I’m sure we’ve all seen the article about the high school coach having one of his players throw 157 pitches in one game. I know you all have your own opinion.
If you’ve been following us for a while you may remember Kelly and I discussing when a local team had a 15 year old player throw over 260 pitches in two games with one day of rest between games. That’s right he pitched 138 pitches on day 1, played shortstop on day 2 and then threw 120 pitches on day 3. We, like many at the tournament, were quite outraged that a coach would do this to a 15 year old.
Now I know a few of you macho men out there are thinking ‘are you whining like a woman again?’ If the kid wants to pitch then let him pitch.
I get that and honestly when I pitched I hated being pulled out, which is why it was up to my coach to know better than I and pull me out. It was the coach’s job to make sure that I didn’t overwork my arm so that I could pitch again and even as an adult throw baseball with my kids.
I bring up this last point because this is what everyone forgets, doesn’t know about, or just doesn’t care about. When young players aren’t protected by their coaches they aren’t at risk of not making a college team or going pro but injuring themselves enough that they will feel pain in their arm all their lives. They will need surgeries that aren’t going to be covered by ESPN or Baseball America. In worst case scenarios some guys won’t even be able to play a game of catch.
I played from age 4 up into high school. I pitched some but most of my time was at Shortstop and Centerfield. It was rare if I hit 100 pitches in a game but even I did damage to my elbow. I can still throw and play long toss but I can tell you my elbow hurt for years. Now I was lucky and my brother in law is a chiropractor who really focuses on sports and did some magic on my elbow. I was lucky. My pain could be worked on and for the most part healed.
I know dozens of amazing coaches from all different levels who understand that winning is important but not when you put a player in a high risk position that can be avoided. I’ve also see coaches who care more about a little league trophy than any player on their team.
I don’t want to ever say no pitcher should ever throw more than 100 pitches. That just isn’t logical but coaches should care enough for their players to not risk their arm health, especially a little league or high school player.
Honestly if a MLB pitcher is in game 7 of the World Series and he tells his manager that he will throw 200 pitches if that is what it takes to win, I’m okay with that for two reasons. One that is an adult making a decision that he knows could impact him and two because his body is far better trained and developed for that. Every pitcher knows an injury could end their career and their income, but a Major League Player is far better to make that decision than a high school pitcher.
For kids it is the coaches and parents that need to act as guardians and protectors of these kids. As a coach I will have kids pitch, I will send them home on what could be a close play, and I will let them play the game the way it was designed to be played. However, if I as a coach ever put a player in a bad situation that results in a long term injury then I honestly won’t forgive myself. Coaches take responsibility and be the adult. Protect your players.