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Seven Rule Changes All Little League Players, Coaches, and Parents Should Know

During its annual meeting this past November, the Little League International Board of Directors set out to find ways of making baseball and softball more accessible and easier to play. After receiving input from its advisory boards and volunteers involved in the 6,500 leagues worldwide, the Rules Committee adopted numerous changes they hope will promote sportsmanship and speed up play. The new regulations also include adjustments to the organizations’ background checks and residency requirements.

Below are seven important rule changes all Little League players, coaches and parents need to be aware of heading into the 2017 season.

Keep One Foot in the Batter’s Box

This is a new rule that’s optional during the regular season but mandatory in tournament play. Players must keep a foot in the batter’s box at all times. The first time he or she causes a delay by stepping out of the box, the umpire will issue a warning. If it’s done a second time, a strike will be called. There will be no limit as to the number of strikes called against the batter.

Declaring Intentional Walks (Baseball Only)

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Instead of requiring pitchers to throw actual pitches, the umpire simply needs to be notified of the intention to walk a batter. The umpire will then send the runner to first base. Even though the four pitches no longer have to be thrown, they will still be added to the pitch count.

“The reasoning behind this is our pitch counts are in place to protect young arms,” explained Brian McClintock, Little League’s senior director of communications. “We don’t want pitchers throwing any unnecessary pitches that don’t really have any impact on the game. Also, it prevents strategy on some managers’ parts to try to drive up a pitcher’s pitch count by swinging at pitches that are intended for an intentional walk.”

Fewer Pinch Runners

These rules will be applied to tournament play in baseball and softball. Up until this season, teams were allowed to use a special pinch runner once per inning. Beginning in 2017, teams can only have two per game, and no more than once per inning.

Stealing and Relaying of Pitch Selection and Location

Beginning this season, volunteer umpires for local leagues now have the option of determining whether a team is stealing signs or relaying pitch selection to a hitter. If, in the umpire’s judgment, such behavior is unsportsmanlike, both the manager and player can be ejected from the game. The rule will also apply during tournament play.

On-Field Altercations

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Umpires now have more guidance to handle fights or other physical disputes. If a manager, player, or coach leaves their position or the bench area during an altercation, the umpire can eject them immediately from the game. If the umpire feels the offending party is not complying with the ejection, the umpire can suspend the game and refer the matter to the Board of Directors for further action.

“If a manager or coach is deemed trying to break up a fight or altercation, they’re not in violation of that (rule),” Kevin Fountain, Little League’s director of media relations, said.

Background Checks

Local leagues within the United States must now conduct nationwide background checks using First Advantage or a comparable background provider. Local leagues outside the U.S. must conduct a comprehensive background check, including those within the relevant country, unless otherwise prohibited by that country’s laws.

New Residency Registration Procedures

Effective immediately, residency document requirements have been modified from 17 categories into three groups. One document from each of the three groups must now be provided to prove residence. Also, instead of requiring school report cards, or progress reports, to verify school enrollment, players can now complete a player verification form.

Click here for a complete breakdown of all changes to Little League’s rules and regulations. The baseball and softball rules page is frequently updated to reflect all changes.

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.

Baseball, Softball, Baseball Tips & Drills, Softball Tips & Drills