Growing up playing multiple sports in Rhode Island, I had the opportunity to play at some of the most incredible indoor and outdoor facilities here in the Ocean State. I played multiple sports like soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, and more baseball. However, the only sport I played exclusively outdoors was baseball. I played North Kingstown Recreation basketball indoors and played in the summer leagues in East Greenwich outdoors. I played tennis indoors in Warwick and played on the tennis courts at Wickford Middle School next to the baseball field. I played travel soccer for years on soccer fields all over New England and also played indoor soccer in West Warwick. I played outdoors on a zillion baseball fields all over Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and parts of Connecticut and Virginia. But when it came time for playing or practicing in the winter, I simply went into my Mom’s barn and hit balls off a tee until the snow melted. Or threw snowballs at my imaginary catcher, whom I spray painted onto the red door of my mother’s barn.
The thought came to me on a rainy Saturday afternoon, so I posed it to the Rhode Island baseball community at large on my Facebook page – The RIBBE. “Could A Rhode Island Indoor Baseball League work?” The response was tremendous. Comments came pouring in to support the idea and downright encourage the idea. Mike Giard from one of the top AAU programs here in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Rays, commented that there was some organization around the idea several years back. Others shouted “Yes” and “Need one so bad” and it would “definitely work here.” From at least this small sample, the answer is, at the very least, promising.
So how would a league work? Where would the games be played? Who has an indoor facility large enough to accommodate an indoor baseball field setup? What are the pitch count restrictions? What are the town boundary restrictions? What is the “league age” situation? What are the rules pertaining to hitting the ceiling? What type(s) of bats are allowed? Is there a mercy rule? Is a timed game? Continuous batting? No infield fly rule? Just some of the hundreds of questions that would need to be answered to determine the framework of a Rhode Island winter indoor baseball league.
Here is a snippet of rules (Google search) from facilities around the country that offer an indoor winter baseball league:
- Each game will have a 1 hour and 15 minute time limit. The ‘clock’ starts at your scheduled game time. a. No new inning shall start after 1 hour and 10 minutes. b. When the home team is ahead or tied and the Time Limit stops the game, the score stands and all runs scored count. c. When the visiting team is ahead and the Time Limit stops the game prior to the home team completing their at bat, or tying the game, or taking the lead, the score will revert to the previously completed full inning to determine the winner and runs scored. 11. Balls contacting the Dome roof, light guards, or netting over fair territory are in play and playable – play on. 12. Balls contacting the Dome roof, light guards, or netting over foul territory are immediately called dead balls.
- All league games will be allocated time slots of 80 minutes to play. Teams will be given roughly 5 minutes for warmup at the start of their time block, and will play for 80 minutes. Teams will begin to clear the field area 5 minutes before the next game is scheduled to begin. Games shall start and end on time. Games will be 6 innings or 80 minutes max, whichever comes first. A clock will be used – when 80 minutes are up, the game stops immediately. Play as many innings as time allows within the time frame.
- Think HR Derby when you were a kid, full size infield regulation size, with a net above the back of the infield for Double, Triple, HR depending on where it hits. Anything that hits the ceiling in the infield is an out. This is to tune our skills out of the cold and for future Spring, Summer, and Fall Baseball Leagues we currently play in. This is also designed for father and son(s) to play together as well. This is to be competitive but FUN with Amazing Sportsmanship. We have NEVER had any player issues and we plan to keep it like that.
An indoor winter baseball league would most definitely pose some concerns for youth baseball coaches and leagues going into the spring season. Am I going to over extend my pitching staff by having them throw games in the winter months? Am I going to “burn out” players so they are non-competitive or worse injured (overuse) for District or All-Star season in June, July, and potentially August? Will my players pickup any bad habits playing indoor baseball on a potentially shortened field? Safety of the players is a top priority for any league administrator, so these and many other concerns are definitely worth noting. And how would the field of play be designed? 6 players – Pitcher, catcher, 4 infielders – and an outfield net? Or a full defensive squad?
There will be some thought provoking questions that come up. Would hitting indoors make hitters adjust their swings? Would pitchers gain a few MPH on their fastballs because there are external weather elements? Would defensive skills improve because of all the “true” hops on ground balls? Would less developed players improve in a non-competitive game situation for the spring season? Would committing to an indoor baseball league deter players from attending baseball facilities now, which are primarily skills based and practice driven? Could an indoor baseball league work around the training and game schedules of other indoor sports like soccer, basketball, flag football, hockey?
The question posed “Could A Rhode Island Indoor Baseball League work?” remains to be answered in this article. Social media polls are great for discussion and for a general sense of what a community thinks about a topic. In a perfect world, things work amazing with results you could only dream about. For example: a Rhode Island winter indoor baseball league, with hundreds of players, coaches, and leagues working together on a common goal sounds great. However, the reality is that an indoor winter baseball league here in Rhode Island would take a ton of planning, organization, and time to make it even a tiny success. Safety, pitch counts, overuse injuries are just a few of the many concerns leagues would have going into this discussion.
But, as Bruce Springsteen once sang “You can’t start a fire without a spark.”