Headquartered in Waco is the Little League Southwest Region, an unsubtle reminder of youth baseball's popularity in Central Texas.
In recent years, medical professionals have expressed growing concern about injuries on the diamond.
"Youth baseball is a huge concern," Dr. David Haynes of Baylor Scott & White Southwest Sports Medicine said.
Five years ago, Little League launched an intermediate division for athletes 11-13. They play with a 50-foot pitching mound and 70-foot base paths. Little League International's Senior Director of Communications Brian McClintock said the design was meant to help young players transition from smaller diamonds to more conventional fields.
"We are seeing increases in injury in that age group, whether or not it is related to the change of distance, I'm not sure. I think it probably even started before that," Dr. Haynes said.
A more likely cause for the injury spike is simpler than a dimension change. It's actually probably the result of young players spending more time on the mound, according to medical professionals, coaches and parents.
"We didn't start seeing these numbers of injuries to children until we started playing year-round," parent Jeff Kilgore said.
Dr. Haynes said injuries he used to see in 17-18 year olds and college players are now being found in 11-14 year olds. He said the injury increase was "exponential."
Andrews Sports Medicine in Alabama is world-renowned for its successful surgeries on athletes. In 1996, youth players accounted for only three percent of Tommy John surgeries, which reconstruct the elbow's ulnar collateral ligament -- something that often becomes torn or ruptured in Major League pitchers. By 2010, the number of younger players requiring the procedure had ballooned to 31 percent.
"In the youth age group, the most common injury is growth plate injuries, both shoulder and elbow," Dr. Haynes said.
But, doctors like Dr. Haynes said these injuries are not the fault of the Little League or any other youth organization, which is a sentiment shared by Midway High School Head Coach Eddie Cornblum.
"When you're throwing year-round and you're playing one sport year-round, it opens yourself up for problems as you get older," Cornblum said. "And we're seeing that."
USA Baseball recommends a minimum break from baseball of four months per year, Haynes said. That's because baseball injuries are usually caused by repetitive actions like throwing. And, they can be prevented if those repetitive actions aren't overdone. Jeff Kilgore said his 13-year-old son heeds the four-month advice.
"We'll take a full four months off and we'll go do other things," Kilgore said. "We play basketball, we go hunting, we spend time around the house."
Medical professionals said injury rates are actually lower among athletes who play multiple sports. The reason? They're not repeating the same motion over-and-over. Instead, they're mixing up motions with different skills in a variety of sports.
"I think we need to kind of look at it and tail back a little bit and say 'how about you go play soccer?'" Cornblum said. "Let's get your feet really good. Go play basketball, football would be great for the toughness of it."
Players are encouraged to play another sport during their four months off from baseball. Another option is doing an injury prevention training program to fill the time. Below, you can read about one injury prevention training program and find information about warm-ups and safety recommendations.
(Three pamphlets are embedded below. Scroll to view them all.)