As the hot days of summer draw near, area baseball fans might find themselves looking for a little variation while still enjoying the sport closest to their hearts.

Such opportunity exists, in frequent cases right around the corner, and competition may be seen on all levels, with players ranging from the best from high school teams to former professionals.

Here's a look at some of the top area leagues:

Credit Union:

The seven-team league plays its games at Chantilly, Oakton and Robinson high schools in Northern Virginia on Sundays. Weekday games are played under the lights at both Chantilly and Oakton.

League play, which is already underway, will last through July, with a tournament in early August. The tournament winner will continue on to the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) regional tournament in Youngstown, Ohio.

The Credit Union's regular season winner will travel to the Eastern Seaboard tournament, held this year in Salisbury, Md. Credit Union teams have claimed victories in both the 1985 and 1986 tournaments.

According to league commissioner and founder Tony Johnson, the league was started in 1979 because there were many players who found there simply was no place for anyone over the age of 19 to play competitively in Northern Virginia. The Clark Griffith league, a Virginia league for younger players, recently raised its maximum age to 20.

The Credit Union League has no age limits, but its players average 22 or 23. Each team has a sponsor and drafts its players, many whom are collegiate players or former professionals.

Industrial:

The eight teams come from Maryland or Virginia. Games are played Monday through Saturday, mostly in Montgomery County. A few games are played at Robinson High School in Fairfax and in Calvert County.

Most players are college players or former professionals. According to commissioner Charlie Blackburn, this year's league has exceptional talent, with the average player age around 23.

Crowd sizes at games are extremely unpredictable. A few dozen spectators might turn out one night and a few hundred the next.

The season runs from late May to early August, with each team playing 28 games. Playoffs and tournaments will be held in August with the league winner participating in the Eastern Seaboards or the NABF regional tournament.

Unlike many of the other area leagues, the Industrial tries not to vary its teams every year. It maintains what Blackburn calls a good, competitive grade of ball.

American Legion:

The Washington area has three leagues, one in Northern Virginia, one in Prince George's County and one in Montgomery. Legion teams are highly competitive, getting the best high school and early college-age players, with play limited to those 18 and under.

The season runs from early June through mid-August, with tournaments on the national level running throughout August and early September.

This year's regional tournament will be held in Frederick, Md., and the winner will advance to the national tournament in Indianapolis.

Aside from national competition, this season will be highlighted by competition against foreign teams. This year, a Korean national team will be competing against one or more of the local legion teams on July 19 at the University of Maryland.

The Virginia Legion consists of nine teams and plays its games at Northern Virginia high schools, mostly at night. School boundaries and populations determine which team qualifying players will play on.

The Montgomery and Prince George's Legion leagues split a few seasons ago. Prince George's has eight teams and plays most of its games at the Prince George's Community College's main campus in Largo.

Unlike the Montgomery and Virginia Legion, Prince George's teams play only seven-inning games during the regular season because lighted fields are unavailable. Each team will play 28 games.

The six Montgomery County Legion teams each will play 20 games. They also will play teams from western Maryland and Howard County. Except for doubleheaders, all games are nine innings and are played on an average of three a week.

Clark Griffith:

This well-known old league, named for the former owner of the Washington Senators, has six teams and is limited to players age 20 and under.

The season runs from May through September and is divided into three rounds of 10 games per team each round.

The league champion is determined by playoffs between winners of each round. This year's national tournament will be played in Johnstown, Pa.

Eddie Brooks:

This league, known for its connections to the Baltimore Orioles organization, is for players 20 and under. It comprises a number of diverse Maryland area teams, including AAA baseball and NABF teams. Six teams make up this year's league, including teams from Howard, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties. Like the Legion teams, the Brooks League plays such foreign teams as the Korean nationals.

Turkey Thicket:

This league is sponsored by the D.C. Recreation Department. It features high school players from the the District's public and private schools. Games are played weeknights at Turkey Thicket Park with league play lasting into August.

Others:

Baseball is played on the recreation department level in Virginia, Maryland and the District. In Virginia and Prince George's counties, the Babe Ruth League, for boys 16 to 18, draws talent through tryouts held every season. The Montgomery County MCBA is once again in action as well as the City of Rockville's RBBA league. Several area communnities also have Little League programs.

CAPTION: Rob Taylor of the Union Printers of Washington delivers pitch against Sikes Contruction batter in Industrial League game played at Wheaton Regional Park.