Pitch Counts, Tommy John, And America’s Pastime

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2 Responses

  1. Randy Lowry

    While I agree with some of your comments, I think some are a bit cliche and therefore, not completely accurate. It’s always easy to blame the “well meaning/misguided” youth coach for pitching ills and yes, they share a portion of the responsibility. However, the damage to young arms isn’t nurtured at 10 or 11, it’s done at the 7-8 grade levels and finished off once they arrive in high school. Parents place way too much faith in high school coaches who aren’t always SME in the sport or, more specifically, in how to coach it. High school coaches in most states have so little time with their players (at least in Missouri) with the short seasons that it’s almost irrelevant. Kids show up in March with sore arms exacerbated by club ball coaches forcing them to throw all winter.

    Parents place a ridiculous amount of faith in these summer coaches, expensive traveling teams in particular, all because the coach had a brief stint in pro ball or played in college. As a former college player (two sports) and having one son currently playing college ball and another on the way, I place the blame squarely at the feet of ignorant parents and summer coaches. They charge crazy prices to play, pricing many kids out of the game completely but that’s for another day, and only care about winning and being able to send a kid to college that they had little to do with developing. Just because you played the game at an advanced level doesn’t mean you can coach it. I see kids throw 4-5 innings and then get sent to shortstop where they air it out the rest of the game and these coaches don’t even blink. They guilt parents into making kids exclusive to baseball (therefore being able to charge more) and NO sport exerts more wear and tear on a body part than baseball.

    Parents should stop placing so much faith in these coaches whom, are NOT well meaning and should know better, and trust their instincts. A kid can’t throw a baseball twelve months a year and expect to stay healthy long term. Imposed pitch counts, and by the way, pitch counts aren’t always the panacea, proper fundamentals are, will only provide yet another easy obstacle for coaches to navigate their way around. Just like weight cutting rules in wrestling. Coaches always find a way to circumvent the system.

    1. highschoolsportsstuff

      First off, thank you for the reply. I enjoy getting feedback!

      Although what I said might appear to be a cliche, it’s anecdotal evidence. I wasn’t taking the easy way out by blaming “parents these days,” I was simply stating what I’ve seen happen in my own sons’ youth leagues. If you read through some of my other posts (I’ve linked a bunch of them below), you’ll find that I agree with your comments. I speak often about how crazy youth sports have become and how all the extra time, money, and work in the world isn’t going to fix a kid’s genetics. Sure, there’s a margin of improvement to be gained from sensible and intelligent training, but if a kid lacks the genetic make-up from the start, most efforts will just be lost time and money. I try to remind parents all the time that money spent on camps/clinics/lessons are only a guarantee of participation, nothing else.

      Regarding pitch counts – I do think they will be more effective in limiting arm damage. Yes, fundamentals and technique are a larger piece of the injury puzzle, but (if we assume that we can’t ensure everyone is taught correct technique) 85 pitches with bad form is still better than 120+ pitches with bad form. The reason I limited my critique to youth baseball was because of the current innings limits at the 7th-8th/Babe Ruth levels. I was saying that similar limits need to be brought all the way down to the lowest levels where kids start pitching. And I absolutely agree with your statement about a kid pitching then playing shortstop. As I mentioned, I far too often see double headers where one kid will pitch one game and catch the other. It’s too much.

      Here are some of the other things I’ve written that are related to this topic (some are more related than others!). Related to too much time at the youth level here; Related to summer participation here and here; related to specialization here, here, and here; related to genetic ability to play here, here, and here; and a five part post that I wrote about sports parenting a couple summers ago that are all linked from here. Thanks, again, for your comments!

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