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Nurse. Sponge.

by Nick Vitrano

A friend of mine has a co-worker who has a nephew (still with me?) who just blew out his arm training for baseball.  Yeah…it doesn’t make sense to me either.  And it makes even less sense when I drop this – his Little League baseball career.  He’s 11, but a “promising” 11, apparently – whatever that means.  This is getting ridiculous, folks.

I’ve always been an anti-pitch count kind of guy. I loathe the 90, 100, 105 limits imposed on the guys on the hill. I am old enough to recall the days before the pitch count was vogue - when you expected a guy to go the distance, work out of jams. Now we’ve graduated from “all the rage” to legitimate necessity – at least that’s what the club tells us the fans.

Teams contend that they need pitch counts to maintain the staff - without caps, these guys would fall apart by August - though that logic appears at odds with reality: an ever increasing number of guys falling victim to season-ending injuries.

When you look around the pitching staffs of Major League Baseball, it’s tough to spot the guy who doesn’t have a surgical scar. So what’s the deal? With pitch counts universally applied across the sport, why are more and more guys breaking down? It doesn’t fit. Or perhaps it fits all too well.

Until we fix the little league system, the big league needs pitch counts. And at this rate of attrition, perhaps the count should be lowered.

At the risk of sounding like an old man, in my day, little league baseball was a league for fastballs and Dan Plesac “OK changeups.” Not only was breaking stuff not taught, it was generally discouraged. Kids were schooled in technique and location. Curve balls…that was for high school...and the varsity level at that.

Welcome to the present day where, by 13, a hurler is expected to show up to the diamond with a repertoire of pitches. After all, everybody can hit heat. And as the big leagues have turned gigantic money, there’s a nice home on the beach in little Timmy’s arm…or at the very least, a free education.

So I think it’s time to enact extreme precautionary measures: pull aside every promising high school freshman chucker and slice him up. Why not? If he’s any good, he’ll be under the knife before he’s 30 anyway. Let’s reconstruct those elbows and shoulders, repair the years of little league damage before it’s too late, before their failing can impact some millionaire owner’s bottom line or the NCAA athletic coffers.

Obviously I’m not serious.  But you know what’s equally insane?  Asking these kids to throw junk.

Tease Image: RSatUSZ via Wikimedia Commons