Oh don’t worry, you’ll still get your standard diamond dimensions at the Little League World Series at Williamsport next year: in which 200-pound 12-year-olds launch terrifying fastballs from 46 feet away. But now Little League Baseball Inc. has officially added a 50/70 Division, where 11- through 13-year-olds can play the game with leadoffs, steals, and, my favorite, head-first sliding, on a slightly bigger field.
And they had their first-ever 50/70 Little League World Series in August, in Livermore, CA. The result was predictable: Osaka, Japan, defeating Collier Township, PA, 10-0 in the championship game.
So after a three-year experiment in a pilot program, kids can now play real baseball with 50 feet from mound to home plate (regular Little League is 46 feet) and 70 feet between bases (as opposed to 60). It’s meant to ease the transition between ages 12 and 13, when kids move up to Babe Ruth League and Senior League, which have 90-foot basepaths.
While its All-Star tournament doesn’t have the cache of a trip to Williamsport (“We’re going to Livermore!”), the new division did have 2,500 teams worldwide this past season, and that number is expected to double in 2014. That’s because, I’m sure, kids would rather play real baseball than the stick-to-the-base version that’s been around since 1939.
Anyway, no excuses now for the gigantic 12-year-old who’s collecting home runs on popups over 200-foot fences. (New fences, 275 feet). He can now move up and play real baseball: if, that is, his community has the new league.