Does Player Size Matter in Youth Baseball?

The 12u base runner is bigger than the 1st base coach, and about a foot taller than the first baseman (who was slightly taller than my 12u son at the time)


 But how?

Try doing a few google searches for articles about small or big players in youth baseball. Did you find anything? Me neither. Outside of a few opinions shared on forums devoted to youth baseball, you’ll find nothing. That’s amazing, considering how big of an impact size has at the youth level.

In youth baseball, the bigger you are, the harder you throw and hit the ball, on average. Therefore, bigger kids usually get more playing time, bigger roles on the team, and more opportunities. Meanwhile, smaller kids are usually given less interesting roles and more bench time.

Some of the bigger kids clearly perform better at the young ages, especially with hitting. Will they continue to outperform all the way through the end of high school? Apart from highly gifted athletes, do smaller players even stand a chance? How can parents better support their child if they understand how their kid fits in, size-wise?

In this post, I explore these issues by first laying out the 4 possible scenarios, and then exploring each scenario separately.

The 4 Possible Player Size Scenarios

Consider two 12-year olds. 4′ 8″, 82 pound Carl looks so small standing next to his 5′ 6″ 130 pound teammate Bob, who just started shaving. But Carl keeps growing, and a few years later Carl has a huge growth spurt. By age 18 Carl is 6′ 3″ tall and 190 pounds, while Bob is 5′ 7″ tall and 140 pounds. Bob was an early developer. Carl was a late developer.

In other words, big versus small before puberty is only part of the size/development equation. Early versus late development matters more.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to consider 4 possible growth paths for kids:

  • Always Small (Small/Small): Small as kid, small as an adult
  • Late developer (Small/Big): Small as a kid, big as an adult
  • Early Developer(Big/Small): Big as a kid, small as an adult
  • Always Big (Big/Big): Big as a kid, big as an adult

These categories are not precisely defined. For example, consider a player like my son at the 25th percentile of height/weight from the age of 3 to 14 but who (likely) ends up at the 45th percentile at the age of 18. Prior to high school, he always appears 1-2 years younger than his peers. I would consider this player a late developer in the small-big category despite not being all that big at the age of 18, because that is how his baseball experience will pan out. On the other hand, a player who starts at 45th percentile and ends at 45th percentile, and physically develops at an average rate would have an experience more in line with a small/small. And a player who started at 65th percentile and ended at 70th percentile with weight/height may well actually follow more of the late developer small/big path if they appear to be less coordinated than their peers at a young age and not have the slightest signs of puberty until they are 14. Consider the above categories as templates for how a player experiences youth sports, not precisely delimited size categories.

Obviously you can tell whether a kid is currently big, small, or of average size. But can you actually tell what is coming later?

The simple answer is you can’t. You never know for sure until a person is in his or her early twenties. The more complex answer is that you can usually get a rough idea. There are various formulas for estimating adult stature, and you easily use an online calculator to get that estimate. There are also various clues, such as:

  • How tall are the parents? If the parents are tall, chances are good that their child will grow tall regardless of whether they are small or big at age 10.
  • Was one or both parents an early or late developer? If the kid is small but at least one parent didn’t finish going through puberty until nearly done with high school, there’s a good chance that the growth spurt will come later and height/weight may eventually catch up to (or surpass) peers.
  • Birthday? The oldest kid on an age-segregated baseball team is typically 11 months older than the youngest. At the age of 18, 11 months hardly matters, but at prepubescent ages, 11 months typically adds 2-4 inches of height, 10-20 pounds, and neurological development that leads to greater coordination. The youngest player of a given age group will make up the size difference when puberty is complete for all.
  • For kids who are 10-14 years old, what signs of puberty do you see? A big 12-year old with no baby fat, an unusually muscular body build, lots of pimples, and the first few tufts of chin hair may end up being small as an adult. A small 13-year old who still looks pre-pubescent and would not look out of place among a group of 11-year olds may end up being of average size at the age of 18, or possibly bigger than average. He’s nowhere near done growing so it’s hard to know.

To elaborate on these last two points: there’s a difference between chronological and biological age. A kid is chronologically 12 years old on the day of his 12th birthday. But if he has many signs of being well advanced through puberty, he may well be biologically 14 years old. This means that his biological development is average for someone who is 14 years old, despite only being chronologically 12. The same of course can happen in reverse; a 12-year-old may look very small with no signs whatsoever of even having started puberty, perhaps biologically 10.5 years old despite being chronologically 12.

A child’s true biological age cannot be determined precisely based on appearance or the clues discussed above. While doctors can reliably test for biological age with X-rays of growth plates to determine bone age, most children don’t get bone age X-rays. Without X-rays, a child’s biological age can (at best) only be roughly approximated.

Why does all this matter? The kids with biological age a couple years higher than chronological age will not only be bigger and stronger, but they will often also be more mature and coordinated as might be typical for someone who is older. All of this means that, on average, such kids will be athletically advantaged throughout childhood. By the time high school is over, the heights and weights (and more importantly neurological and muscular development) of many slow developers catch up to (and in some cases surpass) their peers, and this will have a big positive impact on their relative performance on the field.

There is often confusion in size discussions about other important differences between players such as athleticism and acquired skill. Obviously someone born with incredible athletic talent will be noticed and go far no matter what their body size or type. In baseball, Jose Altuve is only 5′ 6″ tall but is an extremely gifted athlete. Basketball had Mugsy Bogues, a 5′ 3″ point guard. Yes, if you are as athletically talented as Altuve or Bogues, and you work hard, you will go very far.

However, the typical recreation baseball league, AA travel ball team, or even AAA travel ball team is not going to have a single player who has even close to the athletic talent of Altuve or Bogues. This article focuses on typical young athletes playing baseball, who are perhaps between the 25th and 99th percentile in athletic talent. Those in the top 1% of the athletic talent pool are so gifted that they will likely thrive no matter how big they are or how their athletic development is handled. For the vast majority of players who have more ordinary talent, size has a huge impact on the experience, as discussed in detail below.

Parents who understand where their child falls among the four categories of size may be better able to support their kid’s aspirations to play baseball or other sports, whether it’s just to have fun for a few years at the recreation league level, or whether it’s to eventually play high school varsity baseball.

Scenario 1: Always Small (small/small)

Sometimes it’s easy to tell if a small 8-year old will grow up to be a small adult. If both parents are much smaller than average, then it’s likely their small 8-year old will eventually be a small 20-year old. It’s possible for such a child to have a huge early growth spurt at the ages of 10-13, temporarily making him bigger than most of his peers. However, this is not too common, and even if it does occur, he’ll still be one of the smallest players on any team for all but 1 or 2 years.

Does this mean he should quit baseball at the age of 8?

Not at all!

There are other variables besides size that determine baseball success, namely athleticism, throwing ability, and perhaps most importantly the motivation to practice (with high quality and quantity). There are many stories (such as this one) of small players who loved the game of baseball so much that they worked incredibly hard, kept improving their mechanics, and persisted no matter what the obstacles, eventually surpassing most peers regardless of size.

Note that in the long run, if the child will be attending a small to mid-sized high school, there will almost certainly be a few players on the team who are considerably below average in size. However, being able to make the varsity team of a very large high school team as a small player is tougher, requiring considerable athletic or pitching talent in addition to high motivation.

For players with average or even moderately above-average athletic talent who are not extremely motivated, small size has a big impact at the elementary and middle school years.

My son is always the smallest or second smallest player on every team he’s been on. He recently turned 13 years old but looks to me more like 11 or 12. I’m a 5′ 10″ adult who didn’t finish going through puberty until the end of high school, so it’s possible my son will be an average-sized 18-year old like I was. Or maybe he’ll come out a bit shorter than that. More likely than not, he’s in the late developer category (small/big), but who really knows?

However, I’ve had a lot of experience seeing how the smallest guy on a team is treated, and I’ve taken a keen interest in other small players I’ve seen, including ones with very short parents.

The most obvious thing to notice about small baseball players is that there aren’t very many of them playing in a recreation league or any other form of organized baseball. According to the growth chart put out by the CDC the median height of a boy just turning 9 years old is 4′ 4″, and the median height a few days before he turns 10 is 4′ 6″. So you might think you’d see many players in a 9-10-year-old rec league division who are below the height of 4′ 5″.


When my son played his first year of PONY Mustang (ages 9-10), I looked around our league. Out of about 60 9-year olds, there were around 6-8 players who were below 4′ 5″ tall, as compared with the 25-35 you might expect from a random sampling of 9-year-old boys in the U.S. My son, who has consistently been close to the 25th percentile of height and weight for his age, is always the shortest or second-shortest player on his team.

What I also find interesting is that kids who are at exactly the median height for their age according to CDC are often considered “small” on their teams, because so many kids attracted to the sport of baseball are bigger than average. In this article I consider these median-sized kids small as well (especially if they seem to be trailing their peers in puberty/physical development), because coaches tend to think of and treat median-sized kids as small. However, it’s not a black or white thing. The shorter the player (and further they lag behind peers in physical development), the more intense will be their experience of what it’s like to be considered “small” by coaches and peers.

Many smaller players are discouraged from playing sports to begin with. Often the parents are short as well and believe that athletics is a lost cause for the small, so don’t particularly encourage their kids to try sports at a young age. There are undoubtedly other social factors at work that subtly discourage smaller kids from ever trying an organized sport.

Some short parents do encourage their small players to join organized sports. And of course some short children develop a desire to play sports on their own. So there are always a few small players who join recreation baseball leagues between the ages of 5 to 9.

I’ve observed that most of the players below 45th percentile of size quit within 3-4 years.

When I see kids quit the game of baseball, regardless of size, it is typically 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. Too fearful of getting hit/hurt by a baseball
  2. Don’t like the game much, especially the slow pace (so they switch to a more active sport like soccer or basketball)
  3. They become discouraged at performing worse than most players, especially at hitting

The first two reasons are common to players of all sizes. However, from what I’ve observed, a disproportionate number of players who drop out for the 3rd reason are kids who are either smaller or whose biological age is lagging their chronological age. This strikes me as a shame because it’s not much different than taking a kid with average ability and forcing them to play with kids who are 2-3 years older. Yes—quite often a short player performs at a much lower level than his peers. A normal reaction to performing poorly is to quit and get involved in activities where average effort leads to average results. A short player with average (or slightly above average) athleticism must exert much more effort to get average results.

Some people point out that it’s only natural for kids to be attracted to activities at which they have success, and to avoid activities which are much more difficult for them. For smaller kids who are likely to be small as an adult as well, isn’t it better to steer away from activities for which there is little hope of attaining a high degree of mastery in the long term?

Maybe so, but there’s a lot of small kids that love baseball, and it’s still possible for them to enjoy playing baseball in their childhood.

For small kids who love baseball but don’t have extraordinary athleticism or motivation, it’s easy for parents to find an environment in which the player can thrive. Simply join a recreation league that allows kids to play based on ability (or size) as opposed to age. Even some age-based leagues allow exceptions for kids to “play down” or “play up” based on ability or size. Small players with average ability do fine when playing with players of similar size.

As someone who writes frequently about bats, I must also mention that short and light players should use short bats. Every time my son has used a bat that was too long for him, his hitting suffered a great deal. At the older ages it’s even more important: if a short player keeps playing baseball through the age of 14, they will be required to buy a very heavy (drop 3) BBCOR bat, and that bat will need to be short if a small hitter is going to have any chance at all to hit well. At age 14, I would not go over 30″ length of BBCOR bat for a very small batter and 29″ should be considered (note that my son tried a 31″ drop 8 bat as a 13u for several months with poor results). So given that 29″ or 30″ BBCOR is the end game, at the younger ages small players should be reluctant to get longer bats. They should limit length to 30″, while gradually increasing weight from the ages of 12 to 14 until they reach drop 3. (Note: 6 weeks after this article was published, I purchased a light-swinging BBCOR 30″ model for my son and it’s working out surprisingly well: Louisville Slugger Solo 617 30″ BBCOR drop 3 bat).

An interesting issue is when the kid is small, but displays considerable talent and/or skill in some aspects of the game. It’s an especially interesting issue when such a kid is in the late developer category. What then? This is discussed in the next section.

Scenario 2: Late Developer (small/big)

I think my son pretty well fits the late developer scenario so I’ll use him as an example to start off this section.

My son has been 25th percentile for height and weight throughout childhood. Even though he’s usually the smallest player on a baseball team, he’s likely to end up closer to 45th percentile (perhaps 5′ 9″) by the time he’s in his last year of high school, passing up at least a few players in height. He will soon be 13 years old, but looks more like he is 11 or maybe 12. A neighbor asked recently if my son was 10.

My son is not among the fastest runners, best hitters, or hardest throwers in his rec league. However, he is a lefty who throws accurately with efficient mechanics. He has above-average athleticism, a thorough understanding of the game, and a non-stop love for baseball that literally started before he was 2 years old. In recent years, he has been valued at both the rec league and AA travel ball levels for his pitching, getting consistently good results.

Though my son has had some success at the game, and especially with pitching, it hasn’t always been fully recognized. There have been times on more competitive summer teams when my son generated team-leading pitching stats, yet was not given an opportunity to pitch at a critical tournament; instead he watched from the bench or right field as a harder-throwing, bigger kid threw away games with numerous walks and wild pitches. I have seen him bumped to the bottom of the batting order on teams where his batting average and on-base percentage was higher than all but 4 or 5 players, because he did not hit the ball as hard in batting practice. I have seen big players playing first base despite numerous errors and little ability to scoop throws out of the dirt while my short left-handed son is sitting on the bench. And then the one or two token innings he gets to play first base for the weekend, he makes all the plays, including scooping throws out of the dirt and nailing a runner at another base. But then, the first time a shortstop makes a throw that’s out of reach for the short first baseman, it confirms what the coach thought all long: it’s best to play one of your biggest players at first base.

As a parent, it was maddening when I started to see this kind of thing at the age of 8. But in recent years I’ve not only accepted the reality, I’ve actually come to think of being a short, late developer as an advantage. Why?

The obvious advantage is that he has to work harder and develop better mechanics to keep up. These kind of habits will better serve him in the long run. But there’s also something specific if the short player happens to have pitching ability (even better if he’s a lefty pitcher, like my son):

Arm overuse at young ages (and most especially for those with bad mechanics) often leads to pitching arm injuries in the long run. Since the age of 8, my son has each year logged approximately 900 game pitches in 60 innings of pitching (I’ve tracked it, mostly with Gamechanger). This is a modest workload, as compared with several big, hard-throwing pitchers I’ve observed pitching 2000-4000 pitches annually. My son may well suffer an arm injury before his baseball days are done. However, chances are much higher for permanent injury with bigger players with worse mechanics who throw many more pitches and sometimes pitch through elbow or shoulder pain.

If your small player learns to compensate for bias by practicing more, learning more efficient mechanics, and playing harder and smarter, then be happy with what this leads to in the long-term. Even if he doesn’t play baseball in high school, developing the right kinds of habits to maximize performance in anything is only going to help later in life.

As a parent, it’s very important to encourage your child to work harder in the face of bias. Encourage your kid to control what can be controlled, and ignore the rest. It’s rarely possible to control what a coach thinks or does. So focus on what can be done, which is work hard, develop good mechanics, and take advantage of whatever opportunities arise.

It may be hard for some parents to accept perceived unfairness, especially when current in-game performance is overlooked in favor of size-based potential. What I’ve observed over the years is many coaches do not evaluate players purely based on current in-game performance. Coaches know from experience that on average, bigger players are better players. Even big, athletic players currently making many mistakes will eventually improve with repetition. Put bluntly, most coaches believe that the bigger and more athletic, the greater the potential upside. Most coaches believe the exact opposite for shorter players unless they display incredible athleticism. Even if a coach notices that a short player is performing very well at the moment, upside is considered limited.

It’s unusual for a pre-pubescent late developer to participate in the rarified levels of play attained by elite travel ball players. It’s hard even to attain the somewhat challenging AAA travel ball level. So what. Just let late developers play at the level where they’ll get some playing time and enjoy the game. If they keep enjoying the game, they’ll keep playing. If they develop good work habits and catch up in size and physical development, eventually they’ll have their moments of glory. These moments may not come until their 3rd or 4th year of high school, or in rare cases later than that (read the Daniel Nava story for an extreme example). But they will come. And as I detailed in the prior section—be sure to use a short bat.

Early developers don’t always win out in the long run . . .
(courtesy Pixabay)

Scenario 3: Early Developer(big/small)

What I just described for late developers may sound frustrating for parents of such players to watch. They may watch their child over the course of many years unsuccessfully compete with players 6-9 inches taller and 50-100 pounds heavier, sometimes even getting passed over despite superior performance. However, being the parent of an early developer can be even more frustrating.

Time and again, I have seen parents of a big, muscular kid below the age of 12 get very excited about their young ballplayer’s future prospects. He hits the ball harder and farther than most players in the league. He is one of the hardest throwing pitchers. He is usually a fairly high draft pick for the local recreation league—that is, if he hasn’t already been recruited away from rec league to join a travel ball team.

Occasionally, an unusually large, talented, hardworking young ball player plays well throughout childhood, in high school, and eventually as a starter on the local high school varsity team, despite topping out at a relatively modest height of 5’7″ or thereabouts. However, I have already seen a few large kids who were not so hard-working pretty much stop growing at the age of 12 or 13, an age when some players grow 6-9 inches in less than a year and pass them right up.

That’s when the dreams of some parents come crashing down. The game speeds up, the players are all getting better, but their own son’s physical development and baseball performance no longer keeps up with his peers. But in one crucial way, it’s even worse:

Many early developers develop bad habits when young. Their size and early physical development allow them to perform well if they have poor hitting and throwing mechanics, lackadaisical base running skills, unsound fielding skills, and a negligible work ethic. In some cases, I see such kids get away with poor performance—that is, they get given many chances on account of their size, and must perform quite poorly to lose the confidence of their coach.

Of course, some early developers work hard at their game, developing excellent skills and work habits. In many cases these players leave rec league to join travel ball teams, and sometimes higher level travel ball teams.

However, given that my son plays in recreation league, I get to see some early developers who did not matriculate to travel ball. At the young ages, these early developers competed with players who were mostly not at the same stage of physical development. For example, think of what it’s like when an 11-year-old baseball player plays among 8-year olds. Even if he’s just slightly above average for an 11-year-old baseball player, he is so much better than the 8-year olds that he can coast without having to exert himself. I have seen early developers who seem like 11-year olds among 8-year-olds. They don’t just look bigger. They also look older and more muscular, despite being the same age.

If you know the genes in your family tend towards early development, and you can see that happening with your young baseball player, it’s important to temper expectations for yourself and your player. As I explain in So You Want Your Kid to Be a Good Baseball Player, you don’t want to praise your son’s talent or current performance. You want to praise their hard work. Given that they are physically advanced for their age, I think it’s worth encouraging them to play with other physically advanced players.

In my view, one of the better arguments for travel ball is to give motivated early developers a chance to play with other early developers, so that coaches and heightened competition can help them develop a work ethic and more advanced baseball skills. There still may be disappointment down the road when an early developer is eclipsed in high school by players who were half a foot shorter at the age of 9. But size isn’t everything in baseball. Working hard and smart from the earliest ages all the way through high school is the only way a player will find out how much ball player is actually in them, no matter how big or small they start or end.

Scenario 4: Always Big (big/big)

This is undoubtedly the weakest section of this article. Why? Because I don’t have much experience with it. Many big, athletic kids with big, athletic parents leave recreation leagues at a young age to join travel ball teams. Quite often, such players quickly advance from the AA level to the much more competitive AAA level, or perhaps even higher. Given that my son is a small late developer, my contact with “always big” players has mostly been with those who have limited aspirations to make the best use of their talents. Coasting through a rec league (even a really good rec league) as one of the best players on account of size will for many players not provide enough incentive to work hard, develop better mechanics, and refine fielding skills. Travel ball is a reasonable answer for such players, if they aspire to start as a varsity high school player some day.

Having tall, athletic parents, and growing up taller and more athletic than one’s peers confers advantage at every stage of one’s athletic career in sports that reward size. Baseball is obviously one of them, because size helps with both throwing and hitting. Apart from the possibility of coasting as mentioned previously, the main downside to being big and athletic all the way through is the potential for overdoing it.

It is easy to get carried away at the early ages for those who are identified early as having the right set of genes. Some play year round, join multiple travel teams, and/or play for an elite team that begins very intense training and a very demanding schedule at an early age. While there is no doubt that repetition and exposure to the best coaches and stronger competition will advance such players faster than if they just play a few months each year of rec ball, there is overwhelming evidence that year-round play or excessive pitching and/or throwing increases the chances of repetitive stress injuries and/or imbalanced physical development.

To be blunt, some very promising big athletes peak during or just before high school, but after accumulating too many arm injuries (usually elbow or shoulder), go into decline. This will have the biggest impact on catchers and pitchers, but declining arm strength does impact defensive ability in other positions as well.

I don’t have enough personal experience to be able to recommend the right balance of exposure to higher levels of training and competition for big, athletic, talented, and motivated players so as to best promote their development without exposing them to excessive repetitive injury risk.

My extensive readings suggest that year-round play in a single sport is not good for anyone. So one thing I do recommend is encouraging young baseball players to rotate out of baseball in the fall and winter to play other sports, or at least taking a couple months off each year from baseball to give the arm time to recover. And if you’re not playing multiple sports, it’s better to start a regular baseball workout routine sooner rather than later.

However, if anyone reading this has experience with players in this category, I would appreciate if you would leave comments/advice for parents below.

Depending on Size, How Should You Advise your Baseball-loving Son?

Size is not the only variable or the most important variable when figuring out how to best support your child’s baseball experience. In my view, a more important variable is the player’s level of interest.

I know a player with big parents who was always one of the biggest and strongest players. But he wanted baseball to be just a fun activity and never had an interest in being on the too-serious all-star or travel ball teams, where he might have to work at his game. After playing 8 years of recreation baseball, he just joined the league’s select team for the first time at the age of 14. For him, that’s fine, baseball was clearly just a form of recreation. Had he had more than a recreational interest, though, he would have been much better off putting himself in situations where he was challenged more, and forced to develop better mechanics, better work habits, and better baseball smarts to keep up with his peers. The reality is that he has always been able to coast his way through rec league without focused practice as one of the top players on account of his size, and it may be too late at this point to reverse many unfortunate habits he’s picked up along the way.

My own son has been interested in going as far as possible with baseball since the age of 2. This comes from him. Neither me nor my wife were too serious about athletics growing up. However, we want to support his passions as best we can, and it just so happens that he has consistently had a passion for baseball.

Our son is a small player with above-average athleticism but clearly not an “elite” athlete. He could already throw, hit and catch by the age of 3 and he could throw strikes as a pitcher by the age of 5. We had no idea that his small size would matter much until we first encountered all-star teams at the age of 8. It quickly became apparent that the path for a small late developer is not an easy one, but we have found many ways to support him to continue enjoying baseball until his physical development catches up to many of his baseball peers.

My son is now in 7th grade and while we don’t know when and how it will end, he still loves baseball and wants to keep playing as long as he can. He’s in his 9th year of organized baseball, still loving the game, and looking forward to joining his high school baseball team despite some discouraging moments. Baseball has already been a great part of his life, regardless of the ultimate outcome. So what have we done to support him?

Mostly, we have just let him take the lead. Each year we present options for him—he can stop playing baseball, he can take a season off, he can continue with rec ball, or he can join a travel ball team. He consistently chooses rec ball, as he likes the level of play our well-organized league offers, and he greatly values being with his friends. We’ve also encouraged him to try other sports and develop a regular workout routine, in order to physically develop in a more balanced way. Whatever he chooses, we’ll support him. Only occasionally have we strongly tried to sway him in one direction or another.

I have a recent example of when we did try to steer him in a certain direction. He recently tried out and made a select team for our PONY league but they didn’t have enough players for separate 13u and 14u teams. So he joined the combined team. He is one of the only two players who are below 5′ 4″ tall (both he and the other guy are just below 5′ 0″), and he is by far the lightest at only 88 pounds, as compared with most players weighing between 140 to 180 pounds. He did not make the main roster, so he is an “alternate,” which means he may get called up to play in a tournament if a regular roster player can’t make it. All that may have been fine, but the big issue is that they are participating in 14u tournaments that require BBCOR drop 3 bats. He’s simply not yet big, strong, or skilled enough to swing a drop 3 bat. Not even close. My wife and I suggested he stay away from an experience where he would have been on the bench most of the time if he was even invited to a game, and then he would not have fared well at the plate with a too-heavy bat. He agreed with our reasoning. The end result is that he attending practices for a nominal fee, but joined a 13u-only summer travel team that worked out well for him.

Despite not being able to swing a heavy bat, my son’s confidence in his baseball ability is the highest it’s been in years, thanks to flawless fielding and pitching on this year’s rec team. His hitting is not keeping up with players 40-80 pounds heavier than him, but this has motivated him to resume working out after lapsing for several months, and a round of hitting balls off a tee with a heavy bat is now part of his calisthenics routine.

I mention these two stories to illustrate how making choices over the course of many years playing baseball will be different depending on size, and the opportunities that present themselves. If you assess your player’s current and future prospects with a realistic perspective that includes factors such as size, athletic talent, and perhaps most importantly motivation/interest, it may help your family make better choices when various opportunities present themselves.

Can you predict with precision how big your player will get, and how much interest they will continue to have in baseball? No you can’t, at least not with any precision. But you may be able to piece together a reasonable approximation of your child’s level of interest, athletic talent, and expected size progression. This may help you figure out where your player fits in, and how best you can support them getting there.

I’ve undoubtedly missed some issues, especially when it comes to players who are unusually large before puberty. So feel free to share any personal experiences or words of wisdom in the comments.

Author: Joe Golton

I’m a dad with a son who loves baseball. Professionally, I’ve been a software developer, investor, controller, and logistics manager. I now make my living from this blog, supplemented with occasional consulting gigs.

21 thoughts on “Does Player Size Matter in Youth Baseball?”

  1. There’s a whole literature on future height estimation. Khamis-Roche is simple to use, doesn’t need an xray, and is supposed to be accurate within an inch median error. There are calculators all over the web (though they generally use the numbers for white Americans without diseases affecting growth). It uses parental heights, child age, child height, and child weight. Child weight is the proxy for the bro-science idea of early versus late development, but that effect is much smaller than people seem to think on the internet. For example, consider a 12 year-old kid who’s 5’5″ with median parent height of 5’8″ – if he’s 160 pounds (burly, classic early developer), he’s predicted to be 6’1″. If he’s 100 pounds (skinny, clearly not through puberty), he’s predicted to be 6’2″.

    By the time a kid is 13 or 14, his current height is by-far the most important factor in the estimate of his adult height.

    Plugging Bob and Clark into Khamis-Roche and assuming the same median parent height of 5’8″ for both, Bob is estimated to reach 5’9″, and Carl 6’3″, median error about an inch, 90% within about two. You can do better with hand x-rays, but it’s not likely to change the picture.

    Otherwise I more or less agree that people worry too much about size. One of the nice things about baseball is that while it helps to be bigger than the average American, it’s not that big a deal in the sport and there are plenty of body types playing at a high level. Also, for your ability to swing the bat, weight is much more important than height, and for an athlete that’s a lot easier to control.

  2. Lord Action – I appreciate the lengthy, thoughtful comment, and pointers to learning more about size prediction.

    I too have observed that weight is more important than height for hitting. When you say that weight is easy for an athlete to control, though, I’m assuming you mean after finishing puberty. My small son put a lot of effort into working out (calisthentics) for a few months when he was 12 1/2. After all that effort, he went from about 83 pounds to 88 pounds over the course of 2-3 months. He slacked off some and 6 months later he was still 88 pounds when he turned 13. I assume that gaining weight will be a lot easier for him at the age of 17 when he’s done (or mostly done) with puberty.

    Size may not matter too much in the sport at the age of 17, but it matters a ton at the age of 7, and even at the age of 13. I know. I see it all the time in the younger kids, not just in their performance, but in how coaches perceive their performance, and therefore the opportunities they are given. For those who continue, it won’t matter in the long run, as you say. Not every player is going to have the stamina to last the 8-10 years it takes until it all evens out in the end.

  3. I guess I meant once he’s old enough to understand that what he eats matters to how he competes. That probably varies with the child.

    If your son is trying to gain weight, can I put in a plug for Starting Strength? It’s elementary, but it will get you past a lot of the BS you see in baseball circles. Have him squat and drink more milk and everything will be fine. Jose Altuve is not really 5’6″ and he seems to be doing okay, so there’s hope for us all.

  4. Lord Action – Different body types take different amounts of effort to pick up weight. I literally consumed 4000+ calories/day in HS (I did not squat, but I played a running sport, Ultimate, 4x/week). I drank 6 glasses/milk per day and just seemed to burn off every calorie I ate no matter how much I ate. I was always the skinniest guy, weighing 125 pounds when I graduated HS at 5′ 10″. I had zero interest in becoming a serious athlete so I never worked out. But I do know that it takes far more effort for me to build muscle than an average male.

    Nevertheless, I acknowledge your point and will check out Starting Strength and other programs when my son gets to 9th grade. For now, he’s just doing a calisthenics routine – pullups, pushups, various forms of squats, crunches/planks, etc.

  5. Great post. Just discovered the blog.

    Let me share a perspective on youth maturity from our experience. A few years back, when my kiddo was going into 6th grade, we moved from the midwest to Arizona. The kiddo was an avid but average rec player. In Arizona, baseball, where baseball is a year-round pursuit and where the competition is intense, he was behind most of his peers in skills–and also in relative size & maturity.

    Presently, my kid is a rising HS sophomore who played this past spring for his freshman team (as well as some JV.) He is still only 14, with a late summer birthday, making him one of two boys on the team who were much younger than most of the other players. (This problem has been noted in youth sports–that those kids who are behind age cut-offs, and thus the youngest cohorts, are less likely to keep playing. Size is one of the reasons.) Fortunately, for his age (14), my son is a relatively big kid 5-11, 165, (90th percentile in size) though w/average athleticism. (The other youngster on his freshman team is also a big kid.)

    Anyway, your post about small/med/large and competitiveness resonated (I agree that it matters esp. as regards opportunities at younger ages.) It resonated because a) my kiddo is the youngest player on his HS team; b) he has had to overcome the fact that he was less physically and athletically mature than his grade-level peers. And, honestly, this will remain a challenge, for at least another year or even two. Of course, size and maturity matter… but it is not limited to hitting but also pitching. Throwing hard and hitting hard are related to physical maturity.

    So, our story. As briefly as possible.
    When we arrived here, my then 11 y/o wanted to play grade-level (which was 12u, as he was in 6th grade) with his larger peers. After a foray in the local little league, we realized he could play rec ball with them, but not club ball. We had the good fortune to connect with a local former pro (now a friend), who both ran a local baseball club and who also offered guidance.

    His advice: play to your level but PLAY!, learn skills (i.e. pitching mechanics, hitting mechanics) before being concerned about average or outcomes etc., play toward developing for a larger field, and find a team for which you enjoy playing. Play multiple sports (and/or take breaks); do strength/agility training; focus long term rather than on the results of a weekend tournament or team record.

    At 12, and in 7th grade, my son decided to focus on baseball over soccer; he took his first foray into club ball, playing for our friend’s organization. He played on the 12u club team in the fall, but played with his peer group at school. He had great moments, but was inconsistent. After the fall season, our coach/friend who operated the club/organization (but was not his team coach) let me know that my kid would have difficulty on the 12u club team that was transitioning up a level of competition, from AA to AAA–his skills had not yet developed. Honestly, I did not know what to do–my son wanted to play in high school but he could not make a good (not great) club team in his age group–much less a similar team with older grade-level peers. So, we jumped to an aspiring 12u AA club team, and my son had a great experience–including significant playing time.

    Even so, at that point, it became clear to me that if he wanted to play in high school, which he did, he would have to get better. (His HS is a large school so I guessed it might be difficult to make the team (and unbeknownst to me at the time, his HS plays in one of the premiere HS baseball conferences in the US.) Also, he remained smaller than his grade-level peers. (He was not even especially large or athletic relative to his age-level peers.)

    So, I followed our friend’s advice (and he remained encouraging in part because my son has always been a competent LHP.) So, my son began taking regular lessons and developed a relationship with a good instructor. I stopped worrying about externalities or game outcomes, and supported my son’s training. As a pitcher, he developed a new release point that was less stressful on his arm and helped him developed consistent command; as a hitter, he discovered his legs.

    Our son embraced playing 13u as an 8th grader (even though it was 54/80 and not 60/90, which he would need for HS. He switched to a -5 in the fall and then a -3 in the spring though. We tried to focus on one thing at a time). In the fall, he played again for our friend’s 13u AAA club/organization; he clearly belonged on the team this time. He was improving but wanted more innings at pitcher. After talking about it with his coach and our friend, we made a choice that prioritized playing time over level of play. So he switched clubs to another 13u club that had teams at both 13u AA and 13u AAA–and which also had a fluid roster that allowed the best players to move between rosters from week to week. My son excelled and even played 60/90 tournaments by late spring of 2017.

    Rough edges and all, he had to leap into the transition to HS, even as his club season was ending. In May-June (2017) he joined the HS club team. It turns out that in AZ most large high schools also run club teams for rising freshmen–something that continues in Fall. (These informal teams/workouts are essentially six-month, long-term tryout periods.) Also, because he was rough around the edges still and needed more 60/90 work, in the fall (as he started HS), he again played for our friend’s organization for their 14u club team (the team that he’d only gradually become good enough to play for.) By December 2017, he’d emerged as one of the best players on that 14u club team (a team on which he’d once been the worst player). Also, he emerged among the strongest players among his fellow HS freshman who were trying out.

    So, for almost two years, my son drank baseball from a fire hose, practicing 2x weekly, playing tournaments 3 weekends per month, plus getting additional hitting instruction and working in extra bullpens. He competed better and grew more consistent. Just as important, he finally hit puberty. He started to get noticeably bigger than age-level peers (because he was the oldest) and became comparable in size to grade-level peers.

    Even so, he is still catching up on the skills that are tied to maturity–such as pitching velocity. My son is quite average (give or take) relative to his grade-level (2021 HS grad year) peers. For instance, he throws 72-73 which is average for 14u (2022 HS grad year) but below average for 2021 pitchers, where its more toward 76-77. (The comparison come from PerfectGame averages–which, of course, is a subset of HS baseball players.)

    And, that’s why I’ve shared this story: a relatively smaller boy with relatively fewer skills can succeed–even in the most competitive environment simply through hard work. I’m proud of my kiddo for that!

    But, also, our experience has struck me that–as kids age–there is a complex matrix of size, strength, & skill that all develop together and matter in strange combinations. Sure it goes without saying that exceptional skills is what matters most and is defining. A few of my kids’ freshman teammates (class 2021) are already being recruited for D1 schools and identified as top 2021 prospects in the state (and playing varsity). Likewise, among his 14u team from the past year (mostly 2022 boys) there are two or three boys who will emerge as top D1 prospects. And, when he began working out at a local baseball gym (something all the best players do) he began working out with other D1 commits and prospects (2018, 2019, 2020) players. Of course, the kids being recruited are exceptionally skilled, but also they are usually bigger and stronger–so size and maturity continue to matter, albeit in a different way. They now emphasize “projectability” and overall athleticism… But, just as happens for little kids, the scouting identification system surely rewards early developing teen talents!

    But, to your question about what to do for those early developing kids. As we’ve observed the boys at that top edge of talent–much of it emerging early–the formula is the same as it has been for my son. Indeed, one morning last summer we went down to our local middle-school field for a bullpen early on a Saturday (7:30 to beat the heat) and there was a boy taking bucket after bucket of infield balls. He and my son chatted as we engaged in a game of parallel play: my son pitching, him taking infield. Later, I asked who that was. My son said, oh that’s X, he might be one of the best players in the state. It’s what you suggested in your post–some early developing kids coast, others keep working at it. Watching the work ethic of some of the more talented kids we’ve met had been hearting.

    Even so, most players’ level out, as everyone reaches maturity. At this point, skills trump maturity (and early maturity) as the defining factor. The challenge is to keep your kid playing until that begins to happen.

    With that in mind, I think your advice to other parents is great. I would add a couple things.

    First, as hard as it is, I’d urge parents not to focus on their player’s size or relative development. There’s no point, as there’s always a better player anyway. The goal should be to help your son achieve that goal–as our experience shows there are many paths. Indeed, the biggest differences in Club ball–between AA, AAA, and Majors in USSSA designations–probably regard athleticism and early maturity more than skill. So, why worry about it. We simply can’t control our kids’ stature, or the pace of their development. (Though, I agree with Lord Acton about putting on muscle weight–that happens in the weight room through sport-specific training.)

    I would also second your recommendation of focusing on long-term training and outcomes through the right sorts of drills. For example, as one of your other posts suggests, players should use wood bats to practice hitting. I agree. Wood is demanding because of its smaller sweet spot and it forces you to use your legs to swing. (By the way, Baum makes a great composite wood bat that they warranty and is legal though rookie ball; same for DeMarini. They’re worth every penny!) Also, playing in wood bat tournaments has been great for my son–both as a hitter and pitcher.

    Also, you mention injuries and over-training for pitchers. I agree and we’ve seen that first hand. If one’s kid is a pitcher, demand that coaches follow the “pitch smart” guidelines. Focus on proper mechanics, do arm care, and make sure to build in off time.

    Finally, I would remind us parents to enjoy the games. We’ve continued to enjoy baseball weekends–long drives, post-game meals, etc. But, also, the baseball has kept getting better and better. This past year, as my boy played most weekends on major league spring training fields, I realized how lucky he was (and I was.) I got the privilege of watching young athletes playing good baseball, using wood bats, in sublime weather, on beautifully manicured fields. I realized how much I enjoyed watching the games. I realized also that he might not make his freshman team and that he might be nearing the end of his playing career. (And, this continues to be true!) Anyway, as the season wore on, I enjoyed these games more and more and appreciated the journey as well. I will savor them again this fall.

  6. Thanks very much for sharing your story in great detail. There are so many different paths in baseball and it’s always interesting to hear of the variation among regions, rec leagues, travel ball teams, etc.

    In our area (Northern CA), AAA level and higher of competition is incredibly strong and all AAA players will make their HS teams if they so choose.

  7. I wanted to put some thought into your question about big-kid issues.

    Being the tallest kid on the team, particularly if you have a very low error rate, makes you a natural at first base. Your WAR at first is higher than anywhere else. But first may not be optimal for your development, even though that’s what helps the team win the most. The big kid may be a better SS than the little kid, but it’s unlikely he’ll get the chance to try. We have this going on now with two kids who are not mine on the all-star team. Big new kid in town is fighting to displace the scrappy little guy who’s probably overdue for his move to second base. People assume small is athletic and big isn’t, and I just don’t see evidence for that.

    Slow pitchers have a substantial advantage, particularly against poor hitters, because people will swing at their marginal pitches. Big fast guys have to throw called strikes to get outs, so they have falsely inflated walk rates. Put them against better batting teams and, oddly, their walk rate will go down and their K rate go up.

    At 12, the difference in strike zone sizes is huge. Similarly, if you look intimidating in the batter’s box, the better pitchers won’t throw you much good. And a walk is a wasted at-bat for a big guy. Big, good hitters need to ignore coach instructions to take pitches. You won’t get many worth hitting, so you shouldn’t pass up the good ones.

    The small infield doesn’t give enough distance for greater speed to manifest (the big kid is perceived as fast on the big field, but not on the small field). The small outfield means lots of long singles when you play against a decent defense. There’s also no distinction between the 205 foot squeaker home run and the 270 foot bomb. The field is just too small for 20% of the kids in LL.

    Little League rules prohibit using a properly fitted bat. Little League needs to allow BBCor. My guess is this exclusion is just a money grab.

    Snide comments about puberty from parents whose children can’t catch are a pet peeve. Big doesn’t mean size is your only reason for success. Pitching is the activity that seems to change most with growth, as your levers are so important in determining what kind of pitcher you can be. But height doesn’t help much with hitting or fielding (outside of first base), and it does nothing for hand eye coordination and athleticism. For example, there are two small middle infielders on my kid’s team. One swings the bat (a lighter bat) fast and makes frequent square contact with an athletic swing. One swings and misses awkwardly. For power, the best either can hope for is to bloop it in front of the outfield. Both are tiny, probably under 4’9″ at 12. But the former will be a good hitter if he grows, while the latter doesn’t seem to have much prospect. Getting bigger is not going to change his eye sight and judgment.

    Relatedly, people seem to attribute size to puberty even when it isn’t connected. My kid was always above 95th percentile, but it seems like nobody noticed that until he started getting taller than some dads at 12. My son hasn’t seen a lot of it, as his growth has been fairly steady and not bursty, but I know some kids go through periods of awkwardness when their growth rate is really high.

  8. Lord Action – many interesting comments touching on many different issues. Let me start with what I agree with wholeheartedly:

    Yes – being big does not automatically mean early developer. That is exactly why I divided into 4 types in the article – some kids are big all the way through and it can be very easy to tell when you see a big 12 year old who has baby fat on his cheeks and a voice which has not yet lowered. And the most obvious hint is if the parents are also above average height.

    And – to your point – being big does NOT automatically mean unathletic. Athletic is a separate variable independent of size. However – here’s why I think there is a perception that more of the smaller players are athletic: There is so much advantage for being big in baseball that most of the smaller players get weeded out of the game pretty quickly. Given the approximately normal distribution of sizes, there are many more small to mid-sized kids than there are bigger kids, so the pool of potential small players is much larger. The fewer smaller players who remain in the game by age 12 tend to be more athletic on average than the bigger players because being small AND being not-athletic is so unrewarding to the player that, for most of them, it is just too frustrating to continue to play, even at the rec level.

    Also – one thing I realized while writing this article is that the players I base my personal experience on are biased by the sample selection. My son, being very small and not being at an elite level of athleticism, cannot compete at the AAA level. So, for the most part, he has been playing rec ball and AA travel baseball. What you see there is that many of the bigger players are not all that skilled. Why? Because the more skilled ones got selected to be on AAA (or higher travel ball teams) and what is left are ones with less skill/athleticism/motivation/etc. When I see a AAA team play, all players are very skilled regardless of size – but many of those players are very big and very athletic.

    As for hitting – prior to this year, my small son was an example of the guy who swings the light bat fast and makes square contact but was nevertheless often not perceived as a very good hitter because he didn’t often crush the ball. And now as a 13u, being forced to use heavier bats (USAbat and now BBCOR in preparation for 14u), his hitting is going way down. I have seen bigger kids with mediocre mechanics have great success at the plate, as simply being big was good enough to get great hitting results. And the kids who have hit puberty early are doing far better with hitting at the 13u and 14u level than those who are developing late. I have seen specific players who were not all that big at the age of 9 or 10 and were far worse hitters than my son then become much better hitters at age 12-13 because they shot up to be 8 inches taller and 50-70 pounds heavier. Possibly they also increased their hitting skill, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on but I’ve pretty much across the board seen all these small mediocre hitters start hitting far better after their growth spurt kicked in.

    Pitching is probably the piece I am seeing most differently from you. I do get that at the rec level, slower pitchers are helped out in the manner you say – some pitches that would be balls are put into play for outs – and the harder throwers must throw strikes because players are more reluctant to swing. But I don’t see that at all in travel ball, even at the AA level. What I see is that the harder throwing big guys will do fine against weak AA teams, but against stronger AA teams with good hitting, they easily get hit unless they have more than a fastball. My son, being small, does not have the highest velocity among pitchers I see at the AA level, but he has plenty of success by locating his pitches, varying speed, and using off-speed pitches to mix it up. His results by most statistical measures are typically in line with or better than the hardest throwing pitcher on any given team. Obviously the best of all worlds is to have higher velocity and all the other parts of pitching as well, but it’s not often you see that at the AA level, because pitchers who have it all end up playing AAA.

  9. My experience is based on LL (very poor play standard), summer all stars and middle school (medium standard, some strong players but still a lot of weak links), and travel (there are four levels around here and we’re at the second highest with occasional forays into the highest, but we’re probably a weak region by national standards). It may have been clearer if I hadn’t commingled my comments by play level. In travel ball everybody has a change and a curve, or something else funky. For example, my kid throws a two-seam. In travel it’s a good jam-the-righty pitch. In LL it’s a passed ball. For what it’s worth, he’s not primarily a pitcher, so my comments there may reflect less experience and more the observation of other kids. But slow pitchers are like BP in travel, so you just don’t see it much. You do see it in all stars. Hitting, I’m pretty confident about. People just seem to get worse as the pitching gets better, at least once they’ve learned the basics of a good swing. It surprises me that in travel we’re seeing the beginnings of pitcher-only status. My kid is hanging on to both pitcher and position play, but clearly favors hitting and position play. I see a few kids going the other direction.

  10. Lord Action – my region (East Bay of San Francisco Bay Area) is fairly competitive, though from what I’ve been able to gather, lagging behind Southern CA and Florida, the two most competitive regions in the nation. Our rec league is pretty good – the select teams we field for summer play are generally competitive with AA, but get blown out by AAA. My son’s age cohort once had a AAA caliber select team at the 10u level a few years ago but we lost a few of the top players who moved on to join AAA caliber teams.

    It is indeed hard to interpret what is happening without understanding the competitive environment.

    Your son is 12u. Watch what happens 1-2 years from now. You’ll be shocked that several players who you always though of as mediocre (or worse) will shoot up 6-9 inches and gain 50+ pounds. Watch what happens to their hitting and pitching. Maybe you’re already starting to see it? I’ll give you one example of a specific player I’ve observed:

    This guy was small as an 8-year-old, maybe 2 inches taller than my son for several years and maybe 10-15 pounds heavier. Then at age 12 he shot up. His dad is taller than average so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Prior to age 12, he greatly lagged my son in every aspect of play. At age 12, he suddenly became one of the better pitchers in the league by simply throwing hard strikes. His hitting wasn’t good in the Spring, but by late summer his hitting was also getting good. By age 13 he was 5′ 8″ and maybe 150 pounds, and he was throwing low 60’s and hitting the ball quite hard, and turning heads, simply based on what he looked like. He had good endurance so he often started games as the pitcher and lasted 4-5 innings, despite not having any pitches but a fastball. He gets fine results in rec league and against weak AA teams. Against strong AA teams he gets hit some, and opposing AAA teams tee off against him, the couple times I’ve seen it.

    Consider for a second his velocity – 63MPH or so – that is actually not so impressive given his size. His mechanics are sub-par, as he does not use the lower half of his body anywhere near as much as is optimal. I’m sure he’ll keep growing and his velocity will go up. But if he’s throwing 73 MPH at the age of 17 as a 6′ 1″ tall, 190 pound Junior, that isn’t going to do much. I’m not sure how hitting will scale as he gets bigger – too much outside my experience to really know.

    I cite this example to show that size really does matter for hitting and pitching. It’s easiest to tell by looking at a single individual like this who goes through a massive growth spurt changes and therefore changes from being a smaller guy to one of the biggest guys. His performance numbers changed dramatically. I’ve seen this with quite a few kids in the past year, now that my son is 13u.

  11. My son is always the smallest on the team. He is now 10 and on the 11u team because of his birthday. We gave up on little league due to the adult politics. We also gave up on parent coach teams for the same reason. My son wanted to pitch so badly. No one would give him the opportunity because of his size. He’s small and super skinny. But he’s fast with an accurate throw.

    My son tried out for a team that is coached by employees at an indoor baseball facility he uses for private lessons. He took pitching lessons for two years there even though no one would let him pitch. He did so because he asked and wanted to learn. One of the coaches watched his lesson and asked if he would try out for their team. Due to such poor experiences, my son didn’t want to. I’m glad I convinced him to go. He was so excited when he made the team. His coaches are awesome.

    The above team is the only team who ever gave him the chance. He bats third, pitches, and plays first as the smallest kid. His coach informed me that at some point, my son will be too small to play first. I know and it’s okay. Until someone makes the team who is better on first than him, he’ll get one of his favorite positions. The reason he pitches is due to accuracy. His arm keeps getting stronger. On days he has pitching lessons after a game, his coach takes him to the weight room to work with a medicine ball and resistance bands. He only plays for one team and the coaches are conservative with pitch count.

    I wasn’t a sports kid. I’m learning along with my son. If he hadn’t started asking to play the game from the time he could talk, I never would have pushed him in that direction. He’s the reason I started watching baseball. I love watching him play. He never looks more confident than when he is standing on top of that mound. Parents are amazed by him and are shocked that no other team would let him pitch. Our team is currently undefeated on a 50×70 field at division 3 in USABL. Next season the team will be moved up a level, since they are doing so well.

    At some point, the other kids will become bigger than my son. He has no chance of becoming 6 feet tall. However, his love for the game and how well he performs on the field may be enough for him to continue to play. If it isn’t, it’s okay. He wants to be an engineer. I just know if the day comes that no one will allow him to play on a team, it will hurt him. Even though he has no desire to be a professional ball player, he always says says he’d like to play in college. We shall see what happens in 8 more years.

    Don’t discount the small players. From a young age, they know they have to work harder than anyone else in order to be taken seriously. Even then, they may not get the same chances. But the right coach, who can see more than size, will take the time to recognize the potential of his players.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story, LawR. I’ve seen this story played out many times. As one person told me, small players have to prove they can play, while really big players have to prove they CAN’T play.

    My small son is now 5’1″, 94 pounds, playing with a 14u team. He’s the last man standing, as far as the small players go. Every one of his teammates is 5’4″ or taller, and most are much bigger than that – and so it goes with opposing teams as well.

    My son has always been acknowledged for his pitching, but there have times he was on the bench anyway because he can’t hit the ball as hard.

  13. This site had an issue that required I roll back comments from November 20 to November 8, 2018. The comments between November 8 and November 20 were wiped out, but here they are again:

    2018/11/19 at 11:33 am

    Joe, I enjoyed reading your article on Does size matter in youth baseball. I know exactly where you have been and obstacles along the way. My son is a HS Senior now at 18 and is 5’10.5” at 155lbs now (he says 5’11), but will most likely end up being right at 5’11” and 175lbs this time next year. He entered his freshman year 5’3” 105lbs. He is a middle infielder. I researched and learned all I could along the way as I knew the road he had ahead as I was a late bloomer too. To make things more difficult, he is in a large 5a baseball public high school in MO. He did make the varsity team as a junior last year at a whopping 5’9” 135lbs, by the skin of his teeth. He had very limited play time, but should be a starter this year. He also just recently verbally committed to play for a Juco here in MO, and has had a lot of D3 interest, some NAIA, and some Juco interest and decided on the Juco route to allow more time for development, so his work has finally paid off if you will. It was a VERY long road though and he had to put a lot of work in to keep the dream alive, with my guidance. I learned that there is a 6 year window in puberty where 2 boys both aged 14, can have one be 11 biologically and the other 17. My son was the 11 year old in this scenario and verified each year getting his baseball physical. I will tell you that the hardest years were 13u, 14u, and 15u ball where the physical size differences was a HUGE obstacle as there were huge performance differences. If the late bloomers can make it through those 3 seasons, then they will have a good chance to reach whatever potential talent they may have. I have great pics along the way documenting the road. It sounds like your son is about to enter the 3 difficult seasons/years. If you are interested or have questions, I would be happy to discuss.

    2018/11/19 at 11:39 am
    Joe Golton’s response:

    Hi Zach – Very interesting story. If I had to guess, my son will be 5′ 3″ 105 lbs as an entering HS Freshman, just like you son! However, our situations are different because our school is mid-size and a slightly above average baseball team. Furthermore, my son is a lefty who is a known pitcher, and by known – it turns out that the J.V. head coach was his coach for his 13u summer team a few months back. J.V. coach loved his pitching, so he’s assured of at least a good start in HS in terms of pitching.

    His in-game hitting results have been terrible ever since the transition to much heavier bat, but presumably as he gains weight that will come around. He is currently 94 pounds, 5′ 1.5″, in the middle of 8th grade.

  14. Different perspective here but suspect most will agree. First, there are different types of big. Sounds mean, but some kids are big and it is because they inherited the genetics of sasquatch mom and dad – very endomorphic unathletic parents. Sadly, this young player has limited potential in the long run but will be the “stud” at the younger ages – and get playing time better suited for athletic but short, skinny, or average sized kids. With the emphasis on winning – now, “Lumpy” is the 9, 10, 11, 12u star.

    Also, unathletic big kids almost seem to be rewarded for being poor fielders by “owning” 1st base. This is especially true if they are decent hitters. If they are good fielders, they may be competing for playing time – but if they need to be hidden…….congratulations. 1st is all yours.

    Actually, it is sort of proof that you are a good all around player if you are tall and haven’t been hidden at 1st .

    What is frustrating is that if you want to focus on pitching – a lot of positions are poor secondary positions – like 3rd and probably SS. At 15 , 1st is a good place for a good hitting tall pitcher. BUT , in many cases, “Lumpy” still owns 1st. Too many hard hitting big guys that can’t move are carried along at 1st when really – they have no future as they are not athletic.

    There is a lot of truth to the comments about having to perfect skills if you are not large. In the long run, those players rise to the top if they can PERSEVERE through the many years of coaches being in love with Lumpy, or the very early developer – neither of which typically develop good skills and mechanics.

    Bottom line, when the kids are young, the best bet for future athleticism is simply if they are wirey and scrappy. I’ve seen tall skinny awkward kids really develop into graceful athletes by high school. And smaller kids will likely at least be average sized adults and there are plenty of them in the bigs. Just keep playing and know you will most definitely pass the sasquatch kid.

    I had a friend that was drafted tell me a top turn-off to scouts is being heavy. They want lean lean lean. Its all backward in youth ball.

  15. I agree with Worn out baseball dad. Lumpy has been a thorn in my son’s side no matter what team he has been on. My son loves baseball, he has always been an athlete compared to the average kids you run into at the parks. He has always been one of the smaller kids on the team, but at an early age it was because he played up an age level. We had to challenge him early with travel ball because at the rec level even select he was faster, threw harder and hit for very high average, and this was because of the gifts he was born with and the time he spent trying to perfect his mechanics. On every team he was on but one he was placed at the bottom of the roster but through his outstanding play he would rise to the top and get more playing time and more at bats. Except for HS baseball, no matter how he out bats or out performs others he has yet to get more playing time or even moved up to the level he competes at. It seems to be the same every year my son who now stands at 5’8″ is never trusted to start. The coaches are looking at the big kid who hits 350 high fly balls 2 out of 10, is awkward, slow, but has a good arm. My son is fast, throws the same speed, looks like he knows what he is doing and spreads the field with line drives 4.5 times out of 10. I see the potential in the big guys, but the lack in areas that should be worked on outside the game and let the guys who know how to play get the time the already worked for. My son now plays up during summer ball against top talent and even some of his team mates and even at that level still out performs his Varsity team mates. Coach said Perfect Game stats don’t matter, but I guess HS stats don’t matter either since my son has been leading the teams in offense for the past 3 years, with one MVP and others around him get called up to play Varsity. My son’s size has worked against him for playing time but has motivated him to work hard and out perform others.

  16. BBDAD98 – I hope all the hard work pays off and you son is able to continue playing baseball in college somewhere. To add to your point: A kid I coached a few years ago is now a freshman in HS, 6’3″ and around 190 pounds, and maybe not even done growing. He does not field well. He throws hard but not accurately enough to be a good pitcher. Base running is among the worst I’ve seen. But he is playing varsity his first year and has 5th best batting average on the team. Size can help with hitting, that’s for sure, and that’s why the small guys like your son and mine are always at a disadvantage.

    Size is a gift just like athleticism is a gift. But whatever your gifts, hard work will get you further than not doing the work.

  17. For this guy Jose Altuve never would play baseball ever tipical square thought.

  18. Hi, what do you suggest for a small/small on a 9u travel team (he is the youngest on the team, making the age cut by 3 days). He is very athletic, fields well, pitches strikes, and makes contact (normally soft hits to the right side). The coach continually bats him last and sits him 1/2 the game. He has developed a confidence problem, as the bigger kids play the infield and bat towards the top of the lineup.
    Do you think the coach should be rotating the kids regardless of their size? Or play the bigger kids in the infield and top of the order? Can you blame a 9u coach for playing the bigger kids? I tell my son to keep practicing and it will work out. However, so far, that hasn’t been the case.

  19. Aaron – You are very unlikely to have much influence over coach decisions, so the line of thinking “should the coach be rotating kids regardless of size?” isn’t very helpful. It’s helpful to focus on what you and your child CAN control. Some of the things you can control include:

    • Choosing which type of travel team to join (perhaps AA is going to work out better than AAA? perhaps find one with a more suitable philosophy?)
    • Rework how you and your son think about these years. It’s hard, I know from experience. But you can focus more on skills development with private instruction, for example, and always know that in the long run it will work out.
    • You can tell your son true stories (i.e. Daniel Nava, or less dramatically, the simple fact that peoples’ bodies undergo dramatic change when they go through puberty, such that by the age of 14-15 there is a complete reordering of physical talent) or encourage him to read books.
    • Keeping praising him for practicing, and remind him how many of the other smaller kids are dropping out while he’s sticking with it.

    Or – from a completely different way of thinking about it . . . he’s 9! At this age it should be about having fun. Perhaps travel ball isn’t fund and it’s better to just stick with the most fun rec league around. And if you’re really thinking ahead – encourage him to play several sports. Baseball is a lousy sport for getting people into shape. Soccer or basketball on the other get people into shape regardless of how good they are at the sport – and if they then shift into baseball later they will have a good athletic base.

    But to your original question – again, I wouldn’t try changing the specific coach. Sounds pretty typical, whether you and I agree with it or not. Majority of travel coaches will be like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *