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Overuse leads to tarnish of golden arms

June 11, 2002|by AL DITZEL

Why do 12-year-olds, or younger, throw 150 pitches in a little league game?

Is it that people don't understand what can happen to the young man's arm or don't they care?

I have to ask these questions. Last year, we had a parent raving about his sub-10-year-old striking out 16 in a game. When I asked how many pitches he threw, the parent responded with "only 36 after the third inning." He also said his young man's arm is fine.

This season, I've taken a result when a 12-year-old struck out 16, walked 14, allowed two players two hits apiece and lost a relatively high-scoring game, something like 8-7.

Again, how many pitches did that youngster throw? We guessed in the office.

We've taken the number of strikeouts and multiplied that number by three.

We took the number of walks times four.

Then, we added in the four known hits, the 20 or so pitches the young man needed to warm up for the game, as well as an average of four warmups between innings.

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The grand total is ... 150 throws.

Mind you, we didn't consider that the pitcher worked deeper counts than the minimum. His final count may be much higher.

No way can I respect what the youngster's parents or coaches allowed. Maybe they lost count. Maybe they got caught up in the moment. No matter, I think it's shameful.

These days, when information is so easily accessed, I cannot believe that a person's ignorance is the problem. Instead, I believe, it makes it appear he or she does not care or is willing to sacrifice the kid's health for a win. A little league win. Sad.

Little League, the institution, does not condone such an act, but it also does nothing to prevent the problem. The classes I attended before I coached in New Jersey were a joke. They teach little and even fewer pay attention. I cannot say about the classes in this area. The point is the young person's health.

So, what should we do?

I think we need to govern ourselves. When we think someone is overusing a young person, we need to make it known to league presidents, league officers or, in this case, to a local newspaper which may or may not write something about the situation.

These are not illegal acts. They are not punisable by law. When coaches and parents overuse a child's arm, these acts offend and disgrace the game of baseball. More importantly, it hurts the kids.

Remember, it's a game. If you don't have enough pitchers, teach other players to pitch.

Every kid wants to pitch. Somewhere, in his mind, most kids have dreamed of pitching. Allow this dream to come true but also take care of the young person.

Those adults who don't follow these guidelines shouldn't be allowed to participate in the game. No watching their kids play. No cheering or screaming. And most of all, no coaching at all.

If someone is guilty of risking a child's future ability to play baseball, make it known that you do not approve.

I know I don't.




Al Ditzel is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 7520 or by e-mail at alfredd@herald-mail.com.

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