Are you interested in baseball but not sure if you’re too old to play the sport?
Generally, if you want to play on a college team or MLB (major league baseball), 18 might be too old. But, if you want to play recreationally, then it’s never too late to start. All you need is some dedication and patience. But there are exceptions to the rule.
All you truly need is a love for the game unless you want to play professionally. In the rest of this article, I’m going to dive into all things related to age and baseball, including the best age to play baseball, a player’s peak years, and whether you can still play professionally.
What Is the Best Age to Play Baseball?
The general rule is that the earlier the better, especially if you have hopes of your child joining MLB or a college league.
Of course, kids at any age can play baseball, but if your child starts later and wants to join the MLB someday, they may be at a disadvantage compared to their teammates who started at younger ages like four years old.
Scouts start looking at prospective players in junior high, high school level, and summer camps. Teams hold ‘tryout’ days, which allow young players to have a one-on-one look from a team’s coach.
Here’s a helpful YouTube video that explains a behind-the-scenes look at the scouting process of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
But the good news is, there are cases when late-starters have had some success in making the MLB despite starting in their teens. This table highlights some key players like Dee Gordon, who got his start at 15, and Lorenzo Cain who started at age 16.
What Are the Peak Years to Play Baseball?
So far, we have learned that player age (sort of) matters in the world of professional baseball, so now that we’re on that topic, you might be curious to know what are the peak years of a baseball player’s career.
A player’s peak age is around age 27. In fact, a hitter’s 10 best years will most likely be between 23-32. Those are reassuring numbers!
Here’s a quick table written by ESPN’s senior writing team that statistically looked at 20 position players in 2019 and reviewed their contributions to their teams on a percentage basis (also known as WAR: wins above replacement). Here’s what they found:
Age 23: 27.0
Age 24: 52.6
Age 25: 68.3
Age 26: 78.7
Age 27: 70.5
Age 28: 68.7
Age 29: 55.3
Age 30: 44.2
Age 31: 29.3
Age 32: 25.5
As you can see, the percentage of a player’s contributions drastically increases at age from age 23 to 27, and begins to decline after.
But, as in life, there are always exceptions. Did you know the oldest player in history to play MLB was 59 years old? That player is Satchel Paige, who made one major MLB appearance 12 years after his career ended.
The oldest active player in the league to date is 42 year old Albert Pujols who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals as first baseman.
Can I Still Tryout for MLB?
It’s never too late to be a dreamer, or at least the saying goes something like that! So you want to know if you still make the cut to try out for MLB?
Well, the starting age to tryout is 16 years old. The good news is that there isn’t an upper age limit, but as we’ve discussed in this article, age does matter (a bit) in the MLB.
To play in the MLB, you must be 18-years old if you’re a US citizen, and if you’re international, then you must be at least 17-years old.
What Are the Best Positions For Older Players?
If you’re still interested in trying out for the MLB but afraid that you might be too old, the good news is that some positions are considered optimal for people of older ages. But, this doesn’t mean that they’ll be easier. There are just some advantages that come with the positions.
Experts say that the outfield is statistically the best position to play if you’re older in age and this is because outfielders handle the ball far less than infielders.
Actually, outfielders are not expected to make as many quick starts and stops as infielders are. And they’re not expected to field as many ground balls. In fact, to get a step further, statistically, there are ‘easier’ baseball positions that have been recorded.
Based on statistics which record the players’ activity level in the game, the right field is consistently proven to be the easiest baseball position to play. Why is this?
Because the number of balls that are hit to the right of the field compared to the field positions are significantly lower. However, that doesn’t mean that it’ll be easy. To play in any position will require skill and mastery.
How to Get Involved in Baseball If You’re Older
But enough about the MLB and the baseball pros. If you’re well above the peak age of a player, or even a baseball newbie who is ready to hit the baseball diamond, you’re in luck.
Recreationally, it’s never too late to play baseball, and if you’re interested, here’s how to get started.
Locally, you can look out for leagues that are created for your specific age group and inquire about when tryouts are, or whether there are even tryouts!
Sometimes, teams are created just for the sake of playing the good ole game of baseball, and all you have to do is show up and give it your best shot!
There you have it! Age may play a factor in your ability to join the MLB. It can even affect your success as a major player, but in other scenarios, it doesn’t matter at all. Age doesn’t affect whether you can play baseball recreationally, and you’re never too old to play baseball.