A few years back, when I was still coaching, Little League implemented a rule that encouraged local leagues to carry more players on their all-star rosters. The rule was that a league that carried the minimum (12) players would essentially be penalized one coach. Instead of a manager and two coaches, any team with only 12 players would now be allowed only one coach in addition to the manager. This was a fairly big deal because the Little League rules state that an adult has to be in the dugout at all times. This means that, when batting, if one coach is coaching third base, then the other cannot coach first because he must be in the dugout. It also means that the dugout coach cannot leave to make substitutions. Or it should mean that.
The year that rule came out, our District made it clear to every league that the reason this rule was implemented was that Little League really, really wanted to encourage leagues to carry at least 13 kids, so that more would get the all-star experience. So my team, like nearly every other team in the District took on a 13th player. And while I believe it is great to get more kids on the team, it does make it more difficult to manage playing time. And it is a definite competitive disadvantage because it requires a manager sit one of his best players on the bench so a player with lesser ability can play.
Fast-forward to the semi-finals of the District Championships and my team is playing the host league. It seems pretty clear, based on all of the results leading up to this point, that the winner of this game will be favored in the championship. The team we’re playing happens to be the only one in the District that didn’t adhere to Little League’s new “suggested” policy of carrying 13 players. Their third base coach is the manager, and their assistant coach, in the dugout, starts coming out to do the team’s changes. I point out to the home plate umpire that he isn’t allowed to leave the dugout unmanned, and on his own, the first base umpire goes over and stands by the dugout to give them the required adult in the dugout! So any disadvantage they had by not carrying a 13th player was eliminated. We lost that game on a close play at home that went against us. They then went on to win the District and the Section Championships.
Now, instead of the rule being tied to coaches, it is married to playing time. The new, improved version is that any team with only 12 on the roster must play every player on the team a minimum of two innings in the field, as opposed to the traditional minimum of just one. I wish they’d thought of that four years ago. You can see all of the ’11 LL tournament rule changes here.