With Baseball season almost upon us, the yearly debate about pitch count for our young athletes will most definitely arise in clubhouses, bleachers and homes all around America. Atlanta Brave’s former Ace, John Smoltz, weighed in on this hot topic in his Baseball Hall of Fame Speech a few months back, sending a warning to all parents…
“I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way…they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. Please, take care of those great future arms.”
Chris Gissell, who played professional baseball for fourteen years and now owns and operates Baseball Dudes, a private training facility for athletes of all ages in Washington State, shared this post with ILTWYP.
After pitching over 1,500 professional innings and then coaching it for three seasons, I feel I have a good understanding and feel for what it takes, both physically and mentally, to survive long term.
I don’t care about hearing about youth programs’ win-loss records nor does it matter to me how many tournaments they have won or where they rank on some national ranking list. I want to know how they are taking care of their players. How they are developing them. How they are preparing them for high school baseball. How are they teaching them the mental game and how are they at developing character?
When I first broke into professional baseball in the late ’90s, it was a big thing when someone went down with a major arm injury. As it moved on into the 2000s, it started to become more and more wide spread. Flash forward to 2012-2014 when I was coaching; I was blown away at the number of players we drafted who already had a zipper on their elbow (Tommy John Surgery Scar).
(From Forbes On-Line Magazine- The American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) is not scared to label the proliferation of Tommy John injuries as an epidemic. In a position statement released in May 2014, the ASMI implies that the epidemic is largely related to UCL problems in players that arose when they were adolescent amateurs.)
For some reason, many seem to ignore the facts and truth, that this is all a direct cause of year-round baseball, competitive pitching in the winter months when they should be resting or building up for the upcoming season, too much baseball over a 2-3 day span in some tournament, pitching without proper rest, pitching too many pitches when their arm is not conditioned for it, pitching too many pitches with poor mechanics, etc.
I understand that there are not many real pitching coaches out there. And to add to that, most coaches were not pitchers themselves growing up, so the true understanding of what it takes to throw strikes, what it feels like to battle through a long inning, what dead arm (fatigue) feels like, what proper mechanics look like and how to teach them, how to handle a pitching staff and what they need to be rested and ready for their next outing – the knowledge and experience is just not there.
The good ones will go out of their way to seek information. They will have a desire to educate themselves because they know how important that position that sits in the middle of the field on a small mountain, really is.
Pitch-Counts – Chart In Its Entirety
**See these numbers as a guideline. You need to have a “feel” for the moment – what are stressful pitches and what are efficient pitches. A pitchers ability, stamina and mental toughness should all play a factor in how they are dealt with in game action.