Ahead in the Count

Stop the Insanity

I am extremely distressed about some the developments in youth baseball pitching rules.  When I was playing in New York City’s Harlem-West Side Little League in the late 1980s, pitchers in the 12 and under age group were not permitted to throw more than seven innings in a week.  Without getting into too deep a discussion, suffice it to say that this rule was, at least, reasonable.  While it is certainly a good thing that our consciousness of the need to protect and build young arms has increased, these new concerns now manifest themselves in rules that not only fail to protect our young athletes, but frequently INCREASE the risk of injury.

Example: The 16U Headfirst Gamers team entered a tournament in Rockville, Maryland last summer.  The pitching rules:

1. No pitcher may throw more than four innings in one day. 

[No more rules]

This rule required that pitchers be removed after pitching four innings (regardless of pitch count), but permitted pitchers to throw multiple innings on consecutive days.  Whitey, Teddy, B Sul and Springer:  please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here…. but it seems to me that risk of injury is much higher for a sixteen year old who throws four innings on back to back days as opposed to throwing six innings in a single outing, and then resting the following day.

Our team did not have any pitchers throw multiple innings on consecutive days – but I noted with concern and disdain for this rule that several other teams did so.  To me, this rule is simply the result of innovation for innovation’s sake without considering the actual outcome.   In other words, some administrators without any baseball expertise decided to flex their rulemaking muscles.  The idea that kids will likely get hurt as a result is sad.

I will be very curious to read the rules for this year’s tournament and see whether sanity has prevailed in Rockville…

January 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Totally agree, nice post. And yes, 4 innings back-to-back is much worse than 6 in one game followed by rest.

    Here’s another situation I’ve been seeing more and more of: Many kids these days play on multiple teams during the same season (for example they are participating both in little league AND on a club team). Little league has pitch count rules and even if the club teams do too (although my guess is that most don’t) many coaches don’t ask or don’t pay attention to or just don’t know how many pitches their players were throwing for the other team.

    So what ends up happening is that while, in theory, young pitchers are following the pitch count rules for each team separately, they are not looking at the stress on their arm in the aggregate.

    Pitching on Monday for the little league team, then pitching on Wednesday for the Club Team, and then pitching again on Thursday for the little team again, while technically “legal” in terms of both team’s individual rules, is still putting a tremendous amount of stress on a young arm.

    I have yet to hear a good argument for why any young ballplayer should be playing on more than one team in the same season in the same sport.

    Comment by Spring | January 12, 2009

  2. Agree with both of you though think that “insanity” doesn’t quite do justice to how ludicrous these rules have become. My favorite new Little League rule that was upheld in Tribeca’s (NYC) downtown little league is as follows:

    If a player throws one pitch (yes, one) off the mound in a game, they may not play catcher at any point during that day.

    This is asinine.

    The issue here is that by over-protecting kids, arm strength and endurance is never developed — therefore increasing the risk of injury.

    Side note: I think between the few guys writing for this blog we’ve coached hundreds (if not thousands) of kids aged 5 -18 in the Dominican Republic. These kids do nothing but throw all day long and I can’t remember ever hearing that one of them had an injury that kept them off the field.

    Nice post Brammy.

    Comment by Ted Sullivan | January 12, 2009

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