As news that more and more baseball leagues here in Rhode Island are electing to continue to postpone or even cancel their Spring 2020 seasons, leagues are looking at several options for their league members. One of them is refunding their Spring registration money, 100%. Another is donating the registration money to the league, or some portion of your registration fees. Yet another is transferring the Spring membership to the Fall baseball program. And the idea of getting players together for “Sandlot” type games is becoming a popular theme in a lot of posts I am reading. So what are “Sandlot” games?
Believe it or not, a large percentage of parents and grandparents have played in a Sandlot game. If you grew up without a cell phone, the internet, or 1,600 cable TV channels, I am referring to YOU. When you were a kid, you and your neighborhood buddies would meet at the Smith’s house or the Jones’ house for a game of Wiffle® Ball, stick ball, or just home run derby with a bat and tennis ball. Essentially, Sandlot baseball is the game of baseball played without parents coaching, adults umpiring, and just about having fun outdoors. The general rules of baseball still apply – you have a set of bases (home, 1st, 2nd, 3rd), you have a pitcher, a batter, sometimes a catcher, sometimes an outfielder or infielder. You pitch the ball, the batter swings and misses, it is a strike. You pitch the ball, the batter hits it and begins to run the bases. You pitch the ball and the batter hits it into the trees, it is a home run, depending on your house rules. So what are house rules?
House rules are the pre-game ritual of any Sandlot game. ‘Where is 1st base?’ “Why, right there, that tree is 1st base.” ‘Where is 2nd base?’ “Ok, let me go into my garage and get a cardboard box.” ‘What is a home run?’ “Well, if you hit the ball off my Dad’s tool shed in the air, it is a home run.” ‘If you hit the ball passed me and you get to 1st base before I grab it, you are safe.’ You can elect to play your Sandlot game at your house, at your local baseball field, or in any open recreational field area. Rules can be made up literally on the spot, the more ridiculous, the more fun you have during the game. “If you hit the ball in the air into the tree there in right field, and I catch it, you are OUT!!!” After all, Sandlot baseball is supposed to be fun, not a timed game, not a game that has a scoresheet, nobody is charting pitches, no one is recording errors, no coach is yelling out “Cut 4, Cut 4” from the dugout. The players keep score. The players call balls and strikes. The players call safe or out. The players call fair or foul. Play 2 innings, 10 innings, 100 innings, it is all in the details of the house rules. So what could Sandlot baseball look like, Version Summer, 2020?
What could motivate a pre-teen, teenager, or 20 something to play in a Sandlot baseball game in the summer of 2020? After all, playing hours of video games, going on YouTube to watch videos, and just zoning out on social media are all MUCH MORE FUN than going outside for most of our teenagers. Simple – social media posting opportunities. Same sandlot baseball structure – players make the rules, players call balls and strikes, players call fair or foul. Add in the element of live video streaming, social media posts throughout the game, hashtag #risandlotgame and build a following, post live videos of a mammoth home run hit into your neighbor’s pool with those slo-mo effects, and all of those other technical effects I have no idea how to do. Kids in 2020 use their phones about as much as their lungs use oxygen.
Imagine your teenager and his 3 buddies (we are still in the 5 and under social guidelines here in Rhode Island) at your local youth baseball park. They have the squishy Tee Ball baseballs, for safety purposes. No actual catcher, they put the soft toss netting where the umpire would stand and an office chair where a catcher would normally be positioned. Hit the upright part of the chair, it is a strike. Miss the chair, it is a ball. One multi-purpose fielder positioned somewhere between shortstop and left center field. To record an out, the fielder must field the ball, then throw the ball to the pitcher before the batter reaches first base on a hit. Recording the game is the on deck batter, who posts a video of his buddy hitting one over the multi fielder, who lost his shoe running after the baseball. The ball went over the fielder’s head because he was also videoing the action from his short, left field spot and couldn’t put his phone down in time. No harm, no error, everyone laughs, everyone has a good time. No screaming coaches, no parents yelling “what the heck are you doing out there, put the phone down.” Just you and your buddies on a warm, slightly breezy Sunday afternoon here in any baseball park in Rhode Island. Side note, no shaming or bullying or disgracing your fellow baseball players!!! This is a gigantic no-no. Do it in good taste or don’t do it at all.
Please do not misunderstand this post. Structure, practicing good techniques, discipline in the field, listening to the advice of baseball coaches is all very, very important in the development of the baseball spirit, mind, and body. Especially with youth baseball players. What I am talking about is playing baseball for the fun of it, for the pure enjoyment of the game. No trophies are handed out in Sandlot baseball. No scholarships are awarded based on your Sandlot performance. No state titles or district All-Star recognition from a weekend of Sandlot Baseball are announced on the news. The concept of Sandlot baseball is to get kids to play the game, have fun, and be active. And with this 2020 Version of Sandlot baseball players, social media, camera phones, and the hilarity that may ensue, it just might be the most entertaining baseball we get to watch for some time.
What are your thoughts? If you would like a reference on what Sandlot baseball events could look like for your league, check out Little League® Sandlot Fun Days by clicking this link – LL Sandlot Baseball.