Sunday, August 10, 2008


Little League, like so much in America these days, has been swept up in a wave of political correctness that gives credence to the oft-discussed notion that adults can sure make a mess out of a beautiful children’s game.

It was tragic that professional baseball has gotten so caught up in the inanity of the pitch-count limit. The way I see it, some pitchers have great mechanics and as they go through a successful game should not be governed by how many pitches they’ve thrown.

At least among the pros, intercession is based on the philosophy of the organization as interpreted by pitching coaches who have dedicated their lives to the craft.

In Little League, under the premise that kids’ arms need to be protected, an 85-pitch limit has been imposed. Now this is nothing that just came about. It’s just that I hadn’t seen a Little League game in awhile until I covered the New England Regional championship Saturday in which Shelton edged Manchester, N.H., 2-1, in a thrilling contest that went down to the final pitch.

So at 85 pitches, it is deemed dangerous for a boy to continue pitching. When he hits 85, he can finish throwing to the batter he’s facing, then must be replaced on the mound.

Has anybody ever proven that the reason for so many arm injuries for pitchers at every level can be correlated with how many pitches are thrown? It’s utter nonsense. Common sense should take precedent. When a coach can see that a pitcher is laboring, it’s time to come out. That’s where injury may occur. It could be 50 pitches for one and 150 for another.

And who determined that throwing extra pitches wouldn't strengthen somebody's arm instead of risking it to injury? Do weight-lifters bench-press fewer times as they seek to tighten their muscles? Do milers run fewer laps when they try to cut their time?

The problem lies in mechanics, not repetitions. Throwing a baseball with an overhand motion goes against the natural movements of the elbow and shoulder joints. If the process is done in an overly violent manner, or a pitcher resorts to twisting and contorting his arm to make pitches move, that’s where injuries occur. When he uses his whole body and learns the proper angles, he's less likely to suffer injury.

The idea that young pitchers should not throw curveballs is more appropriate thinking. A curveball, when thrown properly, shouldn’t damage young arms, but can be devastating when thrown improperly. Now, how many Little League coaches are adept at teaching kids to throw curveballs properly?

I recall one issue when I was covering Little League extensively corroborates my opinion. An 11-year old kid was the ace of his staff as his team tore through the local district playoffs. The team battled its way through the sectionals and states to earn a berth in the Eastern Regionals.

The team fell just short of its Williamsport goal. The pitcher in question never surfaced again. He never pitched high school ball. His pitching days were over. I remember that his tremendous success was based on his curveball. His arm never recovered, and it wasn’t because he went over 85 pitches.

Little League is intrinsically magnificent. The game of baseball is divine no matter what level it’s being played. But for heaven’s sake, let the kids play. They need to be protected from the adults more than from any aspect of the game.

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