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Baseball is considered to be one of the toughest games in all of sport. It is a skill-driven sport where athleticism certainly helps, but at the end of the day, athleticism doesn’t go as far as it does in other sports.
It is hard to put an exact age when it is too late to start playing baseball, but for players who dream of playing professional baseball, it is best to start playing early.
You hear the stories in some other sports about the guy who didn’t start playing until high school or even college that makes it to the professional level. Not to say that can’t happen in baseball, but it is more rare.
There have, however, been some outliers in the sport who have reached the professional level despite starting the game at later ages. Some of those instances will be discussed later in the article.
When Should I Start Playing Baseball?
The first stage of the game is normally tee ball which starts as early as age four and as late as six. Most baseball people will say that tee ball is not necessarily the most important stage of the game.
Parents who start their kids in tee ball at that young of an age should go into it with the idea that they are trying to instill in their child a love for the game. Skill acquisition should take a back seat having fun and learning about the game.
After tee ball normally comes coach pitch. Players who have never played tee ball may struggle in coach pitch early on, but parents certainly should not hesitate to sign their child up for coach pitch even if he skipped the tee ball stage.
In coach pitch, having fun should still be the number one priority, but at this age (usually 6-8), players can start focusing more on the skills of the game.
After coach pitch and at about eight or nine years old, kids begin to pitch. This is where kids who have played a lot start to separate themselves from the kids who have not. Kids start to mature and understand the game more, and as they work on their skills, their game improves.
From this point on, kids that are new to the game often find themselves further behind than the kids who have been playing for years because they have not practiced their baseball skills as often.
Kids who are more athletic can close this gap much faster than kids with limited athleticism, but that gap is not easy to close. It can be done, but each year a kid doesn’t play baseball, that gap grows even larger.
All in all, tee ball is a great place to start for kids who want to play baseball, but at the very least, they should start playing in coach pitch if at all possible.
Is There Such a Thing as Starting Baseball Too Early?
The old saying that the early bird gets the worm isn’t always the case when it comes to starting sports at an early age, and baseball is no exception.
Parents who start their kids in baseball too early run the risk of burning their kids out at an early age. Baseball is not an easy sport and requires a lot of repetition to improve skills. Parents who force their kids to practice all the time at an early age often ruin their love for the game.
Some parents even like to start their kids in the game at a very young age against kids two and three years older. This is not a good idea as it often puts the young kid in danger of injury and also risks destroying their confidence.
As mentioned earlier, kids at a young age need to learn to have fun playing baseball more than they need to learn how to catch a pop-up.
If they are constantly getting outdone by their teammates who may not be better players but are physically more mature, their confidence is likely to diminish along with their joy of the game.
Parents, the next time you see a viral video of a three-year-old baseball phenom hitting line drives and fielding ground balls, please understand that he is an outlier, and don’t try to force your son to work tirelessly to be the world’s greatest tee ball player.
Professional Baseball Players Who Started Playing Late in Life
Two current baseball players who did not start playing baseball until high school are Seattle Mariners utility man Dee Gordon and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
Gordon began playing baseball his freshman year of high school despite being the son of a Major League Baseball pitcher. Cain did not play until his sophomore year of high school. Both players started late because they were previously dedicated to basketball.
Long-time Rangers left-handed pitcher Kenny Rogers did not start playing baseball until his senior year of high school and did not even pitch that season. He was drafted after that season and was converted into a pitcher when he signed with the Rangers.
Clearly, it is not impossible to make it to the major leagues after starting baseball at a later age, but keep in mind that these are exceptional cases.
Is talent level in Little League an indicator of future success?
How good a player is in Little League does not determine how good that player will be when he reaches higher levels of baseball. Young kids mature at different ages. Sometimes, players who struggle in Little League find success later on because of their maturation.
When is it too late to start playing travel baseball?
It really is never too late to start playing travel baseball. There are debates around how young is too young for travel ball, but anyone who feels the need to play against better competition can consider playing travel ball. See our article Travel Baseball: Pros and Cons for more information.
What positions are best for players who are starting late?
Outfield is probably the best position for players who are starting baseball later in life. Outfield does require skill and athleticism, but players who start late probably lack the baseball IQ needed to play infield. There is less to think about in the outfield making it a good position for players with less experience.
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