You may remember Carrollton (Texas) Creekview pitcher Brandon White, who described his arm as a “limp noodle” after throwing 145 pitches over 12 innings in a 4-3 midseason win in 2015.
The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association probably recalls that performance, too.
THSBCA executive director Rex Sanders will recommend a pitch count limit and mandatory rest for high school pitchers during an April 17 presentation to the medical advisory committee for the state’s University Interscholastic League in Austin, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Major League Baseball and USA Baseball’s Pitch Smart initiative, a collaborative effort with a medical advisory committee that includes the American Sports Medicine Institute’s renowned Dr. James Andrews, recommended pitch count limits and required rest periods in 2014.
Pitch Smart suggests a 95-pitch limit per outing for ages 15-16 and a 105-pitch cap for ages 17-18, in addition to at least four days rest if a teen exceeds 76 pitches in a game. The THSBCA would make similar suggestions to the UIL, with an eye toward a 110-pitch limit per outing and 3-5 days of rest for 18- and 19-year-olds, per The Dallas Morning News. Pitch counts and rest periods would vary depending on the age of a pitcher and the number of pitches he threw previously.
Sanders’ presentation has been met with resistance from some of the state’s high-profile coaches.
“I think what’s in place is working,” Coppell (Texas) coach Kendall Clark told The Dallas Morning News. “I can’t speak for all the levels of schools. There might be some guys that overpitch them and the count may be very, very high. I know at the 6A level, we take care of our guys pretty well, and that’s across the board. I think most of us know that these kids have more baseball in them than just in their high school careers, so we keep an accurate count and take care of them.”
Frisco (Texas) Lakeland head coach Barry Rose concurred with Clark, whose team ranks second in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25 Expert Rankings, telling the Morning News “every kid is different. Some kids can handle 100-120 pitches, and some kids don’t need to go over 90, so it’s hard to just agree with one kind of strict pitch count.” Rose defined his limits as 85 pitches per outing for junior varsity players and 100 for varsity pitchers “early on in the season.”
Every year, though, it seems we hear of an outrageous pitch count for a prep pitcher, and that’s just from the games where coaches actually keep pitch counts. Prior to White, there was Rochester (Wash.) starter Dylan Fosnacht, who tossed 194 pitches over 14 innings for a no-decision in a 1-0, 17-inning district tournament victory. In both instances, the players defended their coach’s decisions, and White’s father even came to the coach’s defense as well.
“We do cap our pitchers,” Creekview head coach Leroy Mansanales told the Morning News in 2015. “We start them off at 30 pitches [per game] early in the season during tournaments. Then I like for them to be at 45-50 pitches. Once we get to the second game in district, it’s like, ‘We’re winning today. Whatever it takes, we’re winning.’
“That’s the mentality I want these guys to have. In life, I want them to do whatever it takes to succeed, and that’s where Brandon is at. The other day he was on board from the get-go. I told him we were going to win even if it takes 90 pitches. He said, ‘Even if it takes 100.’”
And there’s the rub. Despite the opposition insisting that they know what’s best for their kids — that they can impose limits on themselves — who’s going to prevent coaches who can’t help themselves from getting that extra inning out of a kid? Even Clark surpassed his own self-imposed rule of 70-80 pitches per outing early in district competition, allowing LSU commit John Kodros to reach 98 pitches in six innings because he had a no-hitter going on Tuesday.
And why oppose a pitch count, anyhow, especially when respected medical professionals agree the strain on a teen’s arm can have lasting negative effects? This isn’t the major leagues.
As Fosnacht’s coach told Big League Stew in retrospect, “The biggest issue I have right now is, I know that the mentality of a pitcher is, ‘Give me the ball and I’ll get it done.’ I think that’s where I sat most of the day. Hindsight being what it is, I know that I should not have gone that long with him. I should have stepped in as a coach and said, ‘It’s time.’ And I did not do that.”