Question: What is a sample schedule for Challenge teams so families can understand the pattern of practices, games and travel required?
Answer: The best place to see specific dates is the league calendar. In general, challenge team tryouts for the spring occur the first or second weekend of February. Teams practice on Sunday afternoons starting the third week of February through Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May). Four of those weekends (two in March, one in April, and Memorial Day weekend) teams are encouraged to play weekend tournaments in the Charlotte, Gastonia, and Rock Hill area. For the fall season, tryouts take place the second or third weekend in August and teams begin practicing on Sunday afternoons after the teams are announced. Teams will practice on Sunday afternoons in September and October unless they are playing in tournaments. Generally teams will play locally in two weekend tournaments in September and one in October. In addition, teams play one additional weekend tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC or Pigeon Forge, TN at one of the Cal Ripken Tournament facilities. It should be noted every team is different and specific tournament dates and various factors determine the schedules for each team.
Question: What is the additional cost of playing on a Challenge team?
Answer: Generally fees vary from $150 to $375 per season. The reason for the large discrepancy is a result of variables including the following:
Does the team need uniforms? Teams getting started will need to purchase uniforms and necessary equipment. MPTLL has learned over time to purchase 18 full sets of uniforms to allow for player turnover from season to season. Uniforms usually last 2-3 years before teams outgrow their uniforms. Typically, teams will get uniforms before their 8 year old season and their 10 or 11 year old season.
What type of tournaments will the team play? There are four main tournament organizations where MPTLL teams participate. Carolina Challenge Baseball League (CCBL) is where our younger teams play as they get their introduction to travel/tournament baseball. CCBL is also the cheapest of the four main organizations. Top Gun Sports and USSSA are two additional competing organizations where our teams participate. Tournament fees for those organizations are similar but they are higher than CCBL. Finally, Cal Ripken is a fourth organization and their tournaments are the most expensive of the four groups. In addition to tournament fees, each tournament organization requires teams to pay a sanctioning fee and have proof of team insurance at all times. The fees paid to one organization doesn't apply when entering a tournament for a different organization. Therefore, challenge coaches are encouraged by the MPTLL Challenge committee to pick one organization and play exclusively with them throughout the season (spring or fall) to minimize the fees being paid by parents.
Is travel required and if so, does the coach have a child playing on the team? Fall teams typically travel to Myrtle Beach, SC or Pigeon Forge, TN as a finale to the season. Parents are responsible for lodging expenses for the coach if he/she doesn't have a player on the team. As a result, some teams will have higher fees to account for coaching travel expenses.
How many players are on the team? Dividing the total expenses amongst 11 players will result in higher fees than teams that have 15 players. Typically challenge teams have 12 or 13 players but in some cases those numbers vary.
Question: Is the Challenge age determination date different from the Little League age determination date? If yes, what does it mean for my player?
Answer:Age determination dates are specific calendar dates used by global baseball organizations to determine a players age. Little League International uses a different date (8/31) than challenge organizations (4/30). As a result your player may have the option to play challenge baseball at different ages as outlined in the 2018 table below. If that is the case, please note that MPTLL only tries out players once. Therefore, we strongly suggest that parents choose the appropriate age for their child and have them attend that tryout. If your player has the option and tries out with his Little League age and does not make the team, MPTLL will consider him/her for the younger Challenge age. However, this can be difficult since tryout graders and coaches for each age group are different. We understand this process can be confusing. Please review the information below and if you still have questions then email your questions to and an MPTLL representative will respond as soon as possible.
Question: When should players start focusing on one position?
Answer: Every player is different but in general players should not focus their efforts on one position until they are well into their teenage years. However it isn't difficult to find stories all over the internet of younger players being told by coaches or other organizations they need to only play one position. The truth is kids don't even know which position they may like the most and unfortunately it is being decided for them by a coach or a parent. Our belief is kids should learn to play all the positions on the field early in their development. As coaches if can be difficult to place a kid at first base that can hardly catch a ball, but if it is done the correct way, that player will eventually get there. Coaches are encouraged to fight the temptation of only keeping the kids on the field who excel at certain positions. As they get a little older, the kids need to be prepared for middle school and high school baseball and also understand the fact that the best players will play. For now though, coaches can use scrimmage games and non tournament games to make up for the innings that less talented players are going to get later on. The one position that seems to be the exception to the rule is catcher. Many kids are just afraid to get behind the plate, and we shouldn't put kids behind the plate that are afraid to be there. Lesser talented kids will also usually shy away from pitching, because it is a high pressure visible position. However, once you get them out there, and they throw a few strikes and eventually get some outs, they are proud of themselves and will feel like they are a big part of the team. They will see that they can do it, and they will work harder on throwing skills and will be a better overall player in the long run. Our goal as an organization is to help these kids fall in love with the game of baseball, and that doesn't mean, just the best players or just focusing on one position.
Question: What are the development goals in Challenge?
Answer: The goals of each Challenge team (and age) will vary. While teams and player development will occur gradually, these are the expectations of those involved at each age group:
8U – This is generally the most liberal of the age groups in terms of rotations and utilizing various batting lineups. Most players should see considerable time in the infield and outfield during the season and preferably during each tournament. These kids have tried out for and made a Challenge team. Each of them should be capable of fielding ground balls and making throws with some level of proficiency. We recognize that not all kids can make a strong throw from SS and 3B at this age, so those positions may be limited to fewer players, but should not be just 2-3 kids. The goal is to develop a well-rounded team with kids that can play multiple positions.Defensive flexibility becomes extremely important when kids move up to 9U kid pitch baseball.Challenge is a new and sometimes overwhelming proposition at 8U.Many of the programs that we will play against will have played at age 7…. or even earlier!This can be frustrating at times.Our teams will focus on development, regardless of the outcome.Since 8U players do not pitch, this age group is usually able to play more often than the others.There is no substitute for live game reps, so coaches are encouraged to play as often as practical without overwhelming the kids.
9U - Pitching and catching. Simply put, this is priority #1 and must be developed to compete at 9U and beyond. Every kid should be given a chance to pitch in practice. Once they show a moderate proficiency and confidence, they should be given an opportunity in games. Ideally, most kids on the team should be capable of pitching. This is not always possible (particularly on a 2nd team) and sometimes kids do not like to pitch. Pitching is extremely hard for coaches to balance, especially during a game. Coaches, players and parents are asked to have a long-term perspective. It is sometimes very difficult to get most or all players to pitch in a single day or a weekend tournament. However, during the season, the development of players on the pitching mound is the top priority. Additionally, catching becomes the second most important position on the field. The most successful teams will be those that develop multiple catchers (3+, but even more is better). You simply can't have too much pitching and catching during the 9U season. Please note that it can be more difficult to play 9U Challenge games in the Spring since most of the team will be pitching and catching during regular season Saturday games.
10U - At the 10U level and beyond, the Challenge program is mostly intended on teaching players many aspects of the game that Little League rules simply do not allow for in game play. There will be a continual effort to teach skills to players that will help each player at the next level. This progression of instruction will continue to build through the 12U year. 10U is inching closer to “real” baseball and when Challenge begins to look a little different from Little League baseball. Kids will be learning to play with leads (“open bases”), both as baserunners and pitchers. Developing these skills will take considerable practice time. In addition, the catching skills developed at 9U will become even more important at 10U as baserunning becomes a more integral part of the game. Practice time should be heavily focused on teaching these new skills and much less so on simple batting practice and fielding reps. Playing Challenge tournaments in the 10U Spring season is important since most 10U kids on major league rosters will not be pitching for their regular season teams. As such, a fairly liberal pitching rotation could be implemented on the 10U squad.
11U and 12U – These teams will also play tournaments with open bases, so pitching, catching and baserunning development is key. In addition, the field becomes larger with 50ft pitching mounds, 70ft bases and larger outfields. Cutoffs become increasingly important as field size increases. 50/70 baseball is a progressive step towards middle school, full-sized field baseball.Most players will gravitate toward 2-3 primary positions (excl P and C), but we are still trying to develop well rounded players. As the game becomes more complicated - lead offs, longer bases, bigger field - it becomes very difficult and impractical for a player to learn all nine positions on the field, especially in a challenge setting where practice and game time can be limited. As stated above, practices should focus on teaching and refreshing new skills to players. These new and refreshed skills should include but are not limited to the following: leads & holding runners from the mound, cutoffs, catching instruction, pitching instruction, bunt defense and outfield individual skills.