My son starts t-ball this summer. In fact, Sunday is registration day.

I’ve never played t-ball, and have never paid attention to more than a few minutes of a game. I know it’s fun for the kids and everyone bats, and I imagine that the teaching and coaching that goes on is basic at best, but what else can I expect? What are the general “rules” of t-ball?

Parents, what are some of your t-ball stories? What did you do or what was expected of you as “coach”?


Oh, wow, t-ball memories! What a blast! In our league all the kids played, no matter how many were on the team, so on defense you may have 12 or 13 kids on the field at the same time. It works out OK, though, because usually 2 are playing in the sand, 2 are watching the pretty butterflies, 2 are wrestling imaginary monsters, 2 are dancing to inaudible music, 1 is doing the “I gotta go potty” dance, and 1 is constantly pulling up his too big pants. That leaves 2-3 players actually paying attention to the game. These 2-3 players are your “studs”. They play first base, third base, and “circle”. Amazingly, when the ball is hit, at least 10 of the kids come to life and rush madly toward the ball, ending up in a dogpile on top of it.

“Circle” is the most important position in t-ball. It relates loosely to the pitcher position in regular baseball, only t-ball has no pitcher (or a coach does the pitching). The circle player stands in, appropriately enough, a large circle drawn around the pitching rubber. The circle is about 10’ in diameter, usually marked with chalk. Once the ball is put in play by the batter, play continues until the ball in in the control of the circle player and he is standing in the circle. At that point the umpire calls time out, the ball is dead and all runners must stop. If the runner is half way to the next base when time is called he is awarded that base, if not he must return to the previous base. It makes for an interesting game. let me tell you. Oh, yeah, the play also ends when the third out is recorded or the run limit is met by the offensive team. Run limits are a very good thing.

Coaching is extremely basic. Teach such things as:

  1. Figuring out whether the kid is right handed or left handed. Amazingly, the parents don’t always know, or think they do and are wrong.
  2. How to hold the bat (including which end).
  3. How to wear the glove.
  4. How to catch the ball
  5. How to throw the ball
  6. Which direction to run from home plate
  7. Which direction to run from 1st base
  8. Which direction to run from 2nd base
  9. Which direction to run from 3rd base
  10. Get the ball back to the circle ASAP!

Good luck. Whether your son is a circle player or a monster wrestler, may he have unlimited fun.

FWI: Young kids often don’t fully develop a dominant side until around first grade. Up to that point you’ll see them trying different tasks with either hand/foot, which is perfectly normal.

Do they usually use a regular hard ball, or do they favor a softer version–not a sock ball, but a spongier version of a hardball?

Thanks, Doctor Jackson. If this happens, I’m sure I’ll be doubled over in laughter most of the time I’m there.

Most leagues use a RIF (Reduced Injury Factor) ball for T-ball and Pee Wee ages. They look like a regular baseball and are the same weight, but have a sponge rubber type core. There are different RIF levels and, IIRC, the higher the number the softer the ball. It’s like hitting a rolled up sock.

On the plus side, RIF balls do take much of the pain out of getting hit by a thrown or batted ball and they do reduce injuries like black eyes or bloody lips. On the minus side, because there is less pain associated with being hit, kids can develop bad fielding habits that may eventually cause them to get hurt anyway. My son, playing 3rd base at age 5, got hit in the face by a line drive with a regulation ball. The results were a bloody lip and 30 minutes with an ice pack on his face. He did learn, though, why it’s vitally important to turn the glove tip up, palm out when attempting to catch a ball over waist high (99% of all beginners I’ve coached, girls and boys, initially try to catch everything “basket” style - with the palm of the glove facing up). That may sound like a harsh way to learn, but had he not learned until he was a year or two older that line drive would likely have resulted in lost teeth and broken bones.

True enough, but to play defensive baseball a decision must be made as to which will be the throwing hand and which will be the glove hand. In a case where neither the kid nor the parent(s) know which is the dominant side, the only option is to have the child throw several balls with each hand. I’ve never seen one who, after about 10 or so throws, did not clearly exhibit a dominate side. That becomes the throwing hand. Once that is decided, it’s very hard to change later. This may account for the small percentage of players who “bat lefty, throw righty”.

With batting it makes little difference. A kid can switch from right to left at any time - or better yet, develop both. OTOH, finding someone who can throw equally well with either hand is extremely rare.

T-ball was my favorite level of softball with my kids. It was just fun and with some of the kids you could almost watch them learn and improve by the minute. Of course, there were the dandelion pickers, not to mention the girl we were scared for because she always had her back to the ball. And there was a certain amount of “herdball” where the kids all follow the ball instead of staying in their positions and trying to make the play.

But the best thing was that everybody cheered for everybody. A good play is a good play, and it doesn’t matter which team does it. I hope you have as good a group of parents as we did. Maybe you can influence that some. Let the kids learn to love the game.

Good luck with the season. Let us know how the little guy does.