If you?re on Little League International?s email list, you received a little Friday the 13th surprise, announcing yet another change to the implementation of ?Project Age Change?. Or maybe you weren?t surprised considering how the Little League age change effort has already undergone three iterations over the last 13 months.
For the reader who is behind a few episodes of Little League?s House of Unintentional Lies, you can get caught up by reading these previous posts:
- The Little League Blindside: Making Sense of the Little League Age Change
- Little League Age Change ? So Much for Not Losing a Year
- We?ll Keep Trying Til We Get It Right
To recap: In November, 2014, Little League announced that a change in age determination previously approved at the Little League International Congress in April, 2014 would be implemented immediately for the 2015 spring season for all players born in 2006 and later. The age would be determined by a player?s actual age attained on or before December 31 of the calendar year of that season. The change would be fully implemented in 2018, when viewers of ESPN?s broadcast of the Little League World Series would never again see a 13 year old player on that small Little League diamond.
First indications from Little League were that the players born between May and December, 2005 would not lose their 12 year old season in 2018.
Then Little League issued further guidance that contradicted the earlier explanation. On second thought, the group of players in that birth date range of May-December, 2005 would lose its 12 year old season.
This past September, Little League tweaked it some more and changed the age cutoff from December 31 to August 31. The effect was to narrow the group of players losing its 12 year old season to those born between May and August, 2005.
Then on November 13, 2015, Little League announced another change that would seem to finally put the lingering age change implementation controversy to rest. Little League will invoke a grandfather clause for those May-August 2005 players. The lost 12 year old season for these players in 2018 has been restored, thereby pushing the year of no teenagers at Williamsport to 2019.
Little League age change announcement 11/13/15
Politically speaking, Little League achieves the goal of reducing, to the extent possible, those who may be upset with the age change. Some parents of younger children may still claim their child is losing a year of Little League ? their seven year old child suddenly became eight after the age change. But that is not significant in the eyes of Little League, which focuses on players ages 10?12 (whether or not Little League actually acknowledges it).
Despite what would appear to be a final and best solution, Little League may not be completely off the hook in the complaint department. The impact of the grandfather clause will make it challenging for many players to participate in the Little League All-Star tournament. Take a look at the age chart for 2018:
Note the highlighted months that cover players born between Jan-August, 2006 and May-December, 2005. They?re all considered the same league age. And this isn?t just for 2018. It?s effective immediately and carries through the 2018 season. The ?clog? of players who are as many as 16 months apart in chronological age, yet share the same Little League age, is now a fact of life for the next three years instead of what was for the next two years under the first round of guidelines explaining the age change.
This makes for a crowded field of players who will be league age 10 in 2016, and who are hoping to earn slots on their league?s All-Star team rosters. The younger players in this group will need to compete against players over a year older. It?s the group circled above in red that will be hit the hardest, and from whom Little League may not have heard the last of this.
The bet here is that this is the final stop on the road to getting it right. Short of implementing the new age determination with the incoming group of four year old players ? and waiting a long time before the 13 year old is no longer on the field at Williamsport ? any other implementation can?t help but negatively impact some people.
Little League deserves credit for listening and responding. But one has to wonder why it wasn?t done this way in the first place. The concerns that led to this latest revision weren?t new revelations or ingenious solutions that suddenly surfaced two weeks ago. These were talking points when the amendment was circulated ahead of the 2014 Little League Congress.
Yes, it was a little messy getting here. But this time it looks like Little League got it right. At least as right as it?s going to get.