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The Advantages of the Developmental League

Updated: Jul 23, 2019

At its best youth baseball is a perfectly balanced activity; fun and challenging, collaborative and individual, mental and physical, with equal chances to win and lose. This type of environment allows young ballplayers to grow as athletes and people and develop the resilience, respect, work ethic, and enthusiasm required to be great on and off the field.


Unfortunately, this balance is all too easily thrown off, and too many families are left with a choice between playing in a little league that may not provide the desired coaching and competition or joining a travel team that requires an unreasonable commitment of time, money, and energy spent focused on winning.


Bulldog Baseball’s Developmental League is the happy medium. We hold one fast-paced, high-energy practice each week, and using that same focus on pace and energy, fit two games into a two-and-a-half-hour window each weekend. All games and practices are held on the turf at St Albans, eliminating the hours spent driving all over the DC area and making it easy to stick to our schedule since our fields never become sodden, muddy, or unplayable.


The Bulldog Baseball coaches, led by RJ Johnsen and Dan Thorner, have years of experience both coaching and teaching. Their enthusiasm and knowledge of baseball and kids allows them to teach specific skills and make taking hundreds of repetitions engaging rather than boring.


When RJ and Dan were living and coaching in the Dominican Republic, one of the things we treasured was seeing children play, compete, and figure out lineups, teams, and umpires on their own. The goal for them was to play the game they love and they would continuously make adjustments to keep the pace fast and competition level similar.


Our goal is to recreate a similar environment in our hometown. In our Developmental League games, if a pitcher struggles to throw strikes a coach takes his place, and gets the ball back in play, eliminating the stagnation of watching dozens of strike outs and walks. If the moment arises when the team can learn from a great play or from a mistake, the coach will stop the game to quickly take advantage of that teachable moment.


We keep score in these Developmental League games, because we know so much can be learned from competition; from both the joy of winning and the pain of losing. Passionate, enthusiastic ballplayers all want to win and our coaches joyfully use that passion to motivate our ballplayers but also to keep them focused on the ultimate goals of improving their skills, developing friendships, being active, and having fun.


Youth Baseball in the DC area doesn’t have to be a choice between Rec Leagues and Travel Ball. The Bulldog Baseball Developmental League fits right in between, where kids are challenged and supported, have fun and compete, win and lose, and learn and improve. We believe our determination to keep a fast pace and our focus on each player’s effort allows us to find the perfect balance that youth baseball can provide. This is a sport so many of us loved to play as children, and love to follow as adults and we’re excited to pass that love, enthusiasm, and knowledge on to the next generation of young ballplayers coming up in our hometown.

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Dan and RJ grew up just blocks from each other in Northwest DC and met and became close friends as classmates at Janney Elementary. We both remember being greeted everyday outside the front of school