Team Diamond Sports

Grassroots Report


The best way to find out just how strong the baseball and fast-pitch softball games are faring in the United States is to go straight to the source — the major associations in charge of those two sports at the youth level. And, according to Little League Baseball & Softball, Babe Ruth League and PONY Baseball & Softball, participation in baseball and fast-pitch softball is trending in the right direction. Dixie Boys Baseball also has good news to share on its baseball scene as well.

• According to Little League Baseball & Softball, which caters to ages four to 16, there are approximately two million children playing in its leagues across all levels of baseball and softball in more than 80 countries today. Even better, participation in Little League Baseball & Softball is back to pre-COVID figures.

“Our participation is comparable to the number that played five years ago and we are encouraged to see participation start to increase following the pandemic, as families are returning to community-based opportunities, like Little League,” reports Stephen Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball & Softball, which is based in Williamsport, PA.

This summer Little League is hosting a number of World Series baseball and softball competitions throughout the U.S.  The crown jewels, of course, are the Little League Baseball World Series (August 16-27) in Williamsport, and the Little League Softball World Series (August 6-13) in Greenville, NC.

• With Babe Ruth League, participation is on the rise, as well.“Since the pandemic, our overall numbers have increased every year since 2020,” says president and CEO Steve Tellefsen. “For the 2023 season, we have an increase in teams compared to the 2022 season, but still not back to pre-COVID numbers.”

According to Tellefsen, interest in Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball is growing overseas, too.

“For the 2023 season, we are expanding internationally in our baseball and softball programs. Currently have a presence in 21 international countries,” he says.

Babe Ruth will be busy in August conducting its World Series events for various age groups – in baseball and fast-pitch softball— at a number of locations around the country.

In July and August, Babe Ruth League will be hosting many different World Series baseball competitions in Ocala, FL (July 28-August 6), Branson, MO (August 2-13), Crown Point, IN (August 3-13), Stafford/Fredericksburg, VA  (August 3-13), Glen Allen, VA (August 10-20), Jamestown, NY (August 10-20), Cherry Hill, NJ (August 11-20), and Cape Girardeau, MO (August 13-20). And six different age groups – from 8U to 18U – will be in Jensen Beach, FL between July 17 and August 4 for six different Softball World Series competitions.

Abe Key, the president and CEO of PONY Baseball & Softball, is delighted at the renewed level of interest in his organization’s youth baseball and softball programs.

“In terms of overall participation, we are almost at our pre-COVID level,” says Key, who has been the president/CEO since 1995. “We are definitely trending in the right direction.”

The future is looking good, as well, says Key: “We are particularly pleased with registrations in our younger age groups for both baseball and girls softball.” Participation in PONY Baseball & Softball is approximately 500,000 youngsters.

While domestic participation numbers are getting better, the international numbers are growing at a quicker rate.

“We have 1200 teams in Mexico, 1000 in the Dominican Republic, nearly 1000 in Japan and 600 in Taiwan,” says Key, whose organizations oversees play in 50 countries. Traditionally the organization also has strong participation in Panama, Venezuela, Columbia and Nicaragua and Key reports that its numbers in Europe are growing as well.

The key age-group demographic that concerns Key is when children turn 12 and 13, which are two ages where youngers either quit playing youth baseball and continue playing ball.

Dixie Boys Baseball (DBB) provides structured play for boys aged 13-19 and, according to executive director Sandy Jones, DBB will have approximately 16,000 players this year. That number is close – maybe down 10 percent – to where participation was prior to the pandemic. This year, Dixie Boys Baseball has decided to stage all its season-ending events in July than in August.

“We moved all events to July to avoid a growing number of conflicts with high school football,” Jones explains.