MAJOR MOVES — UCT will divide its major league into two age divisions, 10U and 12U, for the 2018 season. The 10U will continue to play 46/60 baseball with the 12U playing 50/70.
Herald Photo / File
MAJOR MOVES — UCT will divide its major league into two age divisions, 10U and 12U, for the 2018 season. The 10U will continue to play 46/60 baseball with the 12U playing 50/70. Herald Photo / File

Recently, Russiaville Youth Baseball League announced it was moving the pitching mound to 50 feet and the bases back to the 70-foot mark to better prepare their 12U division for the next level of ball. 

UCT now is making the move to 50/70 baseball, following Russiaville’s lead but with a twist.

“Ours is going to be structured to where we have a 9 to 10 age division, and it’s going to be a major 10U. We will have no minor league,” said UCT President Andy Keating. 

The one thing he didn’t want to do, said Keating, was mess up a good thing.

“We didn’t want to cause issues in our league and have problems that could be prevented. We didn’t want to make people leave due to mass confusion. When we did it, we wanted to have a strong transition to benefit the major league program by a small transition versus going from 46/60 to 60/90.

“Our biggest thing was to benefit the kids and allow them to play at a 50/70 level so they can transition better. After Russiaville’s going that way, it only seemed fair and right to give our kids that opportunity as well.”

UCT still will have t-ball and rookie leagues, but the minor league level that many are familiar with will be replaced by a 9- and 10-year-old major league, with that level throwing live arm pitches.

Current 10-year-old players on the major league teams from the 2017 season will be grandfathered into their existing teams, so no player will be displaced in the new structure of the league. Keating said that for the upcoming season, parents of 9-year-olds can sign a waiver for their child to play up in the 12U division, but it does not guarantee them a spot. All of the 11- and 12-year-old players will fill the roster spots first.

Keating believes this move will benefit the kids playing ball at UCT in the respect that live arm ball will get them better acclimated to traditional baseball and what they will face in the middle and high school levels.

“I think it is beneficial to do this because you go from a coach pitching you the ball in t-ball to a pitching machine that throws right down the middle then the 9 to 12 age division hitting off a live arm. I only think it will benefit the kids,” Keating said. “I expressed to my managers and to the board, ‘Why are we all here?’ We’re here for the kids. We want to benefit all the kids in the community by making sure they have the right tools, the right way to do it.”

In addition to the new structure of the league, Keating said adjustments may be made to the All Star teams as well. Previously, the All Star teams were picked, and with a short amount of time to practice together, they entered the tournament. That could all change in 2018.

“We basically talked about how we could help the kids all year long instead of just the week-and-a-half after the season ends, picking the All Star teams and go,” said Keating. “What we talked about was maybe playing 50/70 and continuing 50/70 for All Stars. What we’re thinking about doing is last year’s standings will determine this year’s All Star managers. That manager would have the option to pick his 11 or 12 kids to fill his roster, take those kids, and play travel ball throughout the season on like Friday, Saturday, Sunday to give them the opportunity to play and learn more things, stay a tight-knit group instead of just being an All Star team.”

This move will impact how baseball is played in the city of Kokomo. With three other leagues in the city limits, not all are making the move to 50/70 ball.

“We’re doing away with the pitching machine during the regular season. They’ll play live arm all year long, and depending upon the president’s meeting in the fall/winter, trying to convince all of the parks that a city major 10U division live arm would be the way to go instead of a Minor League City tournament,” said Keating. “We really haven’t discussed (city tourney). If other leagues don’t have the opportunity to move their fields, we’ve kicked around the idea of hosting a 50/70 league tournament on the weekends so the other parks can be involved and develop the kids ... This is not a transition to exclude other parks. That was not our goal. Cal Ripken is going that direction. I am looking beyond UCT to make all of the Kokomo kids better.”

Work will begin to remove the grass in the infield and prepare the base studs for the extended distance. UCT will add breakaway bases and invest in a portable mound so 46/60 ball can be played on both fields for the Rookie and Major 10 divisions. Keating said it was important to him that the major 10 players had the opportunity to play ball on the major league diamond at the park and not be restricted to one field of play.