American Farm League
American Farm is designed for graduates of the National Farm, and is comprised primarily of 8 year olds. The focus of this league is to continue player development by introducing and enhancing the skills of pitching, hitting live pitching, strike zone recognition, and proper defensive position and technique. The league format will combine coach and player pitch with outs. Coaches serve as umpires. The season will start with modified rules including no walks, no strikeouts, and multiple position players. Once a player either walks or strikes out, the Coach will pitch to that batter until the ball is put in play. By mid-season, the format will move towards walks (max 3 per inning), strikeouts, 3 outs, and 10 player defensive alignment. Players will pitch from 40 feet. No team standings are maintained and there is no playoff format. This is a league format that is focused on fundamentals of proper skill development and whose goal is to prepare players for Minor League play.
The current Official Little League Rule Book shall be used with the following exceptions and/or clarifications:
- In the beginning of the season, coaches will pitch until the entire batting order has hit. Beginning in the 2nd inning, players will pitch from 40 feet, instead of International Little League required 46 feet. Any player interested in pitching should have the opportunity to do so at practice. Coaches will focus on proper pitching mechanics and technique with an eye on safety; Players who are pitching may wear helmets and "flexi" baseballs will be used. The players should demonstrate the ability to throw strikes during practice before being allowed to pitch in a game situation.
- At this level, players will hit live pitching for the first time. Helmets with facemasks will be provided to players who feel more comfortable with the added protection. In order to maximize hitting development, players will not be allowed to walk or strike out. If a player either strikes out or walks, the batter will remain at the plate and be pitched to by a Coach. The batter will hit until the ball is put in play. A strikeout will count as an out, but if a player is able to hit safely, he/she will remain on base. If the strikeout results in the third out, the player will hit until the ball is put in play. However, the inning will be over once the player does so. If a player strikes out and then hits into an out, only one out will count vs. the hitting team. Once the player reaches base, however, he will be able to be forced out at another base and the out will count. Alternatively, if a player walks and then, while hitting against the Coach, he/she hits into an out, the out will count.
- Coaches will umpire in games and call balls and strikes. In an effort to keep the game moving, a Coach from the pitching team will be stationed behind the pitcher (calling balls and strikes), and a Coach from the hitting team will be behind the catcher retrieving balls. Advice and teaching by these Coaches is recommended during play.
- Umpires (positioned behind pitcher) are to be instructional at this level and will be supportive of the players. A generous strike zone will be promoted, just below the shoulders to just below the knee.
- At mid-season, the Coach pitch inning will be removed and players will begin pitching from the 1st inning on. It is recommended that pitchers be allowed to pitch one inning only and all pitch count rules apply. All other rules will remain the same.
- Three quarters of the way through the season, the rules will adjust. Pitchers will be allowed to walk batters and batters will be able to strike out. Walks, however, are limited to 3 per inning (for the team not per individual pitcher). If a pitcher throws ball four after a total of three batters have either walked or been hit by a pitch already in the inning, the count on the batter will be reset to 0-0 and coach from the hitting team will pitch to the batter. The pitcher will stay on the mound to field and must be standing on the mound (he/she cannot stand on the infield grass). The coach can throw the pitch at any speed and is not required to throw from the rubber but he may not interfere with a ball put in play (the batter could be called out if the coach interferes, umpire discretion). The batter can still strike out, but he/she cannot walk. He/she can reach base only by putting the ball in play. The pitcher then can pitch to the next batter, but if he/she throws ball four, the process will repeat.
- A pitcher may not re-enter the game as a pitcher.
- There are no intentional walks.
- A pitcher, after 41 pitches, may not move to the catcher position for the rest of the day.
- At the coach's discretion, a pitcher may be removed from the pitching position for safety after hitting 3 batters in a game.
- A pitcher may pitch up to 50 pitches (plus finish the at-bat)per gamewith:
- 1-20 pitches, requires 0 days of rest
- 21-35 pitches, requires 1 days of rest
- 36-50 pitches, requires 2 days of rest
- 51 or more pitches, requires 3 days of rest
- Batting order is continuous. To keep the game moving, a team's at bat is finished upon one of the following: the recording of 3 outs, the batting order has batted around, or a maximum of 5 runs has been scored, whichever occurs first. This rule does not apply to Coach pitch innings.
- Intentional or unintentional throwing of the bats or helmets shall be grounds for a warning by the coaches. The next violation will result in an out to the batter, but the results of the play will stand. The coaches have the discretion to remove the player from the game. The intent of this rule is safety and to enforce that there are repercussions for these actions.
- No "on-deck" batter will be allowed as per LL rules. Also, no player will be allowed to swing a bat beyond the fence or anywhere in the dugout area.
- There is no stealing, leading, or advancement on overthrows of any kind. Sliding is allowed and encouraged into a contested base. However, head-first sliding is not allowed and the runner will be automatically called out.
- Play ceases when the ball reaches the mound and is under control of any player. A runner will be returned to or allowed to advance to the nearest base. Note: The intent is to allow the runner to gain a reasonable base on the play while preventing the runner from "baiting" the defense into making a wild throw.
- A runner may not crash into a player with the ball in an attempt to dislodge the ball. Runners must avoid a crash into a fielder who is holding the ball EITHER by sliding OR running past that fielder. In case of a crash, the runner shall be called out and all other runners will be returned to the last base they touched before the crash. Note: For a runner to be called out there must be a fielder holding the ball and "hard" contact. Coaches should focus practice time on teaching first basemen to stay out of the baseline.
- There is NO infield fly rule at this level.
- In the beginning of the season, all players will be allowed to field.
- At mid-season, only 10 defensive fielders will be used, including four outfielders. However, "short fielders" are not allowed (meaning outfielders should all play at approximately the same depth; no outfielder may be used as an extra infielder).
- When a coach is pitching, the pitcher must begin the play on the mound.
- Free Substitution is allowed except for when limited by pitching and/or pitch count rules.
This format is meant to be fun and challenge the kids at a young age. Coaches will be umpires and their calls will not be perfect. Please be respectful at all times; no arguing, yelling, or disrespectful actions will be tolerated from coaches, parents, or players.
- Only 1 Manager and 3 Assistants shall be allowed in the dugout area during the game.
- Coaches are not allowed to stand in the playing area. They must remain in the bench area or coach's box, except when called on to pitch, umpire, or stand behind the catcher to expedite the game.
- Coaches are responsible for the behavior of players, parents, and fans.
- A "Flexi Ball" cushioned baseball will be used at this level.
- A maximum of 5 runs per inning is allowed except in the sixth inning, when a team behind by more than 5 runs will be allowed to score more than 5 runs to tie.
- Score keeping is allowed but is not be over emphasized at this level. No Team standings will be kept and there will be no playoffs.
- In order to keep the game moving, Coaches/umpires will be positioned behind the mound (with supply of balls) and another behind the plate (behind catcher for past balls and instruction to players).
- At the start of season, the length of each game will typically be 3-4 innings, dependent upon time. By mid-season, a 4-5 inning game will be the goal. No Inning shall begin after 7:30 pm.
- Best efforts will be made to get the game started on time. Home team will occupy the first base dugout and have the infield for the 10 minutes prior to game time. Away team gets infield for 10 minutes prior to the Home team's time (20 minutes before game time).
- Only adults will be allowed to coach bases.
- Each team should track pitch counts for both teams during the game. Opposing Managers should validate accuracy after each inning. Pitch counts are used for the safety of the kids, so this rule should be followed strictly.
- All teams are asked to keep the facilities, parks and bench areas clean.