It’s baseball season and there’s no better time to get outside with a bat and ball and your kids. You don’t need to be part of a league to play. Scrub baseball is fun with as few as six players. Just grab some friends, neighbours or cousins and get out to your local park.
This simplified version of baseball has been enjoyed since the game was first played in the nineteenth century. There are no teams in scrub baseball – players simply take turns rotating between batting and fielding.
Here are some suggestions to adapt the game to the age and number of players you have:
- If you have 7-8 players, make two of them batters and the rest fielders.
- If you have 9-10 players, make three of them batters.
- If you have 11-13 players, make four of them batters.
- If you have 14 or more players, you can create two teams.
In regular baseball, you have nine players in the field. In scrub baseball, you use a handful of players to cover the most essential positions.
- If you have 5-6 fielders, make them a pitcher, first base, third base and two or three outfielders.
- If you have more fielders available, you can add a catcher behind the plate, followed by second base and shortstop.
The aim of scrub baseball is to have fun, build skills and give everyone a chance to bat. To enable that, adjust the rules according to the ages and skills of the players. Here are some suggestions:
1. Three strikes, you’re out
Allow more strikes for newcomers and those under the age of 12. Remember, everyone likes the thrill of hitting the ball. Don’t deny them that fun, otherwise you’ll soon find you are playing by yourself. Make sure everyone gets at least one good hit, even if it takes 25 strikes to get there! The three strikes rule should only apply to experienced players.
2. Player rotation to bat
Whenever a batter gets “out”, that batter goes to the farthest outfield position and all of the field players move up one position. The catcher goes to bat, the pitcher goes to catcher, the first base goes to pitcher, etc. (If you don’t have a catcher, then the pitcher goes directly to bat.)
3. Maximum three bats
Some batters are really good at hitting. Some hit so well and so far that they could stay at bat all day and just keep running around the bases. This gets boring and discouraging for the other players. Simple solution: make a rule that you can only bat three or four times in a row, then you have to rotate to the field and work your way to bat again.
4. Out at home with no catcher
If you don’t have enough fielders to have a catcher, you can still force the “out” at home. Make it the rule that the fielders simply have to throw the ball across home plate ahead of the base runner to get the runner out. (This applies in a “forced play” situation where the base runner must get home.)
Pay close attention to safety when you are playing with children. You should choose a bat and ball that works with younger kids, whether they are batting or fielding.
- Standard adult bats are too big and heavy for most kids under the age of 12. Use a plastic bat. These are easy to find at low cost in toy sections of department stores and large drug stores.
- Standard baseballs are too hard and can be terrifying to children. They are also difficult to hit, painful to catch without a good glove and dangerous if they hit a small child in the head. Use a plastic baseball and it will be easier to hit and safer. They are generally included with plastic bats.
- If you are playing with younger children, try using a much bigger and lighter ball such as a nerf ball or even a beach ball so it is easier for them to hit.
- If you are using a light plastic bat and ball, gloves are not necessary. In fact, playing without baseball gloves will help children to develop their natural catching skills with bare hands.
- You can make bases and a home plate with anything you like – old cereal boxes or pieces of cardboard, old cleaning rags, scraps of plywood. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Remember, the main goal is to have fun and keep kids in the game. If you find that your adapted rules aren’t working, try making new ones. You can also adjust the rules for different players according to their age and experience.
Keep it fun. And play ball!