Throat Protector Rule – Little League

Little League is notorious for obscure and specific player safety rules. Rules that often confuse players, coaches and umpires because they are often unique to the league. We could spend days arguing the value and necessity of these rules and we’d never come to a resolution that everyone could agree on. But, it is a fact the Little League Baseball releases these rules and that Umpires must be the enforcers of these rules. One rule that has stood out a lot recently is Little League Rule 1.17 – playing safety rules for the league.

This section defines a safety rule that requires catchers to have a dangling throat protector. The dangling throat protector is just as it sounds. It’s a piece of plastic about 4-6 inches in length that dangles from the catchers mask and is intended to guard the throat of the player. The idea is that ball that would normally bounce off the ground and hit a player in the throat will glance off this extra layer of protections. Around various Leagues you’ll find players that don’t conform to this regulation. They’ll remove the protector or often tighten the straps to a point where the throat protector no longer dangles.

For the equipment to be properly attached, the dangling throat protector must be securely attached from one-fourth of an inch to three-fourths of an inch under the bottom frame of the catchers protective mask. The throat protector, when worn correctly, will swing freely from the mask. You don’t want the protector to get stuck in a position where it cannot protect the player and is rendered useless.

It’s important to understand why the dangling throat protector rule is in place. A frequent baseball and softball catcher injury occurs when a player his struck in the throat by a foul tip or wild pitch. An injury to the throat can be extremely damaging to anyone, especially young children. For this reason, Little League Baseball has come down with this strict rule. They greatly value child safety and always aim to be a leader in safety.

As an umpire, you must be prepared to enforce this rule, along with many others. With that in mind it’s also important to understand that others may not know or understand this rule and your job is to help them understand.

How to Become a Little League Umpire

Becoming a Little League baseball umpire is an excellent way for people who are passionate about the sport of baseball to give back to their local community and to stay involved in the game they love. Little League baseball is almost as much of an american pastime as the sport itself and helping kids learn the game can be extremely fulfilling.

What you’ll need:

  • Umpire equipment

    • Often provided by the league, so check with your local Little League before you buy anything

  • Umpire uniform (shirt, shoes, hat)

  • Little League rule book

  • Volunteer information and/or form

Start off by attending a local class or training program for umpires. Often local recreation departments provide this or can at least point you in the right direction. Getting a basic education on the rules, signals, and positioning makes all the difference. The Little League organization often hosts a national Little League umpire school that you can attend if you’re able to travel or live nearby.

Get in contact with local Little League regional office. Again, your local recreation department can help with this by giving you the names and contact information of the people you need to reach out to. Another great way to get plugged into your local Little League program is to attend local games and talk directly with current umpires.

You’ll have to complete a volunteer form which you usually can find online. If your local Little League has a website you may find it there along with additional information but your local recreation department should also have it. Prior experience will help impress the powers that be so be sure to include all prior umpiring or baseball and softball playing experience. They like people who are passionate about the sport so show them you are.

When you apply they will ask to complete a background check, like any job. Keep in mind that you are working with children so this topic is especially sensitive. Typically they look for child abuse reports and any domestic violence reports.

Like any other similar or hourly job you may need to lobby for work time at first so making friends with league official and the head of the umpiring schedule will help. Also, knowing other umpires can help. They may be offered a day or time that they can no longer fill and may contact you to help them out. Make sure you have all your equipment ready to go for your first game. Some leagues have enough funding to provide you with the equipment while others will ask you to buy them yourself. Most large sporting goods stores will have what you need if you do need or want to buy your own.

Next, get out there and enjoy the sport of baseball, stay current on Little League’s rule changes and have fun!

Little League Rule Differences

Your umpire school will train you on Little League’s rules, but below are some common difference to pay attention to. Some are obvious while others are more subtle. In addition many coaches and parents have a false understanding of Little League rules that are more based in myth than reality. It’s important as the umpire that you know how to make the correct call.


Key Differences – Little League to MLB

Playing the Field / MLB Rule 1.04

  • Base Distance - Little League: 60 feet, MLB: 90 feet
  • Pitcher’s Mound Distance - Little League: 46 feet, MLB: 60 feet 6 inches
  • Base Size - Little League: 14 x 14 inches, MLB: 15 x 15 inches
Bat Rules / MLB Rule 1.10
  • Bat Length Max - Little League: 33 inches, MLB: 42 inches
  • Bat Width Max - Little League: 2 1/4 inches, MLB 2 5/8 inches
Uniform & Jewelry / MLB Rule 1.11
  • Jewelry/Necklaces/Earrings – Little League: not on any player, MLB: not on the pitcher

Definition of  Terms: Strike Zone / MLB Rule 2.00

  • Top of the Strike Zone - Little League: armpits, MLB: midway between belt and shoulder

Substitutions / MLB Rule 3.03

  • Re-entry Rule - Little League: starter can re-enter if who they are replacing has played 6 outs and batted once, MLB: no re-entries

Game Ends / MLB Rule 4.10

  • Length of Game – Little League: 6 innings, MLB: 9 innings
  • Length of Regulation Play – Little League: 4 innings, MLB: 5 innings
  • 10 Run Rule – Little League: yes, MLB: none

Batter is Out / MLB Rule 6.05

  • Strike 3 Dropped – Little League: batter is always out, MLB: not out unless first base is occupied with less than 2 outs
Fences / MLB Rule 7.03
  • Distance from Home to Fence – Little League: 165 feet, MLB: 250 feet (some exceptions)

Runner is Out / MLB Rule 7.08

  • Slide – Little League: must slide or attempt to avoid a tag, MLB: no rule
  • Sliding Head Frist- Little League:  only when returning to a base, MLB: okay in all cases

Leaving a Base / MLB Rule 7.13

  • Leaving a Base – Little League: A Runner cannot leave before a pitch reaches the batter. MLB: no rule

Little League Rules

Little League’s official rules are copyrighted and therefore can not be published on this site. To acquire an official copy, digital or paper, you need to follow the league’s required steps.

Little League has based it’s rules on Major League Baseball’s rules, however there are many differences that you need to understand. A good Little League umpire school will help you learn the details of the leagues rules but recognizing what separates the two leagues (besides the age of the players) can help you be in a better position to preform well.

While you should acquire a copy of Little League’s rules and study them closely if you intend to umpire Little League game, here is some quick reference material that may help you get started:

How Much Do Umpires Make?

One of the first questions people ask when they start thinking about becoming an umpire is, how much do umps make?  In general amateur league pay is relatively consistent while professional, major league umpires can make substantially more, which is to be expected and probably not a surprise.

Major League umpires, according to, earn around $120,000 a year in salary when just starting out! More senior umpires can make  more that double that, up to $300,000 a year. MLB umps also get major league treatment. Their benefits include $340 a day for food and hotel, 4 weeks of vacation during the season, and they always fly first class. And the perks don’t stop there, once the post season hits the top rated umpires have the opportunity to ump the post season where they can earn an additional $20,000. While it may be extremely hard to break into the majors as an umpire, once you’re in you’re typically in for your career.

Youth baseball umpires are usually paid on per game basis and the pay rate, for the most part, is constant from league to league. A typical games pay is about $25-30 for the home plate umpire and $15-20 for the base umpire. Pay can increase for specialty tournaments and many leagues will increase per game pay with each year of service. Accredited umpires who have attend the proper school(s) are typically paid more per game, as well. Little League is the exception as their rules state that umpires should be volunteer workers and are not to be paid – however, in practice this rule is often overlooked. To get more detailed information on pay you should contact your local leagues and tournament directors. Youth baseball umpire also often get small perks. Most leagues, for example, will allow umpires to eat and drink for free from their concessions stand. Free T-Shirts and other memorabilia is also a common give away.

Umpiring youth baseball leagues can be a source of additional income, however, most people view it as an exciting hobby first and foremost. There is a lot of value in getting off your couch and getting involved in the community.

Here’s a quick break down of general pay expectations, but please keep in mind that different regions will pay different amounts:


Do you want to become an umpire? What is your goal?

Become a College Umpire >

Become a High School Umpire >

Become a Little League Umpire >

Become a MLB Umpire >

Become a Babe Ruth Umpire >


How to Become an Umpire

What is your goal?

Starting your career as an umpire isn’t difficult and it can be a lot of fun. Below you’ll find information on what to expect and how you can achieve your goal of becoming an umpire.

Expect the work to be physically demanding. You will need to jog often to ensure you position yourself properly to make an accurate call. Basically, you need to be agile enough to keep up with the pace of the game. It’s also important to consider the weather in your area – depending on your location, hot and/or colder temperatures can be a burden on your body. As the player’s get older and the game competition increases the demands on your body will also increase. If you’re new to umpiring you might be best served by umpiring younger age groups first.

Step 1: Attend a Baseball  Association Meeting or Clinic – The easiest way to learn the umpiring landscape in your area is to meet people who are involved in the community. An easy way to find one is to attend a local game and ask the officiating crew which association they belong to. You can also call the athletic departments at local organizations or visit their websites. Many will post information for umpires.

Step  2:  Learn the Rules of the Leagues You Will Umpire In — Once you’ve identified some of the leagues you may want to officiate you need to develop a sound understanding of the rules. Don’t rely on your years as a ball player. Many of the “rules” that circulate in youth leagues are incorrect. Go to the source and do some reading.

Step  3: Join an Organization or Association — After attending a few association meetings you may be ready to join an organization. This will give you a leg up by keeping you plugged into what’s going on in your area and will push you to keep on the umpiring path.

Step  4:  Get in Shape — Before you attend your first clinic you may want to start to get into shape. Start a jogging routine, play some basketball, or better yet join a men’s baseball or softball league. Or, just hit the gym. You don’t want to be ready for first job and it’s good to get into a routine early.

Step 5: Get Trained –  Attend clinics, camps and classes recommended by your association so that you know proper form and mechanics. Being formally trained is what separates amateur umpires to professional officiants. If your goal is to become a college, MiLB or MLB umpire you will need to attend professional umpire school. Click here to learn more about the cost of professional umpire school.

Step 6:Pass Your Tests — Take the tests administered by your sanctioning body (umpire association). The most common affiliations are; Pony, NSA, BPA, and ASA.

Step  7:  Get Your Protective Equipment and UniformPurchase your uniform and the necessary umpire equipment.

  1. Black Umpire Shoes
  2. Black Athletic Socks
  3. Black Umpire Belt
  4. Baseball Umpire Pants and Shorts
  5. Umpire Uniform Shirt (over 10 different colors) - color requirements vary
  6. Umpire Masks / Umpire Helmets
  7. Umpire Shin / Leg Guards
  8. Umpire Chest Protector
  9. Ball Bag
  10. Plate Brush
  11. Balls, Strikes, Out Counter
  12. Referee Watch and Game Timer
  13. Lineup Cards & Pencil
  14. Performance Base Under Gear
  15. 2-Inch Bill Combination Cap