The other day I was doing some research on an article that had to do youth baseball and I came across some websites that listed out youth baseball leagues like 9U, 10U, and 11U. As someone who is from a small town, I had heard about these leagues, but the only youth baseball league I remember being available was Little League.
After trying to find out more information about these youth baseball leagues that had a “U” in them, I quickly came to find that there is not much information on the web about these types of leagues. So I decided to learn more about 9U baseball and put together this article for others who have the same question – what is 9U baseball?
In short, 9U baseball is a youth team where kids 9 years old and younger can play baseball. 9U baseball is associated with United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), which is a separate organization from other youth baseball leagues, like Little League.
USSSA has its own set of rules around the eligibility of players, how often players can pitch, the distances between bases, and how long a game can last.
Age and Eligibility Rules for 9U Baseball
USSSA has a lot of different leagues that are based on a players’ age, but because all players have different birth dates, USSSA has implemented some rules around what makes a player eligible to play on a 9U team. What is the age cut-off for 9U baseball?
9U baseball can be played by any player under the age of 9, regardless of what grade they are in. If a player turns 10 before May 1st of the current year, they are only eligible if they are in 3rd grade. Any player who turns 11 prior to August 1st of the current year is ineligible for 9U baseball.
This means that it’s possible for a 10-year-old player to play in 9U baseball, but the only way they can be eligible to play 9U is if they are in the 3rd grade and they turned 10 before May 1st of the current year.
This may also lead some parents to wonder, can an 8-year-old play 9U baseball?
In general, an 8-year-old can play 9U baseball. Although each 9U baseball league is slightly different so it’s best to check with that league’s baseball director or check that league’s rules around a player’s eligibility.
In these baseball leagues, “u” stands for “under”. So a 9U league means that any player 9 years of age or younger can participate.
Base Distances and Pitching Distances for 9U Baseball
A vast majority of the players in 9U baseball are 9 years old, which means players have not yet fully developed how far they can throw or how fast they can run. Because of this, the distance between bases and the pitching distance is shorter than you would see in a high school, college, or pro baseball game.
How far are the bases in 9U baseball and what is the pitching distance for 9U baseball?
In 9U baseball, the bases are 65 feet apart while the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is 46 feet.
Although the pitching distance is the same between Little League and 9U, the base path distance is slightly different. In Little League, the base paths are 60 feet apart for the same age range.
9U Baseball Games Are 6 Innings or 1 Hour and 40 Minutes
In general, the older a baseball player gets the longer their games last. How long is a 9U baseball game?
Most 9U baseball games last 6 innings or 1 hour and 40 minutes, whichever comes first. A 9U baseball game has the potential to go beyond 1 hour and 40 minutes, but a new inning is not allowed to be started after 1 hour and 40 minutes have been played.
There is also the possibility of a 9U baseball game ending early due to weather or the mercy run rule.
For a 9U game to end by the mercy rule, one team must be leading by 15 runs after 3 innings or leading by 8 runs after 4 innings.
For a game to be marked as completed due to weather, 3 innings must have been played. If the home team was winning after two and a half innings and the game is called due to weather, the home team will be declared the winner. This works similarly to how a home team does not have to bat in the bottom of the last inning if they are winning.
9U Baseball Rules on Rest Days for Pitchers
It is well-known that players can injure themselves if they pitch too much. To help prevent injuries from over-use, USSSA has implemented some rules around how often a pitcher can pitch and how many days of rest they need before they can pitch again. What are the USSSA pitching rules for 9U baseball?
For 9U baseball, pitchers are allowed to pitch the next day if they threw 3 or fewer innings. If a 9U pitcher throws more than 3 innings, they need one full day of rest before they can pitch again. In addition, a 9U pitcher is only allowed to throw a maximum of 8 innings in a 3-day window.
If a pitcher ends up pitching for 8 innings in that 3-day window, they need one full day of rest before they can pitch again.
Players are Unable to Lead Off in 9U Baseball
When thinking about the rules for 9U baseball, one question that always comes to mind is if players are allowed to lead off. Can you lead off in 9U baseball?
In general, players are not allowed to lead off in 9U baseball. Each 9U baseball league is slightly different and there are a handful of 9U baseball leagues that allow players to lead off, but a majority of 9U baseball players are not allowed to take a lead while the pitcher is delivering the pitch.
An example of a 9U baseball league that allows players to lead off is Gameday Sports in South Carolina. These special rules for this 9U baseball league state that players can lead off up to 10 feet, but the player’s feet must remain stationary while the pitcher is delivering the pitch.
9U Players Can Sometimes Steal Once the Pitch Crosses Home Plate
An exciting play for a youth ballplayer is when they get to steal, but stealing in 9U baseball has rules that you won’t find in high school, college, or the pros. When can you steal in 9U baseball?
In 9U baseball, players are able to steal if their specific league allows stolen bases. When a 9U league allows stolen bases, players are only allowed to steal once the pitch crosses home plate.
Along with leading-off, the rules around stolen bases vary from league to league. It’s important to check the rulebook for the league to determine whether or not 9U players are allowed to steal bases, but a majority of 9U baseball leagues allow players to steal once the pitch crosses home plate.
Also, if the 9U baseball league is a coach-pitch or a machine-pitch league, stolen bases are never allowed.
Is 9U Baseball Coach-Pitch?
Up to the point of 9U baseball, some players may have only played in a coach-pitch league or a machine-pitch league. This leads a lot of parents to wonder if 9U baseball is coach-pitch or is 9U baseball kid-pitch?
In general, 9U baseball is not coach-pitch. At the 9U baseball level, there may be a handful of coach-pitch leagues, but a majority of 9U baseball teams are kid-pitch leagues.
In fact, there are even some kid-pitch teams as early as 7U baseball.
9U Baseball is Different Than Little League
9U baseball is actually different than the divisions in Little League. There are a lot of different youth baseball leagues out there and it’s important to understand which one is which.
In Little League, players who are 9 years old can play in either the “Minor League” division (ages 5-11) or the “Major Divison” (ages 9-12). If a 9-year-old player wants to play on a 9U baseball team, they’ll need to go through a team that is associated with the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA).
Little League allows for individual players to sign-up to play on a team, but USSSA only allows teams to register – not individuals. Both organizations have baseball leagues spread out all over the United States and both organizations allow parents to contact the baseball directors on their website. So parents could always reach out to the baseball director in their area to inquire about baseball teams for their 9-year-old.