FAQs for House (“Rec”) Baseball
Q. What is the mission or general philosophy of Damascus House Baseball?
Damascus Baseball shares the overall goal of its parent organization, the Damascus Sports Association (DSA), which “is dedicated to developing the youth of our community through fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork.” Our House program is designed to develop young players (ages 8 and younger) to develop the basic skills needed to play baseball at any level (including “travel” baseball beginning at age 8) and to allow older players (ages 9 through 15) an opportunity to play organized baseball at a recreational level.
Q. Is there a difference between “House” and “Rec” Baseball?
The terms “House” and “Rec” are essentially synonymous, when referring to DSA Baseball. Damascus Baseball has been providing players an opportunity to play organized baseball since DSA formed. Early in the history of the program, Damascus High School was one of the larger high schools in the county and large numbers of younger siblings participated in DABL (Damascus Area Baseball League) or DASL (Damascus Area Baseball League). In those days, 800 to 1,200 baseball players would participate each spring, allowing DABL to form enough teams at each age level that there was no need for inter-league play. Such teams were referred to as “In-House” teams to distinguish them from “travel” teams (who purposely sought out opportunities to play other travel teams outside the local area). Over the last 20 years, the Montgomery County School System has added schools to meet the demand of the growing “up county” community. The opening of Clarksburg High School significantly reduced enrollment at DHS, and the subsequent establishment of Clarksburg-based youth sports programs led to a reduction in demand to play DSA Baseball. Damascus “House” Baseball has become a stable fixture of fall and spring sports in the Damascus area, but inter-league play (typically with Clarksburg, Urbana, and LOUYAA Baseball) is now the norm. House Baseball has always been a recreational baseball program, providing opportunities for players with little or no experience with baseball to join a team and gain a first-hand appreciation for the “National Pastime.”
Q. How much does it cost to play House Baseball?
The DSA Board approves the program's budget each year, and so increases to the fees are considered from time to time. At the time of this writing, fees ranged from $65.00 (Tee Ball) to $160.00 (Player Pitch) per player for the season (not including any outstanding DSA Membership dues, which is $40.00 per family per year).
For a fee schedule for the current season, visit House-Baseball.
Q. Why are some age divisions more expensive than others?
There are a variety of factors that drive the cost of providing baseball to various age groups. The developmental divisions (Tee Ball, Coach Pitch, and Machine Pitch) don’t employ umpires, hence all three are less expensive than Player Pitch divisions. Machine Pitch requires significant investment in the purchase and upkeep of pitching machines, hence Machine Pitch fees are higher than the other two developmental divisions. Tee Ball fees are slightly lower than Coach Pitch fees, in part as an enticement for younger players to explore the world of DSA Sports.
Q. Should my daughter play baseball or softball?
Damascus Baseball is open to boys or girls ages 4 and up. While many female players switch to girls' softball at age 6 or 7, Tee Ball and Coach Pitch are fully coed and are designed to support player development regardless of whether they eventually play baseball or softball.
Q. When does practice begin?
The vast majority of Damascus Baseball teams practice and play home games on fields permitted by Montgomery County, through the Office of the Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF). This includes school fields (e.g., Baker Middle School) as well as local park and recreation fields (e.g., Sundown Local Park or the Damascus Recreation Center). These permits go into effect March 15 of each calendar year. Thus, formal Damascus Baseball practices begin on or just after that date.
NOTE: Using a field when its closed or without a valid permit is expressly forbidden by CUPF and can lead to the cancellation of permits for the season by sport or the entire program.
Q. When are games played?
Most games are played on Wednesdays (Machine Pitch and up) and Saturdays (all divisions). Games typically begin the first Saturday in April and the end when the school year ends. Weeknight games start around 5:30 p.m., Saturday games may be played anytime between 9:00 a.m. and dark.
Q. What does DSA provide each player or team?
Damascus Baseball provides each team with practice and game fields, uniform jerseys and hats, and equipment needed for practice and game play (including first aid kits, catchers' gear, and balls). Most coaches are given the option of taking one or more helmets and bats for team use, however, sharing equipment has fallen out of favor recently. Most players prefer to personally own their helmet and bat. If you are new to baseball, please ask for advice about the proper sizing of gloves and bats before you buy. Using an older sibling’s bat or glove may be problematic if they are too large. Poor mechanics developed at a young age as a player tries to adapt to poorly fitted equipment are often hard to change when the player gets older, and more serious about the game.
Q. What do I need to buy for my player?
All players must provide their own glove, pants, and cleats. As mentioned above, most players also choose to personally own their helmet and bat. Those items, along with a batting tee and other equipment, make practice at home more effective.
Check our website for notifications on deals on player equipment.
Q. How are coaches chosen?
Damascus Baseball recruits coaches for our recreational teams for many weeks before registration opens. Depending on the number of teams at any age group, coaches may be recruited until mid-March when practice begins. Returning coaches are often re-appointed first, as we appreciate the importance experience can bring. New coaches are chosen based on their willingness to provide instruction to all players.
Q. How are teams organized?
Tee Ball is intended for players ages 4 to 6 years of age, with little or no experience in a team environment. In the spring, most games are played against other Damascus Teams and are held in Damascus. Teams are capped at a roster size of 10, but ideally should be no larger than 8. This allows more focused attention by coaches at a time when few balls are hit into the outfield.
Coach Pitch is intended for players ages 5 and 6 who have either completed a season of tee ball of who can play catch and can hit a thrown ball. In the spring, most games are played against other Damascus Teams and are held in Damascus. Teams are capped at a roster size of 12, but ideally should be no larger than 10.
Machine Pitch* is intended for players ages 7 and 8 who have played at least one season of coach pitch. Damascus teams generally play inter-league with surrounding associations (e.g., Clarksburg). Teams are capped at a roster size of 12, but ideally should be no larger than 11.
9 and 10 Player Pitch*, as the name suggests, is the youngest division where players pitch to each other. Play is conducted on a 60-foot diamond, and there is no leading or stealing. Damascus teams generally play inter-league with surrounding associations (e.g., Clarksburg and Urbana). Teams are capped at a roster size of 12.
11 and 12 Player Pitch* is more advanced. Play is conducted on a 70-foot diamond and leading and stealing is allowed. Damascus teams generally play inter-league with surrounding associations (e.g., Clarksburg and Urbana). Teams are capped at a roster size of 12.
13 to 15 Player Pitch* is the most advanced recreation program offered by Damascus Baseball. Damascus teams play inter-league with the Rockville Baseball Association. Teams are capped at a roster size of 12.
*NOTE: More advanced players ages 8 and up may want to consider DSA’s Select Baseball program. 2020 Spring Teams have already formed, but tryouts for the Fall Select program will be held in August.
Q: How do I request a specific coach?
DSA Baseball does not consider requests to play for specific coaches, because we think all our coaches are terrific! DSA Baseball will consider three criteria when forming Recreation teams:
1) The Previous Coach – Returning players will be placed with their most recent Spring coach, unless the parent specifically requests NOT to be placed with that coach in the Comment field of the registration form,
2) Their Friends – Parents of players new to the program or division may make requests to be placed on a team with another player, again using the comment field of the registration form, and
3) The Roster Size – There is an ideal size for baseball teams at each level, and DSA Baseball won’t exceed that ideal number simply to honor a request to be paired with another player.
Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee we will be able to honor requests to be placed with friends and relatives (other than siblings), but we will try our best!
Q. How does DSA decide who we will play?
Damascus Baseball makes an effort to minimize travel time for Rec games, especially for younger players. Conversely, when Damascus has less than 5 teams in any given age division, we seek opportunities to play inter-league so teams aren’t forced to play the same team multiple times. Taken together, this usually means we play inter-league with Clarksburg in Coach Pitch and Machine Pitch, then with Clarksburg, Urbana, and LOUYAA in the Player Pitch divisions (rarely do we have more than three teams in any one Player Pitch division).
Q. Why can’t we practice at a closer field?
Damascus Baseball holds permits on at least 15 fields each season. Some fields (e.g., Damascus Recreational Park are game only fields). Other fields are shared with nearby programs (Clarksburg or Olney), or other sports (e.g., softball and lacrosse). As a consequence, we may only hold the permit one or two days a week on some fields. Most teams do not want to practice Sundays, and games take up fields on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Thus, there are only 4 nights a week available to hold practices. Roll all those constraints up, and we simply must make broader use of fields in the area, not just within Damascus.
Q. Why did our practice or game get cancelled?
As mentioned above, The Montgomery County Office of the Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) issues permits to all fields used by Damascus Baseball. This includes school fields (e.g., Baker Middle School) as well as local park and recreation fields (e.g., Sundown Local Park or the Damascus Recreation Center). The County is very protective of the fields, as abuse by a few individuals can make the field unsafe for games. The fields are particularly vulnerable when wet. Footprints, bike tracks, or tool marks made in the wet, clay-rich infield dirt, can harden into significant divots that create very bad hops. Smoothing out such fields requires machinery, which significantly increases the upkeep costs. As a consequence, the County determines when a field is not playable.
Using a field when its closed or without a valid permit is expressly forbidden by CUPF and can lead to the cancellation of permits for the season by sport or the entire program. Thus, anytime the County decides to close a field, the practice or game scheduled on that field is canceled. Such closures are rarely ever the decision of a coach or the program, although coaches have been instructed not to hold practice or a game if the field is wet.
Q. Why did we have to change fields or practice times?
During the season, House teams are guaranteed at least one practice a week (unless fields are closed due to wet conditions). In March and early April, when teams are trying to prepare for the season, Damascus Baseball offers coaches the options of adding a second practice. This opportunity arises because fields normally used for games (Wednesdays and Saturdays) can now be made available to teams for practice. Thus, field assignments are generally made in two blocks, pre-season and in-season. As a result, it's not uncommon for teams to change practice locations, days, or times when the season begins in April. Ideally, such changes are kept to a minimum, but there are so many moving pieces (including changes to coach work schedules), that some changes are inevitable. If you are concerned about the impact of a change, please discuss the matter with your coach immediately.
Q. Our son/daughter is better/bigger/older than other players his/her age, why can’t play with an older team?
One of the biggest challenges with managing recreational baseball is the considerable variability in ability and potential among players. Recreational baseball, by definition, is open to all age eligible players, regardless of their experience or skill. Consequently, it’s not uncommon for recreational players of the same age to have very different skill sets. Thus, Damascus Baseball shows some flexibility in assigning players based on their apparent skill than simply based on their age. This is one of the major differences between “Rec” and “Travel” baseball.
There are two factors that play a role in any decision about letting a player move to a different age division (especially “playing up” with an older team). One factor is the development of the player and the other is the development of the players on the other team. A 4-year old that can play catch and hit a thrown ball may seem too advanced for a Tee Ball team, but if he or she can’t follow group instruction for 90 minutes, they may not be a good fit for Coach Pitch team either. If allowing a player to “play up” adversely impacts other players, then Damascus Baseball may decide not to approve such a request.
Q. My two daughters/sons are a year apart, why can’t they be on the same team?
The age divisions used in recreational baseball in this area create teams made up of players born within a two-year window. Damascus House Baseball uses May 31 as a cutoff date. This minimizes the difference between the cutoff date for baseball and school, maximizing the potential for players in the same grade to be eligible for the same age division, while minimizing the difference in ages cutoffs for our Rec and Travel programs, allowing for a smoother transition from one to the other. (May 1 is the national established cutoff for travel teams). For example, Tee Ball is 4-6, Coach Pitch is 6-7, Machine Pitch is 7-8, etc. Thus, siblings born a year apart often qualify for play in the same age division. However, when the players don’t naturally fall into the same division, one player would need to request permission to play up. As discussed above, chronological age doesn’t always indicate the ability of a player, and so each situation must be considered independently. If the older team is already at its size cap, it is not in the interest of other players to create a spot for a younger sibling. Overall, it's in the best interest of players to be slotted based on their ability than other factors.
We realize having multiple players on different teams can create logistical challenges, and thus strongly recommend that parents support each other through carpooling, etc. The sense of teamwork doesn’t need to stop with the players or when everyone leaves the field!
Q. My daughter's two best friends play on another team, why can’t she play with them?
As discussed above, there is an optimum size for each team. If all players named two friends they wanted to play with, filling rosters of a reasonable size would become difficult, if not impossible. While we recognize that players join teams in part for the social experience, we have found that most players adapt to new faces fairly quickly. If they are busy learning and playing baseball, they soon focus more on who their teammates are, rather than who is not.
Q. Our practice time is very inconvenient, why can’t we switch teams?
If the need is significant and slots are available with another team, we will consider allowing players to change teams. Such requests should start with the current Head Coach and then be submitted to the Commissioner.
Q. I have heard great things about Coach “X,” why can’t my son/daughter change teams?
As discussed above, DSA Baseball does not consider requests to play for specific coaches, because we think all our coaches are terrific! DSA Baseball will consider three criteria when forming rec teams: the previous coach, their friends, and the roster size. There is an ideal size for baseball teams at each level, and DSA Baseball won’t exceed that ideal number simply to honor a request to be paired with another player. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee we will be able to honor requests to be placed with friends and relatives (other than siblings in the same age division), but we will try our best!
Q. What’s the difference between House (“rec”) baseball and Select (“travel”) baseball?
Recreational baseball or “rec ball” is open to anyone who is interested in playing organized baseball. There are no tryouts, and the cost and level of time commitment are minimal. Teams generally practice a few times prior to the beginning of the season and roughly once a week thereafter. Rec baseball is a great way for kids to experience team sports and learn the fundamentals of America’s pastime. Damascus Baseball sets minimum levels of playing time so players at any skill level can gain experience through game play. Because the emphasis at the recreation level is participation and learning basic skill is a somewhat relaxed environment, “rec” programs in any sport are not generally considered to be adequate preparation for competition at the High School varsity-level.
A set of FAQs for High School age players are also available at high-school baseball.
The terms “Select" baseball and “Travel" baseball are more or less synonymous, as both require prospective players to tryout for teams in a given age group. The term “Travel" baseball is derived from the fact that teams often travel to regional or national tournaments, where they play teams of similar age (May 1 is the nationally recognized cutoff date for each age division). Some Travel teams are what may be referred to as “Tournament-Only" teams, or for high school- or college-age players as “Showcase" teams, which play exclusively in regional or even national tournaments. Damascus Select teams generally play in local leagues as well as in a few tournaments, which allows our players to experience a high level of competition without having to travel every weekend.
Select baseball usually involves a much greater level of commitment, as one might expect given the very competitive nature of baseball itself. DSA Select teams practice indoors 1 or 2 times a week in January and February and as many as 3 or 4 times a week outside as soon as weather permits. During the season, which can last into July for some teams, teams generally practice or play 4 or 5 times a week. In addition, many players may also work with a hitting or pitching coach once or more a week. Looking across various programs or teams in the region, it’s not unusual for players to participate in clinics, take speed and agility training, strength training, etc. As the cost of all these activities can be considerable, parents may want to look for programs that offer professional instruction and a variety of training activities as part of team activities. This often allows the player the benefit of advanced and tailored training at a more manageable cost. All DSA Select teams are required to include some component of professional instruction during the spring season. Unlike DSA Rec baseball, there are no DSA proscribed rules for playing time, playing time is determined by the Head Coach based on a variety of factors including any relevant league or tournament rules.
For more information about Damascus Select Baseball, please review the FAQs for Select