Little League Pitching Machine Rules
Little League Baseball allows the use of pitching machines in its Minor division. Leagues are not required to have a machine pitch division, but the option exists for those who feel the development of their players will be better served. The Minor division is for players ages 6 through 11, and is often divided into three segments, with the youngest players using coach pitch, then advancing to a machine pitch level and finally to kid pitch.
Maintenance and Speed
Little League rules require that pitching machines be in good working order. The pitching machines need to be well maintained so that they operate as intended. The managers of the two teams will agree to the proper speed of the pitches before a game begins, and any changes to the speed during the game must be done at the start of an inning and only with agreement from both sides.
Feeding the Balls
The person feeding the balls into the machine must be an adult. It is not permissible for teams to have players or even teenage siblings of players standing in the middle of the diamond feeding the pitching machine. Balls are flying off bats and being thrown back and forth across the infield, and the person standing there needs to be someone who is alert and can avoid injury. Breaking this rule leaves a league exposed and liable for injuries that may result.
The pitching machine and the adult operating it should be placed behind a screen to protect both the person and the machine. If there is no screen available, the league should mark an area around the machine with a circle that players may not enter. A batted ball is ruled dead if it hits the screen, the adult feeding the machine or the machine itself, and the batter is awarded first base with a single. Some leagues play those dead balls as non-pitches and have the hitter get back into the batter's box.
The pitching position still exists within the defense despite the fact that the player is not throwing the ball. The player in the pitching position must not be positioned in front of the screen or the machine. He should stand to either side of the machine and must start in that position each time a pitch is delivered.
Balls and Strikes
Since there is not a pitcher in pitching machine baseball, there are no balls and strikes. The hitter instead gets a defined number of pitches to put the ball in play. The Little League rule book does not designate a specific number of pitches per hitter, but most leagues go with either three or five.
Kurt Johnson began writing in 1995. He has a passion for sports and has spent more than 15 years as a coach. He is a sportswriter who has been published at Front Page Sports and in the "Sacramento Union." Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Brigham Young University.