So you have a toddler that’s been throwing the ball around or swinging the wiffle bat in the yard. Maybe your boy is just learning how to walk and you want to teach him how to catch a baseball (Hint: start with a rolled up sock). You’re looking into baseball for the first time, and you need answers.
The most common question probably is How old should my child be when they start baseball? The most honest answer is that opinions vary. The youngest I’ve ever coached was 4 years old. Might as well break this question up into ages.
4 years old – These kids were lost in their own world and every so often, they’d hear an adult say something and they might respond. Sandcastle building, bug chasing, and grass picking were the areas most likely to be improved upon. The youngsters seemed like they were there mostly because their moms and dads wanted them to be. That can be OK, but it doesn’t always have desired results. If lucky, the kids finished the season knowing which direction to run the bases. Any improvements in baseball skills were likely gathered very slowly or at home where many more repetitions can be had.
5 years old – Personally, I accepted this age as appropriate for my son, and it was probably only because that’s the age I started and that’s the common starting age offered at our local complex. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I really don’t think the kid is quite old enough at this point. The plus side is that many kids have began to learn about structure through kindergarten, but they still would prefer to drive a toy truck through the dirt and watch the ball go by. At this age, I think you have started a good path if you are semi-regularly swinging a bat or throwing a ball around outside at home. There aren’t many benefits outside of social skills in being on a team at this age. Tee-ball is the recommended place for kids to start at this age.
6 years old – To me, this is a decent age to start baseball, but by no means is it necessary to start this young. Hitting a ball off a tee before learning how to swing at a thrown ball can create bad habits. It may not detriment a ton, but I think at this age, the kid should jump right into coach-pitch or machine-pitch. This is a good age to learn the basics, which could easily be learned at home. Repetitions likely won’t happen enough at practice, so again, playing at home will lend the biggest opportunity for improvement. If repetitions at practice are abundant, you may be pushing too much baseball on your kid at this age. A couple organized practices a week here are plenty.
7 years old – This starts the ideal age range to begin playing organized baseball in my opinion. The child is beginning to really settle into routine at school. Social interaction has been given time to improve, and the child will more likely be able to positively participate at baseball practice. Hitting a thrown ball won’t be too overwhelming. Throwing and catching should be a priority here and is so hard to learn alone at practice. Ideally it should be taught younger than this so that it’s a learned ability at this point. Coach pitch or machine pitch are good options here. More talented kids might be able to handle kid pitch, but pitching, especially at a regular rate, is deemed as a potentially dangerous path by many.
8 years old – This is another age that is good for the kid to begin organized baseball. They might be a little behind some others, but most differences can be erased in less than a month with regular practice, both at home and with the team. Ideally if you’re starting at this age, you’ve worked at home for a few years prior. These repetitions can easily surpass any that have happened at practice. Coach or machine pitch are suitable places to start at this age. Going straight into kid pitch can also have it’s advantages, but as mentioned before, I’d research pitching before even thinking about letting your child take the mound at this age.
9 years old and Older – At these ages, there are no problems beginning organized baseball. Before teenage years, some teams will push the limits on too much baseball, but there isn’t a whole lot to gain by playing 50 games a year before middle school. Baseball can be learned at any time, and with the right amount of work put into it, any goal can be achieved. Likely, at these ages, kids will be playing kid-pitch baseball. The biggest worry for the new player will be fear of the ball. The more confident they are at the plate and with the glove, the less fear they will have of getting hit. Repetitions are key to this as well.