Rules of the Game

Rules of the Game

In this section, we will attempt to clarify the rules of Little League. Common misconceptions and misinterpretations of the rules will be listed. If you have a question about a rule or game situation, please submit it to We will make every effort to find the correct answer.

Rule misconception #1: A player must slide or he/she is out. This is simply not true. There is no 'must slide' rule in Little League Baseball or Softball. The rule is, SLIDE or AVOID. If there is no contact, there is no foul. If the runner does not slide and, in the umpire's judgment, the contact is incidental, the runner should not be declared out. The runner should be ruled out when there is no attempt (in the umpire's judgment) to slide and forceful contact is made between the runner and the fielder. While it is a good idea to teach young players to always slide to avoid collisions, the rule is slide or avoid.

Rule misconception #2: A batter is not awarded first base on a pitched ball that touches the ground prior to hitting the batter. Not true. If pitched ball hits the batter after it contacts the ground, the batter is awarded first base. If batter swings and hits a ball that has contacted the ground, the ball is live and in play.

Rule misconception #3: A runner may not steal a base on a foul tip. A foul tip is defined as a pitched ball that is contacted by the bat and caught by the catcher. If the catcher does not catch the ball, it is a foul ball, not a foul tip. Runners may advance at their own risk on a foul tip.

Rule misconception #4: A batted ball that contacts home plate is a foul ball. Home plate is in fair territory, and a ball that contacts home plate is fair as long as it does not subsequently cross the foul line on the home side of first or third base.

Rule misconception #5: A runner may steal a base in Little League baseball after the pitched ball crosses home plate. The rules state the ball must reach the batter before the runner may leave the base. Since the batter's box is 6 feet in length, there may be a difference in when the ball reaches the plate and when the ball reaches the batter.

Rule misconception #6: The batter-runner must turn to his right after over-running first base. The batter-runner may turn left or right, in fair or foul territory, provided that if he turns left he does not make an attempt to advance. An attempt is a judgment made by the umpire. The requirement is that the runner must immediately return to first after overrunning or over sliding the base.

Rule misconception #7:If the batter's foot touches the plate while swinging, the batter is out. To be out, the batter's foot must be ENTIRELY outside the box and in contact with the ground when he contacts the pitch. There is no statement in the rules about touching the plate. The toe could be on the plate and the heel could be touching the line of the box, which means the foot is not entirely outside the box. It does not matter if the batted ball is fair or foul. Rule: 6.06(a)

Rule misconception #8: In Little League, a pitcher may return to the mound after being removed as pitcher. There is a difference in the rules of baseball and softball on this one. In baseball, once a pitcher is removed from the mound, he may no longer pitch in that game. In softball, a pitcher may return to the mound once per inning provided she is still has remained in the lineup, and has not been replaced by a substitute.

Rule misconception #9: A base runner who leaves the base before the pitch reaches the batter is out. Here's another difference in the rules of baseball and softball. In baseball, the runner is not out, he must return to the base he started at if he left early. If the batter hits the ball, the runner who left early may only advance one base more than the batter. If the batter is put out at first base, the runner who left early must return to first base. In softball, a runner who leaves before the pitch reaches the batter is out.
Corollary on the runner who leaves early in baseball: The following scenario best illustrates the rule.
The bases are loaded, the runner on first leaves the base prior to the ball reaching the batter in the judgment of the field umpire. The batter hits the ball to the fence. Three runs score, but the batter is thrown out sliding into third base attempting to secure the triple. By rule, all runners return to their original bases -- no runs score.
If one runner leaves early, all runners may be affected. If the batter gets a legitimate hit he must get the appropriate number of bases for the value of the hit. But if there is room to return runners, put them back on base regardless of which one left early. Even if the batter had been thrown out at home, bring all the runners back, no runs score.
Now imagine that the batter hit the ball in the infield, the shortstop bobbled the ball, and all runners advanced one base and the batter was safe on first. The runner on first left early. All the runners and the batter will remain where they are, but R3 who ran home on the play is “removed”. No run scores. No out is recorded.

Rule misconception #10: Only the pitcher and catcher may come to the mound on a coach's visit to the mound. This was true until 2004, when the rule was changed. The entire defensive team may come to the mound to discuss defensive strategy.

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In all levels on baseball and softball, the pitcher must throw four pitches outside the strike zone which are not struck or swung at by the batter. This rule was changed for the start of the 2008 season.

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Rules of the game

In baseball and softball, Little League rules state a maximum of three coaches are permitted in the dugout. A scorekeeper in the dugout counts as a coach. undefined undefined

If the offensive team is using adult base coaches, one coach must remain in the dugout. If the team does not have a coach available to remain in the dugout, a player or players(s) must be used as base coaches. The player base coaches must wear a batter's helmets.


A catcher's mitt must be worn by the catcher in baseball and softball from the upper minor leagues on up through the senior league. A catcher may not use a fielder glove. undefined undefined


In the upper minors for baseball and softball, Little League has instituted a 5-run rule this year. This rule essentially replaces the 10-batter rule.

The 5-run rule does not apply in the 6th inning. It is waived only in the 6th inning and beyond even if it’s obvious that the 4th inning is the last inning of the game due to time limits.

When using the 5-run rule, the play should finish to its natural end. The intent is if four runs are in, with bases loaded, and the ball is hit in the gap, don't stop when the runner on third (the 5th run) crosses the plate. Teach the players to run the bases, field the ball, and throw to the correct base. Once play stops and five or more runs have scored, the inning is over and only five runs are counted.


On the new pitching rule explained below, if a baseball pitcher throws 41 pitches, he may not pitch in his team's next official game. Rainouts and byes don't count as a 'next' game.

Click the Rules of the Game button on the left for more rules.

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New baseball pitching rules for 2008

Williamsport refined the baseball pitching rules for 2008. These changes affect the boys lower minors on up. Here are the new rules as written by Little League on :

• A pitch limit for pitchers league age 7-8 has been added, with a maximum of 50 pitches per day. Previously, the limit for these ages was the same as for pitchers who were league age 9-10.

• A provision has been added that prohibits a player who has been removed as a pitcher in a game from playing the position of catcher for the remainder of that day. This was a recommendation of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig, and is intended to further prevent overuse injuries. The position of catcher, according to Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig, has the second-most overuse injuries, which can be acerbated by moving from pitcher to catcher in the same day. (However, moving from pitcher to any of the other seven positions, or from catcher to pitcher, apparently does not cause the same concerns.)

• Pitchers league age 16 and under who deliver 41 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed. Pitchers league age 17-18 who deliver 51 or more pitches in a game must also have a game of rest, in addition to the number of days rest prescribed. This enhancement is designed to help ensure that teams develop more pitchers, and to help ensure that scheduling anomalies do not result in undue advantages for some teams.

• The “automatic” intentional walk was removed. If a pitcher wishes to intentionally walk a batter, he/she must do so by pitching four pitches intentionally outside the strike zone that are not struck at by the batter, and are called “balls” by the umpire. All such pitches will count in determining that pitcher’s pitch count.