A three-letter conjunction in the Little League rule book is one of several new reforms being implemented this weekend as the All-Star Tournament begins in District 5 and 12.
Rules governing mandatory play were tweaked and managers now must use all active players in three consecutive defensive outs and one at-bat. The previous rule gave managers the option to use each player in three defensive outs or one at-bat.
"We've been headed that way for a while," District 12 administrator Bob Gibson said. "If a kid is good enough to be elected for all-stars he or she should play."
All-star teams may have up to 14-players on the roster.
John Petika, coach of Palm Harbor major baseball (age 11 and 12), said he will carry 12 players on his roster for the first time in 13 years of coaching because of the new rule.
"It makes things very difficult on the coaches," Petika said. "You have to remember that a game is only six innings. I think in a normal six-inning game it's fine, but in a rain shortened game you have a real problem."
At the majors level games can be called after four innings or 12 outs. Managers will have a small window to work with in rain-shortened games. Games in the junior and senior division can be called after five innings or 15 outs.
To offset these rules, Little League reworked its substitution rules to allow unlimited re-entry for starters once mandatory requirements are met. A new division for 11-year-olds was also created to accommodate smaller rosters.
"There really is no flip side to the coin," Gibson said. "If managers and coaches are whining and singing the blues then they're not in it for the right reasons."
Tournament play begins at several sites this weekend and continues throughout the following weeks.
In District 5 baseball, which starts Monday, Northeast enters the majors tournament as defending champions. This year's team has several members of Northeast's Tournament of Champions winner. Pinellas Park National will try to extend its senior baseball streak to five consecutive championships starting July 6, and Northwest looks to repeat in junior baseball begining Wednesday.
In District 12 softball, Palm Harbor defends its majors title starting July 6 at Oldsmar. Safety Harbor will defend the junior championship starting the same day.
MINOR BASEBALL: Northeast defeated Seminole No. 2 13-4 to force a decisive championship game tonight at 6.