Life's not fair, talent is not equally distributed, and some players are just better than others.
This page started life as a question on another baseball website, followed by correspondance to and from WebBall. Here's the exchange.
A coach may have a favorite which could be his star pitcher, slugger, clutch hitter, surest infielder, widest-ranging outfielder. But whether the roster is 12 to 15, or more, the challenge is to give everyone else a crack at becoming this year's big game winner or next year's everyday favorite. The solution, of course, is to get everyone into every game, and give as many players as possible a role even when they're off the field.
Idea #1:Nobody sits!
Off-field roles can keep bench players in the game. Here are some suggestions and, remember, these are temporary positions - get them in the game!
- Scorekeeper - helps any player be mentally ready to enter the game as a relief pitcher (who hits what?) or fielder (who hits where?).
- First Base Coach - good for any player who's injured, or has already been on base, or somebody who's soon to get his hacks.
- Bullpen Coach - warm-up catcher may be an assigned job in a two-catcher rotation, otherwise anyone off the bench can be on-stand by.
- Hitting Coach - no one wants to be bat boy so here's an expanded role - to keep helmets and bats in order PLUS remind the on-deck batter about special signs, certain pitches, mechanics, whatever.
- Bench Coach - or Field Coach, either way, the player who gets warm-up balls ready and gets the right gloves out quickly to baserunners coming off.
Idea #2:Multi-Game Rotations
With a little charting on the coach's part, and with every player capable at two or more positions, everyone plays in every game.
- A 12-player roster is easy - 6 play the whole game, the other 6 play a half game each. Next game the other 6 play full games and the first 6 share a slot. Everyone gets an even 75% of the playing time - give or take an inning.
- 15 players is almost as easy. Each game has 3 full-game players and 6 half-game slots. Next game the next 3 play all innings, everyone else swaps. After 5 games, in an ideal world, everyone's been on 60% of the time. In reality, with abstentees and injuries, most players are on 70% of the time.
- 13 players is trickier. Have 5 full-game players and split the other 8 into two half-game squads. By choosing a new starting 5 each game, after 5 games most players will have had 70% playing time, the rest at least 60%.
- 14 players works just as well. Have 4 full-game starters, with the remaining 10 split in two half-game squads. With a new starting 4 in each game, after 4 games the range is 60-75% and after 7 games, every player's been on at least 64% (subject to extra innings, injuries, missed games, etc.)
Idea #3:Sandlot Rules
Another approach is to keep 'em moving. (These are paraphrased from some suggestions sent in by Bob Alter and others.)
- All ages and all abilities. Accept that some kids are just trying out in baseball and may choose other sports in H.S. So just give every kid a chance to enjoy the game in every way possible.
- Bench max: 1 inning. No kid sits on the bench two innings in a row.
- Position max: 1 inning. No kid plays the same position 2 innings in a row. You might consider skipping over pitchers and catchers with this rule, it depends on who you have. (See #4 below.)
- Help them out. With players constantly moving into fielding spots they don't know well, coaches have to do more to help position them (but the reward of seeing a player make their first successful catch in a new position is a great experience for the coach).
- All players bat. This is often the rule in younger divs anyway, even though it takes away some of the 'real baseball' flavor, it definitely helps create fairness.
Idea #4:Squad Rotation
With some of the rotation ideas above, defensive chaos reigns. Here is a suggested solution.
- Pair positions. Each fielding position is paired with another. Say left field and third base, or right field and second base. Some of it has to do with fielding angles towards the batter. But you should also look at talent issues, i.e.: shortstop and center field, or shortstop and first base, or catcher and third base. Do it according to your team's abilities. Once you have that...
- Divide into Squads. Have 3 players in each squad responsible for each paired fielding positions. At any given time, 2 play, only 1 sits. You can juggle the numbers so that you may have 4 players for 3 positions, etc., as needed. But it gives everyone a chance to get good in more than one spot.
The ultimate rotation - On Deck Defense
Here's a great suggestion that came to us from some WebBall visitors. It combines some of the aspects of Squad Rotation and Sandlot Rules. We'll let them explain it in their own words.
If you have suggestions, we'd like to hear them, too. Please send through the WebBall mailbox as general emails often get filtered.