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What are your thoughts on "playing up"?

Is it beneficial to have an advanced player play up at the next age group?

Is it better to find him a more advanced league of the same age such as travel baseball as opposed to playing up?

If you have played up, what happened? Was it beneficial? What if the player struggles? How did the player handle this from a social perspective?

Any insights or experiences are appreciated.  Thanks.

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We have had this debate before. My opinion is that if the player can play up and be a starter or a "key" player on that team, then it makes sense. I've seen kids play up and be the 12th kid on a 12 man roster. He may enjoy playing w older kids but get limited time and at bats. He may be a pitcher at his own level but not up at the next level.... That's when I say is this kid up here because his dad wants him to play up or are we doing this to help the player???

playing up can work in many ways. The bottom line is. It is all based on the ball player. Before you move a player to play up you must recognize if the player is competitive enough to keep composure within himself. If so, than yes playing up is a good thing for advancement in the game. But also at the same time if there are leagues available like travel ball that play at a upper level in the same age group, that is great also. If the ball player can understand that he/she is playing up to learn what the older players are learning and playing like than it's perfect. The player should always expect to see better ball players when playing up. It helps the ball player understand positions better by watching older players who have played the game longer. At the age of 10 my son started playing in the 11-12 division, I also encouraged a player who was 9 to play up at the same level and both have gained a lot. I myself played up when I was younger but found it much less interesting when having to play at my age level back then we did not have travel ball. My son and the other ball player have now been playing travel ball on the team I manage for the past 3 years and the both are doing well against the same age groups. We come from a very small community and we travel to the much larger areas such as Las Vegas Nevada and Phoenix Arizona and they seem to play well against those kids.

Absolutely long as you get much playing time.


Some parents allow their kid to play on varsity (prestige thing)where they sit on bench. Never understood this.




Excellent point Robin. I'm with you...forget the prestige. I'd rather my son get the AB's or the innings on the hill!

I don't know where I heard this quote but it was: "Never play golf with anyone worse than you."  I guess the point was that it would weaken your game.  In baseball, if a player is so dominant in his age group that he is not challenged then he should definitely move up.  I read a story about Joe Mauer as a kid.  In T-ball, the other parents protested until Joe was banned because he hit so hard that he may have injured another five year old.  Then when he was eight, he was at his two brothers' 11 and 12 year old game and they were short a player.  They put Joey in right and he went 3 for 4 with two doubles.

Very interesting topic to say the least. I've always felt the most important stat for a young player is "innings played." So like previously mentioned, if a player moves up and starts and gets his innings, I think it's perfectly okay. The only concern would be that the player is not over matched when brought up as that can be demoralizing. I would not want a real good hitter or pitcher "brought up" and have a very rough go of it. That's the only draw back I can see. Proceed with caution.

I believe that the "in house" season, playing with peers, is very important.  If the player is one of the better players, he can take more of a leadership role with his team mates.  Once that season is over, the summer travel season will give him plenty of games with more advanced players. 


I had a player several years ago whose parents wanted to get "better competition".  In addition to the in house team, he played on an area AAU team.  He struggled, got little playing time there, and was miserable. 


To give you some perspective, my son is a borderline travel player, partially because that because of his birth date, he plays in a division primarily with players the grade above him.  This past fall, I got the league to let him play with his grade, and not only did he have a better time, his skills improved because he was not playing against boys bigger than him.  I think it will help him next season when he returns.  Too often parents push.  Unless the player is truly in a class above his competition, leave his there for the spring.

I'm with Michael on this on.

Good off-season topic as we lay plans for next spring and beyond.

I hate to say it but it is my experience that, even amongst travel teams in so-called 'advanced leagues', the level of play 'at-age' is quite low. I don't know if there are just so many teams out there these days that the talent pool is so watered down or if so many average kids are already 'playing up' that the age groups are skewed and really not as advertised. I sadly suspect that so many parents are enamored of telling folks their kid 'plays up' that the latter is a big contributor and now advertised ages in leagues are effectively one year overstated.

I had a try-out recently for our upcoming 2013 13U. It was running simultaneously with one of our 14U clubs on an adjacent field. Turnout was great -- except virtually every kid/parent who showed up with a birth date that qualified him for 2013 13U was there to try out for the 14U. (I only had a few kids to look at and each needed work).

My 2012 12U are a pretty good club. But they ran the table 'playing up' in supposedly the best division of a 13U 60/90 league that supposedly draws the best teams on Long Island. Something is wrong there. I had a meeting with the parent of arguably our best player to tell me he was not happy with the lack of challenge and adversity his kid is facing. I could only agree with him 100%! I'd be happier playing something nearer .500 ball in leagues and then putting out a good showing in prominent tournaments at-age.

With school ball going on in the spring, our plan is to just practice on weekends and enter two tournaments at-age (probably at Baseball Heaven and Diamond Nation). But for league play in the summer (13U), for whatever strange reason, the question is not whether to play up but how far up to go (14A, 15B, ...???).

I agree that moving a player up is good as long as the move does not takeaway from his playing time, take away from his at bats, and or make him play out of his normal position. I was coaching in high school for a JV team and had the opportunity to bring up an 8th grader. He was a starter at shortstop, pithched, and batted in the top 4 in my lineup. By the time he was out of high school, he had led the team to its first ever high school sectional championship, lead all of Section V in doubles and was a great all around kid. The move proved beneficial to everyone, but most of all very beneficial to this players self confidence.

My son has played up for the last three years, on one of the better travel programs in our state.  He was his team's #1 pitcher on the 11U team in 2012, and pitched well against both 11U and 12U competition.  He is also their best first baseman, top 3 outfielder, and has above average speed.  However, his hitting was so-so; in some situations, he was not playing as others were hitting better at the time - this is where he needs the work.

They played at the Elites this year, in several other decent tournaments at 11U, and in several 12U local tournaments where they finished 2nd a couple of times.  In league, they played in the middle 12U division and finished 3rd.  So pretty good competition for a 10U kid.

With a birthday just after the cutoff, he is not that much younger than several of his 2012 teammates.  However, many of the older boys, on his team and others, are starting to hit their growth spurt; the differences in physical size are getting pronounced (and he is probably 70th percentile for his age).  To allow him to catch up growth wise, and work on his hitting, we have decided to keep him at 11U next season (on a better team than we had this year).

Assuming he continues to progress skillwise and catches up on the growth curve, we will look at playing up again in the future.  As we are in a northern state, the age group competition is limited; playing up will allow him to continue to face the best competition he can handle.

All you have to do is look at the Major Leagues. They do not bring a top prospect up, as a filler, and sit him on the bench. They only bring him up to give him at bats and put them in situations that they can excel. 


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