Q & A on 50/70 Baseball at RYBL – Interview with Kokomo Herald 9/28/17
Answers in Red by Scott Sipes, RYBL President
- How long has the board been discussing making the move to 50/70 ball?
50/70 baseball at Russiaville has been discussed for several years. Our advanced play team, the Russiaville Rams, which plays in tournaments on weekends, has played in 50/70 tournaments for several years. Coaches and parents who have experienced 50/70 baseball have encouraged this transition for RYBL.
- How is converting to 50’/70’ baseball going to impact the major league program? What impact will it have on play for the RYBL kids?
At Russiaville, we have age division leagues, 8u, 10u, and 12u. Our 12u league is comprised of 11 and 12 year old players, supplemented from time to time with 10 year old players as single game call ups to cover game day roster shortages. We are converting to 50/70 for the 12u division only and for league play only. With 50/70 rules, leadoffs and steals will be allowed. This will help players learn advanced skills that are part of baseball rules at all ages 13 and above. We anticipate that there will be less pitcher dominance with the mound 4 feet further from home plate, which in turn will increase hitting. In the infield, throws will be longer, but base paths are 10 feet longer than 46/60 fields. We think the result will be better development of players, both defensively and offensively.
- What will the league have to do to the field to prepare it for 50’/70’?
We will be removing 10 feet of sod from just behind the current infield arc and replacing with a drainage layer and field conditioner. We will also be removing the existing clay mound and replacing it with a portable turf covered mound. Lastly, we will be setting base anchor sleeves for two base distances, 60 feet and 70 feet. We play 10u and 12u games on the major league field during league play, so we want to be able to keep the field convertible between 50/70 and 46/60. Additionally, we intend to set up the field to 46/60 for city tournament games as well as all-star tournaments. We are not modifying any fences for this transition. We have 200 feet to all fields and, following Cal Ripken guidelines, do not need any fence modifications.
- What league game rules, if any, will be changed to advance player skills at this distance?
Base runner leadoffs and steals will be allowed. Additionally, pickoffs and balks will be introduced into game rules. Since 50/70 is new to our league, we will evaluate play and adapt if we observe improvements can be made. Generally speaking, we intend to follow the Cal Ripken 50/70 rulebook.
- How will converting to 50’/70’ better prepare the young athletes for the next level of play?
When players progress to the next level of play at age 13, they jump to a full-sized infield, which is 60 feet 6 inches from the pitching rubber to home plate and 90 feet between bases. From 46/60, this is quite a transition all at once. 50/70 provides a transitional distance for players to progress more gradually. We feel kids who play 50/70 will be physically better prepared for the next level of baseball as well as better prepared in terms of baserunning, rules, and fundamentals of the full game of baseball.
- Will the lower divisions (rookie/minor) still play 46’/60’?
Yes, 8u (Rookie) and 10u (Minor) will still play 46/60. At Russiaville, this includes 6-10 year olds.
- Will you have to build or modify the pitcher’s mound for the 50’ distance?
We will be removing the existing clay mound and replacing it with a portable turf covered mound.
- Have there been discussions of which tournament trail you will enter for All Stars next summer? Should you go the Major/70, how will that change the season for the kids?
At this time, a final decision has not been made. However, we are currently leaning towards staying in the Major/60 tournament trail for next season. Longer term, we would like to transition to the Major/70 tournament trail. The reason for staying in the Major/60 all-stars for 2018 would be that most or all of the other leagues in the Howard County area will still be in the Major/60 All-Stars. Our strong hope is that other leagues in the Kokomo and Howard County area will transition to 50/70 baseball in the near future. If that occurs, District All-Star play with other teams in our district will be possible for Major/70. One thing we have learned from the Cal Ripken State Commissioner, Dave Smith, is that most leagues in northern Indiana, in the Hamilton County area, and in other states in the Ohio Valley Region have already converted to 50/70 fields. The trend nationwide for Major Leagues is moving to 50/70 fields. RYBL is converting its facilities and league play so that we are positioned to provide the best opportunities for area kids to advance and succeed in baseball. We believe the handwriting is on the wall that Cal Ripken Major/60 All-Stars are waning both in the number of teams and competitiveness, while Major/70 is growing each year.
- Are there any concerns for the pitchers to make the longer throw? Infielders to get the ball across the field?
Cal Ripken has instituted rules for pitch counts that we feel strongly protect against overuse of pitchers, which leads to arm fatigue and potential injury. Infielders and pitchers will adapt to the new longer distances with practice. This transitional infield size has been utilized in leagues nationwide and found to be suitable for Cal Ripken aged kids.
- Will moving to 50’/70’ make the outfield play shorter?
The distance from the outfield fence to the bases will be 10 feet shorter than the previous configuration with 46/60. The use of cutoffs is common for balls in the outfield and that will still be common, although there will be some fielded balls that will be able to be directly thrown to the proper base. Stretching an extra base out of a hit will be more likely to result in an out, given the longer distance between bases and the shorter throw to the base.
- Is there anything else the board discussed prior to making this move that is beneficial to this story?
Another consideration for RYBL in making the decision to convert to 50/70 is to combat players leaving the league to play for outside travel teams. We feel that providing a more advanced play league on a transitional sized infield will help attract and retain players at Russiaville and better position the league and its players for the future.
RYBL will welcome Howard, Clinton, and Carroll County area players aged 11-12 who wish to play 50/70 baseball to play in our league, subject to Cal Ripken boundary rules. Registrations will begin in early December at rybl.org.
Jenn Goad, Reporter
765-553-5048 (office) | 765-437-5034 (mobile)