With attention spans of a couple minutes, the stereotypical image of four and five-year-olds on the baseball field includes kids picking daisies and staring up at the blue sky, waiting for the ball to come their way.
So to keep younger players more engaged and start skill development earlier, Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball decided to mix it up a bit and is offering its third season of Rally Cap, in which kids play short games and practice baseball skills.
Rally Cap was a grassroots initiative that came out of Baseball Canada. In 2005, Baseball B.C. tried the first pilot at North Delta Minor Baseball, and Ridge Meadows came on board the next year in 2007.
In Rally Cap, three teams come out to the field: the visitor, home team and the outfield.
While two teams with six or seven players each play a short game, the third team practices skill development in the outfield.
The three teams play two 20-minute games and have a 20-minute practice.
There are still a lot of "historical hurdles" keeping clubs from introducing Rally Cap - traditional T-ball programs have been around for 100 years as the entry-level program and are well entrenched into minor baseball.
"It keeps the kids more engaged and active for the time period that they're at the park," said David Laing, executive director of Baseball B.C.
Last year, Ridge Meadows had 190 kids aged four and five playing rally cap, while the six-year-olds moved on to the more traditional T-ball - Super-T - format.
The team leaders - the coaches - use props to help kids learn basic baseball skills: badminton birdies, hula hoops, squishy balls.
Laing estimated that 15 to 20 clubs in B.C. have started a Rally Cap program.
While the program is normally geared toward three- and four-year-olds, Laing said even a mini-tad program could be turned into Rally Cap as well. The program and its structure benefits the players, the coaches and the parents, Laing said.
With six children on the field for a 20-minute game, there aren't a lot of kids getting bored in the outfield.
Often kids at this level won't hit the ball out of the in-field, Laing said, "so (outfield players) are chasing butterflies or building sandcastles."
Some kids find it boring, and at this stage might be more attracted to soccer and lacrosse, which are more action-oriented, he added.
In addition, parents might not think it's enough physical activity for the children and therefore go for other sports where kids run around more.
The coaches are often parent volunteers at that level and many haven't ever played baseball. The game can be overwhelming because it is so skill specific.
The Rally Cap program comes with week-by-week recommended practice plans, so even a brand-new coach doesn't have to be an expert and can get a good program going.
A T-ball game can eat up a few hours of an evening with six innings, but a Rally Cap program is done in one hour and fifteen minutes - this is often more manageable for families, Laing said.
"We are actively, passively working toward convincing people that there's a better mousetrap out there," Laing said, but he added Baseball B.C. doesn't want to dictate what kind of programs the invidual clubs run.
"I personally believe - as do people like Mark (Kauhane) in the Ridge Meadows group - that this is a better opportunity for the kids and everybody benefits from it."
The Ridge Meadows Rally Cap program for this year is already full and will be played at the Pitt Meadows Athletic Field, Albion and Harris Road Park.
For more information on Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball, go to rmbaseball.bc.ca.