Payson Little League is exploring the possibility of fielding for the first time ever, an Intermediate (50/70) division that bridges a player’s transition from Little League (40/60) Minor/Major play to Junior League Baseball, which is played on a full-sized (60/90) field and with different rules.
On an Intermediate Division field, the pitching distance is 50 feet and distance between bases is 70. The recommended distance from home plate to the outfield fence is 200 to 275 feet.
Which means an Intermediate game is played on a field larger than the traditional Minor/Major Little League field, but not quite as large as a conventional diamond on which high school baseball is played.
In the new division, which is for players 11 to 13 years old with advanced skills, the rules will also be closer to high school baseball regulations allowing pick off attempts and leading off bases.
The Little League International Board of Directors has been considering the possibility of Intermediate Baseball for the past two seasons. Following the study, which included fielding experimental Intermediate programs around the country, officials voted to create the new program nationally, insisting it will create a way to involve more young players in the game of baseball.
Payson Little League President Keeley Parker says a firm decision on whether or not to jump start the division locally has not been made, “(The decision) will be made based on parent feedback and signups during registration.”
The next registrations will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13 and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16 at locations to be announced soon.
Little League Senior Vice President for Operations Patrick Wilson says local leagues, like Payson, can come up with some of their own unique Intermediate Division rules.
“For instance, a local league could place all eligible 13-year-olds in the Intermediate Division and all 11-and 12-year-olds in the Major Division or it could permit some advanced 11-and 12-year-olds to play in the Intermediate League.”
Also on the local Little League agenda, individual player tryouts will be held March 9 and games begin April 6 with the traditional opening day ceremonies.
On April 28 the Arizona Diamondbacks will host Payson Little League game day in Phoenix. Payson players will pre-sell game tickets for it as a fund-raising benefit. Also, minutes before the game begins, the local Little Leaguers will be allowed to walk the Chase Field diamond.
Payson Little League officials and players will begin the new season with fond memories of the great run the Junior Division team enjoyed last summer.
Simply put, the postseason showing was nothing short of magical.
The team, which often had only the minimum number of players, opened the postseason by winning the Area 1 championship in Payson.
With the “W” the team advanced to the District 1 tournament in Lakeside. There, the team won again to become one of only a handful of Payson teams to win both area and district titles.
Most remarkable, is that the All-Stars won every area and district tournament game on the 10-run mercy rule.
In the state tournament in Prescott, Payson shocked the Little League world by upsetting highly favored Chandler National, 12-0, which was yet another “run-rule” victory for the Payson Stars.
Losses to Goodyear and Paradise Valley eventually eliminated the team from the state tournament, but didn’t diminish the accomplishments of the players, their manager and coaches.
The group’s achievements set the bar high for all those players and teams that will follow.