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How to be a Baseball Parent: Tips for Little League and Beyond

Stephanie is an enthusiastic sports participant and also loves to watch a wide variety of competitive sports.

Parenting a little league baseball player takes patience, humility, tact and humor!

Parenting a little league baseball player takes patience, humility, tact and humor!

Parenting a Little League Baseball Player

I have three boys, two of whom play baseball. While we love the sport, and they spend half the year training and playing it, the stress of parenting a little league baseball player can definitely take its toll.

It's not just the carpooling and ever-shifting schedules of practices, games and team meetings that are challenging. The politics of little league baseball, as well as baseball for teenagers, which is played on the larger diamond (in my hometown, it's called "Babe Ruth Baseball"), can be difficult to deal with.

Generally speaking, true Little League baseball officially only runs until age 12. Once players are beyond this age, they must play on a larger field, with a longer distance from the mound to the plate and between bases. Additional information on the rules and ages is included below.

Parenting a little league baseball player takes patience, humility, tact and humor! After having been a baseball parent for the past 10 years, and with a child going into high school this fall, we have had our share of sitting in the stands with parents who do not share our philosophies, children that are not disciplined, and working with a coach that used to be a Major League Baseball player.

Read on for some tips on how to be a baseball parent - and best of luck to you and your child!

14-year old pitching on the larger baseball diamond.

14-year old pitching on the larger baseball diamond.

Common Complaints in Youth Baseball

Among the various complaints lodged by baseball parents include:

  • Not enough playing time
  • Played in the wrong position
  • Other players not performing their expected roles
  • Poor umpiring
  • Too many or not enough practices
  • Practices at an inconvenient time
  • Not enough competent volunteers
  • Poor coaching
  • Coach's child getting too much playing time and/or in the wrong position
  • Uniforms too expensive, not nice enough, wrong size, wrong color, etc.
  • Program too expensive
  • Not enough or too much travel

What is Little League Baseball?

In general, Little League baseball is open to boys and girls between the ages of 4-18, with differing divisions for age groups and sexes. From 1951-74, Little League baseball was only open to boys, but in 1974 the rules were revised to allow girls in the program. Thanks to Title IX!

It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1939, with the stated mission, "to promote, develop, supervise, and voluntarily assist in all lawful ways, the interest of those who will participate in Little League Baseball."

Little League baseball was granted a Federal Charter in the United States on July 16, 1964. See Title 36 of the United States Code.

Here in the United States, the Little League has three components: (1) administrative/service; (2) district; and (3) local Little League. No matter where you live or play ball, these three aspects of the organization are consistently represented.

The highlight of Little League Baseball is the world series, which is held annually in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Teams participate in state and regional elimination tournaments most of the summer, leading up to the World Series in the middle of August.

Last year, two youth baseball teams from my hometown of Bend, Oregon were in the final, championship regional games losing right before advancing to national tournament play!

First baseman makes the stretch for the out.

First baseman makes the stretch for the out.

What to Expect as a Youth Baseball Parent

My children have played baseball, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, tennis and lacrosse. I have found that there is no sport that is more politicized than baseball. My two older boys, ages 14 and 12, have played on little league teams and travel baseball/select teams for the past 3 years. There are significant differences between little league and travel/select ball, but both organizations are very political.

In our hometown, little league is open to anyone, regardless of experience or financial means. On the other hand, travel baseball, as well as All-Star teams require try-outs and selection.

Starting at age 8, parents hope that their child will be selected for the Little League All-Star team at the end of the season, whether for baseball or softball. Post-season play is usually more competitive and, as the teams advance, statewide, regional, or even national play can be expected throughout the summer.

Players in the 12U (ages 12 and under) division of All-Stars can hope to make it to the Little League World Series each year. At this level of play, the organization demands proof of age via birth certificates, proof of residence and use of "legal" bats and balls.

Rules seem to change each year on the approved baseball equipment. Parents should consult with the coaching staff before purchasing a bat to ensure that it is appropriate and approved for the age and sex of the player. Gear is inspected by both teams before any Little League or travel ball tournament play.

Running bases at a baseball game.

Running bases at a baseball game.

Code of Conduct for Baseball Parents

Now, I know that some leagues and other baseball organizations have official "codes of conduct" for players, parents and other spectators.

If your child's team has one, please do read it and abide by it - not only during the season, but year-round!

My own suggested code of conduct for baseball parents includes the following rules:

  1. Communicate with the coaches and other parents. If your child is sick or injured let people know so that replacements can be found, if necessary. If you are frustrated with the way things are going, don't complain about it behind everyone's backs. Be direct and honest.
  2. Ensure that your child makes it to scheduled practices and games. Baseball is a team sport. Other players on the squad need to be able to work with all players in their designated positions.
  3. Own, borrow or rent proper equipment. It puts a strain on the team if your child is always borrowing helmets, gloves, bats or catching gear.
  4. Contribute as required financially and/or via donations. Be aware of the financial obligations before your child signs up or tries out. Tournament fees, travel, etc. can really add up. Be prepared before the season so that the team can ensure it has enough players throughout the year.
  5. Trust the coaches. This one is difficult, even for me! While it is true that some coaches play favorites and may give their child more playing time in a coveted position, keep in mind that they are likely volunteering their time. Moreover, strategies cannot always be ascertained. If you are concerned about bench time for your child, let the coach know, but be respectful.
  6. Be respectful. This has to follow the previous tip. If your emotions are running over, take a deep breath and wait before saying something. Respect the coaches, the other parents, all the players on the team and, perhaps most importantly, the players, coaches and parents on the other team! Don't yell at the umpires, either. Walk away from annoying fans on the other team. Model good sportsmanship for your child.
  7. Follow rules. If the field says that there are no dogs allowed, leave Fido at home. No flash photography? Then shut it off. Things will go much more smoothly if you don't find yourself on the defensive at a game.
  8. Be prepared. Be sure to send plenty of water to practices and games. Include approved snacks, if allowed. Check your child's bat bag to make sure they have everything they need before arriving to a game or practice.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall


Peter on June 10, 2019:

As parents in Upstate NY Little League All-Stars, we have to sign a code of conduct where we agree not to try and talk with our kids during games, question coaches or ever argue with umpires over calls. If we EVER get thrown out of a game our kid comes with us. I was a nine year umpire at the D-III level, we had 14 year old kids umpiring our games, I almost had to be committed, lol.

Susan Mc on June 04, 2016:

My kids all played little league baseball/softball & now my grandkids ages 4-16 are playing. We, as grandparents volunteered to coach the 4 yr olds t-ball team due to lack of volunteers. One thing I can say is in my 35 yrs of being involved with little league ball, the game hasn't changed BUT the parents have! We recieved 1 complaint that a woman was a single parent & her 4 yr old ADHD son didn't have a Dad & needed more structure. Coaches are not parents/babysitters. Another parent complained about not enough practices, undoubtedly 2 per week didn't suit her. And she also wasn't happy about games/practice being delayed/canceled due to rain at the last minute.

Today will be my last day coaching. My husband & I raised 5 kids in little league & high school ball and have never seen or dealt with parents like today. We will spend our next years sitting on the opposite side of the fence supporting our grandchildrens teams. To the next coach, good luck with the parents, you'll need it.

Nancy on May 19, 2014:

Lisa- yes I used to think that too. How could these crazy parents gets so wrapped up in their 7 year olds baseball "career"...until this season when I've watched my 5th season (of baseball) 8 year old get shafted time after time. Last season he was the teams best batter and his old coach actually got up at a ceremony and publicly said that he was. My son was also a solid third basemen...we fully expected him to have playing time and be a third basemen...imagine our surprise when he got benched the first inning of the first game and once every game after and was lucky to play third base once a game. If the coach's kids are "stars" and truly better than others I'm ok with them getting the best spots etc...but this time around the coach and asst coach's kids are no better and some are worse than my son, yet my son gets no chance. This is low level ball. We have 6 year olds on this team. This kind of nepotism and favoritism is not ok. So that's how you get a "crazy" parent.

Derdriu on September 12, 2012:

Steph, I like the attention that you give to respect: respect for the rules, respect for the playing staff, respect for the players, and respect for the parents ... even when there's bad role modeling being set.

Is that your high schooler's face above the caption about learning life's lessons on the playing field?

Respectfully, and with many thanks and all the votes, Derdriu

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 03, 2012:

Oh Bill - I can so relate to the woes of umpiring! Occasionally, my husband had to volunteer at Little League games when they were short an umpire. So awful watching the poor behavior.

On the subject of travel teams, my middle son had a couple of tournaments in Lacey last spring - I will have to let you know next year. :-) Have a super day, Steph

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 02, 2012:

You know how much I love baseball, Steph, but I can tell you in all honesty that the two worst baseball years in my life were the two years I umpired. Listening to parents in the stands making complete fools of themselves just ruined the sport for me for two summers.

As for Little League being political....very much so....the select teams in this area spend thousands for the summer, with travelling and what not.....almost a business rather than a sport.

Having said all that, this was a very realistic and well-written hub.

Great job Steph!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 30, 2012:

Good luck, Jen! Hope your son has a great time in Little League! Best, Steph

jenbeach21 from Orlando, FL on August 29, 2012:

Thanks for the tips. My son starts t-ball next week and we will soon be learning all the ins and outs of little league.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 08, 2012:

Thanks Sinea - that is so true! The same goes for any other team sport, but for some reason, baseball seems particularly political and difficult! Appreciate the comments - best, Steph

Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on August 08, 2012:

Steph, you are so right. Politics of little league baseball can turn the experience very sour if parents are not on their guard. I've observed fathers charging out on the field when they'd had it with bad calls (and of course there was a big to-do over THAT). It can be heated. But the joys of family involvement far outweigh the drawbacks.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 03, 2012:

I've heard some horror stories about crazed parents and actually seen a few, but my days with Little League were wonderful - out in the fresh air, chatting with the other folks and generally having a fine time. Playing on a team is great for kids.

Dianna Mendez on August 01, 2012:

I remember the days when my son played little league. It was exciting and being a baseball parent was always a great way to get involved and to meet other people. Great suggestions for how to be a good supporter of your child's sport.

Lightshare on August 01, 2012:

Thanx steph for an informative hub!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on July 31, 2012:

LOL - thanks MP! I guess there are nightmare parents in every sport, but for some reason, baseball just seems to draw the worst of the bunch in my opinion... :) Best, Steph

Margaret Perrottet from San Antonio, FL on July 31, 2012:

Great hub - it brought back so many memories of when my three boys were playing baseball. It seems like things haven't changed all that much over the years. I loved the videos - especially the one of the kid taking off on the parent.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on July 30, 2012:

Lisa, I totally agree! I was very involved as a youth in sports, music and scouts. It was positive back then. Things seem to have eroded a bit today, unfortunately. The good news is that gymnastics, soccer and basketball are still "civilized" - at least where my kids are involved. Thanks - Best, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on July 30, 2012:

Thanks Jason! After my son participated in a recent baseball tournament during which the opposing team and their coaches(!) jeered and made fun of our boys, I was inspired to write this hub. Playing sports is a great learning and growth opportunity for children, but the antics of some adults involved can be disheartening and disappointing. Best, Steph

Lisa HW from Massachusetts on July 30, 2012:

I had a great time being a baseball parent to two sons and a t-ball parent to my daughter) (and being a soccer parent, dance parent, ice-skating parent, "music-lessons" parent, and a few other kinds of parent). I can't believe parents would/could allow something like children's baseball to ever be anything other than a happy experience for themselves and a (mostly, and most-of-the-time) happy (and learning) experience for their kids.

Jason F Marovich from Detroit on July 30, 2012:

I really like your code of conduct for parents with a child playing Little League baseball. The environment for the players, whatever their age, should be one that promotes support, learning, and esteem-building. I had some pretty tame parents in my time as a Little League coach, but I've heard some pretty horrific stories from other coaches. Nice article here on an important topic.