Baseball is widely known as “America’s Pastime” and has been played in the United States since the 1800s. The game has grown and changed since then, but baseball remains a popular American sport for youth, high school, college, and professional players. We will discuss Baseball Leagues in America in this article.
There are many leagues at each level, but some of today’s beloved players started out playing Little League Baseball. These are the most common American leagues in youth, high school, college, and professional baseball:
- Youth: Little League Baseball
- High School: State Athletic Associations
- College: National Collegiate Athletic Association
- Professional: Major League Baseball
An overview of America’s baseball leagues is below, along with extra details about the most popular leagues at each level.
Baseball Leagues In America
Youth: Little League Baseball
Little League Baseball is one of the largest and most popular youth baseball organizations in the country. Each summer, the best teams in the United States (and some international teams) play in the Little League World Series. Fans around the country travel to the LLWS in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and even more watch the televised broadcast on ESPN. Although this specific tournament is restricted to baseball players ages 10, 11, and 12, the Little League Baseball organization hosts leagues for all youth age groups.
The youngest aspiring baseball players play in tee-ball leagues, hitting the ball off a tee instead of using a live pitcher. This league is meant to develop fundamental baseball skills in a fun and engaging way. After tee-ball, players ages 7-11 can advance to coach-pitch, before moving onto kid-pitch. Little League Baseball hosts leagues for adolescent and teenage baseball players that go up to age 18.
Other youth baseball leagues include:
- American Legion Baseball
- Babe Ruth League
- Pony Baseball
High School: State Athletic Associations
There are almost half a million high school baseball players in the United States. High school athletic associations are broken up at the state level, with most public and private high schools operating under their state’s association. Each state reports to the national association, which sets the rules for baseball games.
High school baseball often serves as a showcase for many of the players who go on to play at the collegiate level. Some high school players are even selected to play baseball at the professional level. Below are some of the prestigious awards given to high school baseball players and other prominent high school baseball tournaments and showcase games:
- Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year
- Baseball America High School Player and Team of the Year
- Jackie Robinson Award
Tournaments and Games:
- The National Classic (Tournament)
- Perfect Game All-American Classic (All-Star Game)
- Under Armour All-American Classic (All-Star Game)
College: National Collegiate Athletic Association
Many of the collegiate baseball players in the United States play for schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which has three designated categories: Division I, Division II, Division III. Division, I schools are larger schools that can offer scholarships to student-athletes. Division II and Division III schools are generally smaller schools, with D-II schools allowed to offer scholarships to student-athletes whereas D-III schools cannot.
Baseball teams in each NCAA division play for their own National Championship title. In addition, baseball student-athletes who have completed their junior or senior years are eligible to enter the Major League Baseball Draft.
There are two other collegiate programs available to baseball student-athletes in the United States, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association. Baseball players from these schools can also be selected by professional baseball teams.
Professional: Major League Baseball
The Big Leagues. The Majors. The Show. All of these are nicknames for Major League Baseball, the most esteemed baseball league in the United States. MLB’s 30 teams are split into two leagues, the National League and the American League.
These teams play 162 regular-season games and then compete in the playoffs for the title of World Series Champions. Although MLB is the highest level of American baseball, there are two other circuits the baseball players often go through to get to the Major Leagues.
Teams in Minor League Baseball are affiliates of a “parent team” in Major League Baseball and serve as a developmental system for younger players. Although not all baseball players in the minors will make it to the majors, they are considered professional baseball players. Additionally, there are several professional Independent Leagues that operate separately from Major League Baseball.
The game of baseball is a storied tradition in the United States and many kids who start out as youth Little Leaguers have dreams of becoming Big Leaguers. These aspiring professional baseball players go through youth leagues, high school baseball, and sometimes play in college before having the chance to play professionally. But when starting out as kids, these players learn life skills and lessons that make them better teammates and better people, regardless of whether or not they go on to play professionally.
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