In its most basic form, baseball (or softball) is a simple sport. Catch and throw baseballs when playing defense. Grab a bat and try to hit a ball and run when playing offense.
For the most part, that is how we start teaching kids how to play baseball at an early age.
For parents who have never played baseball on the other hand, it can be a daunting challenge to ensure that their children develop proper skills and knowledge to excel in baseball.
And you cannot simply leave it up to volunteer coaches or by hiring some ex-baseball players from local baseball academies.
I am not advocating that you become a demanding tiger parent who lives vicariously through their child.
What I am trying to do is to help you to teach your child to develop proper forms and habits at a young age to gain confidence and maximize her potential.
Baseball is a thinking person’s game. It may look boring to a casual observer, but the sports demands strength, athleticism and high IQ as kids move up to older leagues/middle school/high school.
Unlike faster paced sports like basketball, baseball in its core teaches players to be focused and patient because he must be prepared and be ready at a moment’s notice to make the right plays at the right time.
Quick reaction to a batted ball requires athleticism. Fielding a ball from third and deciding to throw to first or second base under pressure requires a split second decision making process.
Making a long throw from center field to home plate to prevent a runner from scoring requires knowledge and arm strength.
It’s a beautiful game to watch when players execute their responsibilities!
When Should My Child Start Playing Baseball?
The answer to this question depends on your child because every kid I have seen developed at a different rate.
Famous all-star first base player Mark Teixeira (Texas Rangers and NY Yankees) supposedly had his first glove at one year old. Softball great Jennie Finch didn’t play organized softball until she was eight.
What is the bottom line? I recommend you start doing some simple catching and throwing soft cushy balls (like these) with your child when she is as young as one year old.
It will provide you and your child with great bonding experience and help your child develop the crucial hand eye coordination.
I do not recommend using tennis balls with children younger than 5 years old as these balls are still relatively hard for young children.
To learn more about when to play in a recreation, travel and club teams, read my post “What Are the Differences Between Recreation and Travel Baseball“. You will also learn about “playing down” which your child may qualify depending on her birth month.
How Much Does It Cost?
Although it is fairly inexpensive to play baseball at the T-ball level, this sport is not cheap like soccer. The cost to replace cleats is the same as soccer but you will also need to replace bats, gloves and possibly catcher’s gear if your kid wants to be a catcher, as your child gets older (i.e. bigger and taller.
Starting out at 2 or 3 years old, the only cost you will shell out is for some large cushy balls and possibly a t-ball set like the ones reviewed here; total cost for both items should be less than 30 bucks.
Participating in a t-ball program will cost around $100:
- T-ball glove (~$15)
- T-ball bat (~$15)
- T-ball baseballs (~$20 for half dozen)
- League registration, usually includes uniform like hat, shirt, pants and socks (~$50)
The cost will go up incrementally as gloves and bats will become more expensive for older kids.
If your child enjoys playing baseball and have developed solid skills and knowledge, you may want to sign up her with a travel team. That will add a significant chunk in added cost (~$400-600 for younger players; ~$1,000+ for older players). For more information on travel teams, click here (LINK TBD)
What Equipment Will Child Need to Play Baseball?
At minimum, you need a bat, glove and helmet (with protective face shield for young players).
I would also highly recommend:
- Slider shorts (padded underwear to minimize sting from sliding)
- Athletic cup (get them used to wearing it early on)
- Chest protector
- Batting gloves (minimizes bat sting)
- Cleats (rubber cleats for younger kids; metal cleats starting around 13 years old)
I Never Played Baseball. Am I Screwed?
My best advice for parents who have never played baseball (or any organized sport) is to start learning about the game and playing with your child NOW.
Do not push it off until tomorrow or when you “have some extra time”. Procrastination can kill enthusiasm for both you and your child.
Do some research and learn little bit about the sport every day and before you know it, you will be well on your way to helping your child develop as a fine baseball player.
I wrote a post about Father-Son duos playing MLB. In that article, I discuss few tangible area of focus to be a better player. If interested, the title of the post is Nurturing Child’s Baseball Dreams
Better yet, browse through my website for a chock-full of useful information for newbie baseball parents!
I only played baseball until middle school so I distinctly remember being very apprehensive about being a parent coach with a local baseball league so I know how you feel at this point.
But trust me when I tell you that once you start doing some research and reading up on how the game is played, your apprehension will be replaced with joy.
Your son or daughter will have plenty or successes and failures playing this game. You want to be there to provide guidance and support. You do not want to leave these important tasks to another parent coach.