The Rhode Island Fall Baseball Season is just about underway for most leagues here in the Ocean State. Fall baseball was/is a developmental concept for youth athletes looking to advance their skill sets in a mostly less stressful baseball environment. Don’t get me wrong, the games are still competitive and teams play to win. But, the fall baseball season has traditionally been for developing a new swing, trying out a new position, pitching more than an inning, possibly stepping up from the Majors or 50/70 field to the Juniors/Seniors “big” field (60/90). Teams compete against other local towns in their District, similar to a travel team or AAU team. They have home games and away games in their District, with some teams even playing inter-state games. For the most part, the same basic rules apply as their regular season Spring, Summer games, unless of course you are moving up a division. Best thing to do is grab a rules book to be on the safe side.
As the summer months end and the cooler weather arrives and the leaves start turning pretty colors, fall baseball becomes part of the RI baseball community events calendar. Where you have the heat and humidity of the summer months for tournaments and games, the fall schedule presents a different challenge with the weather. Cold, damp mornings where the field is still “dewey” from the night before can be a challenge for players and parents alike. The field doesn’t have a chance to dry out from the sun and the field stays wet for early morning games. Weekends games after a long week of school, maybe a part time job, as well as flag football/soccer/lacrosse/swimming or whatever cross sport you play can leave players really, really dragging physically. I remember Saturday games at 9am, looking at my roster of 12 very, very tired players and doing my very best as their coach, cheerleader, motivational speaker, and pep rally coordinator to get them going. It’s not always so easy, but once the game starts and the kids into the flow of the game, everything sort of takes off spirit wise.
The spirit of fall baseball is to develop a player’s skill sets that need improvement or teach them a new set of skills to prepare for the Spring season. Here in New England, we are not afforded the opportunities of Virginia, Florida, Georgia, California weather wise, so our youth baseball players can realistically play 7, maybe 8 months outdoors on a field. Indoor baseball facilities here in Rhode Island do an amazing job with our youth athletes during the late Fall, Winter, and early Spring months to help compensate for the lack of outdoor field time. The fall baseball season provides that important gap stop between Spring baseball one year (for those who did not play districts, AAU, or friendship tournaments) and then Spring baseball the following year. Kids grow emotionally, physically in a calendar year and a lot can happen that could potentially impact a youth baseball player – deciding to stay in the game or end their baseball days. The fall season gives youth players the chances that a highly competitive spring season may not. Opportunities at shortstop or on the pitcher’s mound or perhaps leading off the game in the batting order. Opportunities that might spark a player’s interest who was perhaps on the fence about even continuing to play the game into his/her teens. This is why playing fall baseball, if you have the opportunity in your league, is so important to the Rhode Island baseball community.
Personally, I loved coaching Fall baseball. I always had a great group of kids, parents, and assistant coaches at a number of different levels of youth baseball. My youngest son Harrison benefited immensely from playing fall baseball, as he got to develop on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate. I really loved the travel aspect of Fall baseball as well. In District 3, where I coached North Kingstown/Wickford Little League for many years, we got to travel to awesome baseball fields in Westerly, Warwick, East Greenwich, South Kingstown, as well as play at home at beautiful Lischio Field. Last fall, I got to coach Juniors on the big field, who had an opportunity to lead, steal more bases, learn how far 90′ is from home plate, and so much more. It was a lot of fun and the kids got to play about 10 games in the fall season. The Sunday morning 9am games were rough, but we got through them with the help of donuts and a lot of encouragement.
Good luck to all the players, coaches, families, and leagues playing Fall baseball this year. I will try to get out to as many games as possible to check out the great baseball action around Rhode Island as the weather turns colder, the leaves turn orange, and the calendar winds down to the end of 2019.