- On-deck batter is a player who are next inline bat
- In-the-hole batter is a player who is in line to bat after the on-deck batter
An on-deck batter traditionally wait inside a 3-ft diameter circle (called “on-deck circle”) that is usually located approximately 35 feet away from the home plate.
During a professional game, there is normally a batboy or batgirl who retrieves used bats thrown by batters and hand off extra baseballs to umpires.
At a youth baseball game, there are no such extra niceties.
Instead, coaches tend to call out “alright, who is supposed to be on deck?” to remind a next-up player to get inside the “on-deck cage” to warm up.
Other times, we call out “who is in-the-hole” to remind a player that he or she needs to retrieve a used bat
In most college or professional stadiums, these “on-deck circles” are often nothing more than a moveable matt, though sometimes it can be on a turf with a painted circle.
Such stadiums will have two on-deck circles, one circle each for the home and visiting teams near their dugouts.
In youth baseball, most, if not all, fields do not have such on-deck circles due to safety reasons.
Instead, an on-deck batter will practice swinging inside a metal cage about the same distance away from the home plate.
Fungo Circle vs On-Deck Circle
It is important to not confuse the fungo-circles with on-deck circles (Thank you to Coach Jay for pointing that out).
Fungo circles are very close to the home plate and are used only during team practice where a coach will fungo baseballs to infielders and outfielders (you can read more about fungo here)
Although these fungo circles are still around in some stadiums (Fenway), most stadiums now use a portable turf that is removed prior to a game.
Dangers of On-Deck Circles
Some on-deck circles are awfully close to the home plate which means there is a good chance of getting hit by an errant foul ball!
During the Miami Marlin @ Texas Rangers game, Adrian Beltre actually got tossed in the 8th inning after Beltre moved the on-deck circle further away from the batter box.
Apparently Beltre wanted to warm up further off the on-deck circle when a home plate umpire told Beltre to warm up inside the circle.
Beltre felt that it was too close to the batter’s box so he simply picked up the on-deck circle matt and moved it further away, resulting him being tossed.
On-deck circles for Youth Baseball Players
Most t-ball dirt fields will NOT have a separate batting cage used as on-deck cicles.
Instead, young players are directed behind a metal screen to warm up their swings.
Once kid reach 9 and 10 years old, they tend to play on 50/70 fields (don’t know what it means? read my post Complete Guide to Field Dimensions post here) with a separate batting cage area.
In-the-hole Player’s Safety
Because in-the-hole baseball players are young, there are some safety protocols that coaches much consistently remind their players:
- In-the-hole player who is about to retrieve a baseball bat MUST wear a helmet. NO EXCEPTIONS!!
- In-the-hole player should NOT enter the playing field unless the play is DEAD.
I have seen countless youth baseball games where the opposing coaches did not pay close attention to their players running on to the field while a ball is in play or not wearing a helmet while a bat is thrown bat (kids do this more often than you think).
Please, don’t be that coach!
Pop-up foul balls, even if they are shallow, hurts a lot when it hits your head (speaking from experience here) so it is your responsibility to minimize the injury risk.
Umpires also appreciates a team that helps out to move the game along.
Make sure to post your lineup card where your players can see it and call out “who is on deck!” and “who is in the hole” often!