From the Little Leagues to the Big Leagues? Nope.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Q: I was quite shocked to learn that only three pitchers have ever made it to the Big Leagues from the Little League World Series (LLWS). It makes perfect sense, as the mature kid at 12 generates more velocity than little Billy. Most parents assume that since he is more mature he can handle more stress when in actuality it just means his muscles are stretched out farther and are more susceptible to injury. More specifically, Tom House claimed that the stretched out muscles could be counteracted by dropping your center of gravity. Any input would be great!

A: I think this speaks to a lot of problems with how the players got to Williamsport and the developmental path that carries into their teenage years. The main concerns with the 11-12 year olds that are competing in the LLWS is how skilled they are for such a young age. Typically, this means that they have had a tremendous amount of repetition at a young age, and have competed in a very large number of games over the course of the spring and summer to make it to Williamsport.

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Three issues that might speak to why only three pitchers have gone on to play professional ball include:

Issue #1 – These players are not skeletally mature to handle the amount of stress placed on their bodies, so they will probably turn up with more overuse injuries in their teen years that have been accumulating due to the high demand from 9-12.

Issue #2 – This could be a simple timing of maturation. A lot of the dominant players are taller, weigh more, throw harder and have probably entered certain stages of maturation quicker than their peers. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be ahead of their peers at 13-15 or even 16-18; it just means that at the age (11-12) we happen to televise, they were more developed. There are at least six more years before this player can even think about playing professionally, so a lot of things can happen to level out the playing field.

Issue #3 – There’s a good chance the amount of repetition that these players have put in at an early age could lead to “burnout” down the road or a feeling of satisfaction and less of a demand to work hard, because everything came to the player so easily at a young age. This game will eat you up if you don’t continue to get quality repetition over the long haul.

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At some point, an abundance of talent will be matched, whether it’s in high school, college, or the minor leagues. This is where the intangible qualities separate players and hard work is required to keep your competitive edge. Needless to say, I’m still shocked that only three pitchers have made it from the LLWS. For me, this signifies a serious red flag in the way we are developing talent in the baseball industry if our best players at age 12 don’t translate well to the upper levels.


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