Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
Last May, an article was written here (Kallas Remarks, 5/8/08) which went into a detailed history of the pitch-count rule and how Little League overrode its doctors’ recommendations of 75 pitcher per game and 100 pitches per week (for 11-12 year-old pitchers) to allow many more pitches to be thrown. In 2008, Little League made a small effort for a minor correction – they now require, during the regular season, a game of rest so a star pitcher could not do what he did in 2007 – pitch consecutive games on only three days rest. They, however, made NO changes to the stupid Little League Tournament rule that allows young kids to throw 255+ pitches in SEVEN days.
In 2009, Little League has made another small adjustment, discussed below, to the regular season. Again, however, in the dangerous Williamsport tournament, no changes have been made.
2009 LITTLE LEAGUE REGULAR SEASON CHANGE IN PITCH-COUNT RULE
Beginning in 2009, during the regular season ONLY, Little League has given the local little league in your town a second option with respect to pitch count. As many of you know, last year, if an 11-12 year-old threw 61 or more pitches in a game, he/she needed three days of rest (and an intervening game) before he/she could pitch again. This three-day rest period was less than the prior pitch count pilot program (2005, 2006) which required four days of rest with the same 61 or more pitches thrown by a pitcher.
The three-day rest rule remains in effect today as “Option 1” under Little League Rules (See LL Rules and Regulations, Regulation VI (d), Option 1). But this year, there is now an “Option 2” which reverts the days of rest to four days, the way it was when the pilot program of 2005 and 2006 was in effect based on the recommendations of Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glen Fleisig through USA Baseball (See LL Rules and Regulations, Regulation VI (d), Option 2).
Unfortunately, the choice on these options is left to the local league Board of Directors, which will be discussed more below.
NO CHANGE IN THE 2009 WILLIAMSPORT TOURNEY PITCH-COUNT RULE
More devastating for young pitchers, the Little League, once again, has failed to change the terrible pitch-count rule for the summer Williamsport tournament, which is a six-week extravaganza where young kids’ arms get routinely “abused” (well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tim Kremchek’s word, not mine) by allowing kids to throw 255+ pitches in seven days (as always, these numbers must be compared to the recommendations of Dr. Andrews and Dr. Fleisig of 75 pitches per game and 100 PITCHES PER WEEK for 11-12 year-olds).
As many of you know, the schedule during the tournament is a hectic one. Teams often play three games in four or five days or six games in nine or ten days. Indeed, it’s a poorly kept secret that, in the final week of Williamsport, the two teams that get to the championship game on Sunday, by definition, will have their top pitcher pitch Wednesday-Sunday or even Thursday-Sunday, allowing a young kid to throw 170+ pitches in only four or five days (again, far beyond the doctors’ recommendations of 100 per seven days).
So, at the end of August, you’ll read here about four or five pitchers who threw absurd amounts of pitches in seven or eight or nine days, sometimes over 255 in that span (the 255+, for you rookies, comes from the fact that, once you reach the top limit of 85 pitches a game, you are still allowed to finish the batter. So, it’s not unusual for a pitcher to throw 87, 88, 89 or even 90 (if you go to a 3-2 count on your final batter) pitches in one outing).
SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Well, Little League really should have instituted “Option 2” (mandatory four days of rest) as the only option during the regular season. But, rather than follow the recommendations of world-renowned doctors, they’ve left the decision up to the local boards. While there are often many right-minded people on these boards, there are also many people who just want to win that Little League Championship and, if this type of person is in control, you’ll see Option 1 voted for and a chance for that top pitcher to be overused during the regular season.
Little League simply should have returned to its own pitch count pilot program, doctor-recommended four days of rest in the 61-85+ number of pitches for 11-12 year olds. If you follow it, you’ll still hear examples of late-in-the-season, three games in six days to finish the schedule. In that situation, you can bet the house (if it’s still worth something) that a kid will be throwing 170+ pitches in two games in six days.
It’s strongly recommended here (as being MUCH closer to the doctors’ — not the board of directors’ or Little League executives’ — recommendations) THAT INDIVIDUAL LEAGUES VOTE FOR OPTION 2 AND TELL LITTLE LEAGUE TO ABOLISH OPTION 1 (Option 2, again, would just be returning Little League to their own doctor-recommended pitch counts and rest used in 2005 and 2006).
THE TOURNAMENT IS STILL IN MUCH WORSE SHAPE
What about the summer tournament? Still a pitch-count disaster (255+ in seven days), one can only hope that intelligent Little League parents will protect their own kids by not having them pitch so much and by telling Little League that you don’t want your children exposed to this kind of overuse. Remember, if any major league pitcher (you know they routinely all pitch with four days rest nowadays) was told by his pitching coach to throw 255 pitches in seven days, then that coach would be fired unless (maybe) it was Game 7 of the playoffs. Even Little League execs must understand that a 12 year-old can’t be expected to do what no major league pitcher does today – pitch three games in seven days.
You read, virtually every year, about Little League pitchers who blow out their arms by pitching too much, too often to chase the prize of getting to Williamsport. Hopefully, this will be the year when parents (coaches? board members?) will take a stand and say no more of this for our children.
This is the year to stand up and be counted.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.