on a high school roster?
The number of pitchers on a high school team varies depending on the team, but most high school coaches will say that a team can never have enough pitching. Unlike college and professional teams, most high schoolers pitch and play a defensive spot, so teams don’t often have roster spots strictly devoted to pitchers.
Is there a minimum number of players a team can carry on the roster?
A team must carry at least nine players on a roster to be able to start a game. If a player is unable to finish a game, the team may play the rest of the game with less than nine players, but a game cannot start without nine players.
How many JV players does a high school team typically have on the roster?
In most schools, the JV roster is smaller than the Varsity roster, but this may not be true in some larger schools. As mentioned earlier, many schools share some of their JV players who show a lot of potential with the Varsity team. The thought behind this is to allow them to get some experience at the Varsity level while also getting enough repetitions at the JV level.
What position should my child play to have a better chance to make a high school team?
This depends on the school, but being able to pitch always helps your child’s chances of making a high school team. Most states have pitch count regulations that restrict pitchers from throwing too often. This requires more players to be able to pitch. If a player can play a defensive position and also pitch, his high school coach will likely see him as a player who may only fill one roster spot but is able to play two positions.
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