Here is some general information that will answer many FAQs we receive:
Regarding ages, grades and playing levels:
What levels of play are there?
Westbrook Little League Divisions will be determined after registration closes and through a skills assessments at the winter clinics along with a possible 'tryout' date in late March. For 2020 that date is tentatively March 28. The term tryout is used loosely as no children are ever refused the opportunity to play ball in Little League.
The local interleague group has generalized a breakdown of age/division play, all dependent on the number of registrants in each league. More on interleague in a bit.
Majors: All 11 and 12 year olds. This is dependent on a maximum roster size of 13 players. If there are more than 13 combined 11 and 12 year olds a skills assessment will be used to determine which player(s) will remain at the AAA level unless there are enough players for two majors level teams. In 2020 there will not be. In fact, we'll probably fall short, so in the event that happens and there are not at least 11 players to make a majors roster, some 10s will be asked to play up at this level. This is normal for little league ages as by rule majors level eligibility is age 9-12, and it will be a huge opportunity for these kids who move up.
AAAMinors: All 9 and 10 year olds. Again, dependent on number of players and a maximum 13 player roster. Some 8s may be asked to play up at this level if there are not at least 10 players on the roster. Minors eligibility is age 7-11. Two teams of 10 are not out of the question, but kids need to be able to pitch at this level and throw from the top of the mound, not out in front of it like the AA level, below.
AAMinors: All 7 and 8 year olds. This is a combined coach and player pitch division and the key is getting kids pitching. Because it can take a lot of patience, players pitchers will throw at least four pitches to a batter, after which a coach will take over and give the hitter three swings to put the ball in play. If a pitcher and a hitter are engaged in a good at bat coaches may let them continue. Currently, the batting order for AA is under advisement rule, whereby coaches should make one batting order at the beginning of the season and use it continually throughout – the batter on deck when the last out of the game is made will lead off the next game and the order will continue as originally set. AA Minors eligibility is age 7-11, but Westbrook has always allowed 6s to play as long as they have had a year of tee ball and understand the basics of the game. Westbrook, Essex, Deep River and Old Saybrook will play in this division.
**Single AMinors: this level is currently a possibility depending on the number of registrations. This level will be for 5 - 7 year olds and solely a machine pitch level. Only East Haddam and Old Saybrook will have teams at this level and it will be almost fully developmental with no focus on competition.
**Softball: Softball will be most likely be run through Madison in the East Shore League. This still means we need to have our own team, though. We are currently in need of someone to take on the role of softball coordinator and managing this portion of the league. At the moment there would be one team at the minors level, grades 3 & 4 if we can get there.
Girls are always welcome to play baseball, though, as they'll start learning the basic skills in the AA and AAA levels to translate to the softball field at the higher levels.
What towns will be involved?
Due to the size of our league and the leagues around us, Little League ball isn't what it used to be where a town has its own league and enough teams to not have to look to its neighbors for games. These towns have grouped together for several years in an interleague group and this group has grown over the past few seasons. Westbrook was once a member of CDEW, which was an interleague group of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Westbrook and these towns played together exclusively each spring. Deep River and Chester have since merged as Chester could no longer maintain itself, and now several other towns are involved from our Little League District, including Middletown, East Haddam and Old Saybrook. This is for the spring season only, as Summer Ball and Fall Ball are played with some of these towns and several others in our district.
District 9 includes Clinton, Coginchaug, Deep River/Chester, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Guilford, Haddam-Killingworth, Madison, Middletown, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.
When does the season start and end?
Opening Day has been held on the last Saturday in April for the past several seasons. Sometimes games begin the week prior, others they begin on Opening Day. Practices start with winter clinics, which are free for all registered players and run in February and March. The kids usually get outside in the first week of April, so expect about 3 days of practices (two weeknights and Saturdays) until games start. April Vacation ends the Saturday before Opening Day, and some coaches still hold practices during this week, but no one is penalized for actually going away during this school break.
The season ends in mid-June. Usually the first weekend for AA as AAA and Majors will begin their spring tournaments during the second week of June. AA coaches will usually add some games during that week as long as fields are available as tournament teams have priority.
Once the spring tournaments wrap up there is always potential for All-Star teams to enter the DistrictTournament, depending on availability and commitment from players. We sometimes combine with other towns for this as well. If your player is a standout and you are able to commit (a commitment means that once a player is named to an All-Star team on June 15th the All-Star team begins practicing for the tournament, which is almost daily until games begin. Games usually begin the first week of July. Tournaments are either Round Robin or Double Elimination, so a week of games is the norm, and they're almost daily with the exception of July 4. If a team is good enough to move on to the next round, practices and games continue until they are eliminated. This tournament ends either after the state championship at the end of July or at the majors and above levels it goes to regional play and then the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Realistically we're usually done with All-Stars play by mid-July as the competition from larger towns is just too tough. It's an experience to be had, though.
There are also summer and fall levels each year, as long as there is enough participation.
Who makes the schedule and when does it come out?
One of the most common questions is when games and practices are and there's no definite answer until the beginning of April. Coaches schedule their own practices and the game schedule comes out usually in mid-April after several drafts.
A general idea would be as such:
AA: teams will usually have about three days of ball a week. Once the game schedule is out, they'll play two games a week, one weeknight and one Saturday game, and coaches will usually hold a practice in between, sometimes two.
AAA: expect 3-4 days of ball. There will be 2-3 games a week, two weeknights and on Saturdays. If there's an odd number of teams (at any level) there will be byes where no games are scheduled - but expect to practice on these days.
Majors: expect 4 days of ball a week. 3 games, one practice.
Single A would most likely be one game a week and a practice as well.
ALL levels will play a continuous batting order, meaning every player will be in the batting order regardless of whether they’re in the field or not in an inning. Substitutions and pinch hitters will only be used following the season at the All-Stars tournament level.
Little League has a Mandatory Play rule, which is that every player on a roster must have one time at-bat and play six innings in the field. This rule almost never comes into play due to the continuous batting order and generalized idea that one player should not be in the field for more than one inning more than another. The latter doesn't always hold true, as sometimes the scores of the games at the higher levels dictate a need for the star player in the field for all innings.
How long are the games?
Technically six innings, although at the minors levels this rarely happens on a weeknight.
AA games are 90 minutes, sometimes a little longer on the weekends. If the coaches agree to play on due to a nice day and kids having fun, we highly recommend it.
AAA weeknight games will start at 5:30pm and no new inning will begin after 7:30pm. If it gets too dark and the game is called prior to the home team getting their final at-bat, then the official score reverts to what it was after the home team batted in the prior inning. So if a visitor is losing 5-4 in the fifth inning and the sixth inning starts and they score 3 runs but the umpire calls the game after they hit due to lack of daylight (a safety issue), the final official score is 5-4, home team wins.
Majors: this level contains the 10 run rule and sometimes games are over after the top of the 4th inning, but usually the games will go the full six innings and be played in less than two hours. Last spring our majors team beat Essex 7-2 on a Saturday afternoon in 65 minutes. The 10 run rule maintains that if one team is ahead of the other by 10 runs or more at the end of the 4th inning the coach of the losing team concedes the game and it is over. Like other levels if it's a nice day and everyone wants to play on this is allowed, but the official score is recorded at the time of the end of the game where the 10 run rule occurred.
I want to help, but I can’t commit, is there something I can do?
There is always stuff to do to help out, but all volunteers must pass a background check first. We'll need help manning the concession stand and preparing fields for games and raking after practices and games. We'll also need umpires, which is a paid position and not a volunteer position, but for someone who wants to contribute on occasion and knows the game this is a great opportunity.
What are the rules?
The first thing WLL wants kids to do is have fun, but the official rules are too many to list here. The Official Little League Rulebook is available online, there's a new app and there's also a Kindle/e-reader version available for a couple bucks at Amazon. We have some hard copies for coaches and they can go over some of that stuff and answer questions as well. We'll get copies for all volunteers though, just let us know if you want one.