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Following. Have a son who would have been birthdate date-eligible to play down a year, but who has always played with his school year (so was younger).  I have only observed that he has a fantastic work ethic that may come partially from wanting to excel with teammates older than him.  Not sure what is the right answer.  On the flip side, it is hard not to notice that many of the kids that are early commits are incredibly old for their grade/year.

Last edited by ILoveBaseball04

What worked for my son from 8th Grade through High School was playing with his age group in the Summer and playing up in the Fall

When my son was in 8th Grade I was coaching a high school aged Fall Ball team made up of mostly Sophomores and Juniors.  There were a few roster spots open so I added my son and one other player from his summer team.

Both of the 8th graders struggled at first.  They must have gone a combined 2 for 25 to start the season.  But they adjusted and adapted and by the end of the Fall Season they were two of the top players on the team, both hitting well over .300

Each of them are now playing college Baseball.  Over the years they have thanked me for that 8th grade fall experience, said that it helped them learn to overcome adversity early and to adapt and shorten up their swing.

After that Fall, I stopped coaching, but we always made sure to have my kid play up in the Fall

Son didn't really try to play up this year, but was placed on JV as a freshman.  I think he now has a MUCH better idea of what he needs to do to start on varsity now some day than he would have had he simply been placed on either the freshman or fresh/soph teams at the school.   A good portion of his teammates will be on varsity next year.  I suspect the opportunity will make him work much harder than he may have otherwise, since he understands the goals.  Although the decision about what team he was on was out of our hands, I believe it will be a good thing in the long run.

Last edited by ILoveBaseball04

Once on the full size field and proving he can handle it a kid should play up as far as he is capable.

My son has a May birthday. He moved up to the full size field and played 13u in 7th grade even though he was 12u eligible. 13u ball was slow motion baseball (to me) even though he was playing USSSA majors. In 14u the game speeds up as most kids have reached puberty.

He played with his grade age until playing 16u when he was 14u eligible the summer after freshman year and 17u when he was 15u eligible the summer after soph year.  

just my opinion, based on experience with my June birthday HS class of 2024.

1.  get on the 60-90 field as soon as possible, so play up ... as long as it is playing and not watching.

2.  play games and train with older, bigger, and better players as much as possible

3.  then, when he enters (or is sucked into) the college recruiting process,
      play in exposure events with kids in the same HS graduating class

4.  let your kid decide on 1 & 2 above.

My son has played in 5 different age groups over the past 4 calendar years: his baseball age group, his grad year group (2024's), grad yr -1 (2023's), grad yr -2 (2022's) and in a local adult league.  During events/tournaments considered to be "college recruiting events" he was playing in his HS grad year group or 1 yr up (never played college scouting events at his baseball age group).  Note, there were days he thought playing back down into his baseball age group would be fun (winning with friends is fun) ... it took some time to cut that cord completely.

When younger, play as far up as you can to face better competition. Play on a team that emphasizes development. Play on a team that you will be on the field.

A big name team that only emphasizes winning at 12u-14u won't help you get better. Playing up and sitting the bench develops nothing. Younger players need practice and reps to get better.

Once you hit recruiting age/size/talent play with your grad year.  Coaches are there to see a specific graduation class, 2024's or 25's or whatever.

If your a complete stud, it won't matter, you'll be found.  If your not a complete stud, you'll get over looked as undersized, under powered, under every 5+ tool.

@Richpra posted:

We're entering a similar situation. Kid may be able to play up next year with 13U on the big field. Seems like folks feel like it's worth it to have a year in slow motion if it means getting big field experience?

When a kid gets to 7th grade he has two years to prepare before high school ball. I don’t advise a kid skipping 13u in 7th grade because he’s 12u eligible and going right to 14u the next season. I don’t advise playing slow motion 13u ball the summer before entering high school.

How the better pitchers throw and how better hitters hit between 13u and 14u is significant.

Definitely play grade level or play up if possible.  What @mjd-dad said in points 1-2 were highly beneficial to my son.  Training with HS soph/juniors when he was in 8th grade changed how he approached working out and especially nutrition.  Just being around the older players who have a different focus and maturity is a positive.  

Although mine can play down like the OP, it was never really worth it when he subbed in a few weekends.  It was never quality reps or even that much fun for him, and I think it adversely affected his drive to win temporarily.  He played up on a 14u summer team when he was barely 13.  That was a big deal and he did well.  He now just plays grade level on a high quality team (with players as good or better than him).  

If he can compete - up. If he is a slow grower and would be better suited catching up to his peers - his age.

Both of mine were playing varsity as a freshman. One a two way, the other a pitcher who hit on occasion. They both got the start on the mound in the state semis their freshman years. What good was playing 14/15u going to do them?

The summer following freshman year. One played 17u as a two way. The other pitched on his 17u team as a PO and for his 15u team as a SS. Same org so they were able to coordinate.

Once you are prepared to try out for the varsity team age no longer matters.

@Dadof3 posted:

Should a freshman play with his age group (down), play with his grad year, or if he is good and has the option to both play with his grad year on the weekends and a summer league with college kids and former college players during the week, which would you pick and why?

I'll spin this a little different. As a "freshman", it doesn't matter about up or down. What matters is the level of competition he is seeing, and whether or not he is having fun. Try to find the best of both worlds.

Ultimately, being really good at any sport requires a certain level of God given talents.... then getting better at a sport requires competing against other's that also have a certain level of God given talents. It's been my experience that age doesn't really factor into this.

Junior summer, play in the 17u division for recruitment purposes....


Grad year.  If you are not playing with grad year, coaches will wonder why.  They assume when they go to a tournament that everyone is playing with their grad year because that is the age they are recruiting by being at that tournament.  We had a kid play down and it hurt him and still does because he looked like a superstar playing down but could not compete playing with his grad year.

Play to the highest level that the kid can play and still at least hold his own.  He doesn't have to be a star....but being an average or above kid playing up is a lot better than being an all-star playing down.  My son played 10U as both 8 and 9 year old.  12u as a 10 year old and 11 year old and 13u as a 12 year old.  He was always the smallest kid on the team, but never struggled against the bigger, older kids.  Keep in mind that once you get to HS your competing for spots against guys 2 or 3 years old.  Heck, in college the way it is now a 17 year old freshman could be competing against 23 year olds.   If he can handle playing up I would 100% do that

my opinion, always play up as long as playing up is with better, stronger, faster, harder throwing players.  Even if playing time is limited, if practice is run well, I will always say play up, your game develops faster by playing with better players than against better competition.  You can always find the playing time in the summer leagues.

Depends on what his skill/ability level is. If he can play up and will play and compete, then play up. If he isn't going to play as much and get dominated, then play down. I've seen what Pitchingfan described above happen to a kid we know, but he was trying to be recruited as a D1 athlete. If your son isn't in that boat right now then I wouldn't worry about it.

Most importantly, play where he is going to have fun. The summer can be grueling. Don't spend it with a team where he will be miserable.

When son was 7th grader (Aug birthday), he played spring middle school ball on the big diamond and spring weekends and summer ball with a 50/70 12U team.  That summer included competitive 12U league play in a high division and two weeks in Cooperstown.  In the fall he skipped 13U for 14U.  Really worked out well for him and that 12U summer is packed with memories that will last a lifetime.

@2SeamPizza posted:

When son was 7th grader (Aug birthday), he played spring middle school ball on the big diamond and spring weekends and summer ball with a 50/70 12U team.  That summer included competitive 12U league play in a high division and two weeks in Cooperstown.  In the fall he skipped 13U for 14U.  Really worked out well for him and that 12U summer is packed with memories that will last a lifetime.

It’s memories that last a lifetime for the parents. The kids are too focused on moving up to the next level. If not for this site I probably wouldn’t think back on my playing days at all played through college).

Last year I asked my kids if they think back on their high school and college playing days. My 35yo daughter laughed and said, “Dad, I have a life.” My 30yo son said, “Infrequently.”

My daughter said the last (non rec) softball game she watched she played in. Neither kid watches games on tv except playoffs of the hometown team. They both attend a handful of MLB games per year.

My daughter is still friends with three of her high school athlete friends. One of her college teammates was in her wedding. My son has two former travel teammates in his wedding this summer.

The two biggest memories I have from my playing days is we’ve called a friend who gave up a monster home run Hanger all his adult life. Even people who didn’t know him then call him Hanger. We call the friend who chucked an air ball on his first Varsity shot Air Ball.

Last edited by RJM

At the end of it all if he is good enough he will get to wherever his talent takes him. He is a freshman, nothing he does this summer will launch his pro career. There will be plenty of time to play up. train hard, play hard, hang out with your friends and be a kid...he doesn't need Olympic training and to be competing up the age groups yet. by the time he hits 16u it will be time to decide and if he has talent there will be plenty of chances.

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