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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mandatory Pitch Counts in High School?

By Nate Barnett

I was recently given an article from a local newspaper dated, March 26, 2008. The feature article in the sports section that day was titled, Too much, too soon? The article examined a local high school pitcher, who in 2001 ruined his arm after throwing well over 400 pitches in a five game stretch early in the season. He sued the school district claiming that his coach was "negligent in letting him throw so many pitches in such a short period." The lawsuit failed as the court ruled in favor of the school district. Since the lawsuit, the pitcher has expressed great interest in having the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association implement maximum pitch counts at the high school level.

While I have sympathy for this former athlete's arm injury, I do not think for a minute it would be wise to implement a blanket policy that would put a cap on the amount of pitches a given pitcher may throw in a game. The results of such a policy would have drastic impact on how the game of baseball is played. Instead, coaches need to understand how to promote and build their players' arm strength through proper baseball instruction, and athletes need to advocate for themselves regarding high pitch counts early in the season. Here are a couple things to work on from an athlete's stand point.

1. In the NW it is particularly important that pitchers are building arm strength throughout the winter months. There are many ways of doing this from arm strengthening exercises like lifting and tubing work, to playing long toss with a buddy. Unfortunately, many pitchers come into the season with an out of shape pitching arm. Being ill-prepared is just begging for an arm injury.

2. Pitches can become more effective in keeping their pitch counts down by throwing more strikes early in the count. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing and using the fastball more frequently. Change grips, change locations, and change speeds. There is more that can be done with a fastball than many pitchers understand. Because of this lack of understanding, too much reliance is placed on throwing curve balls.

3. Proper pitching instruction is necessary to make sure the body is generating the power and velocity rather than the pitching arm doing all of the work. There is much to be said about the connection of bad pitching mechanics and arm injuries.

Nate Barnett is owner of the The Pitching Academy, a pitching information website designed to improve your on the mound performance as a pitcher. Download a FREE copy of the pitching workouts ebook The Pitching Academy contains information, products, training, free articles, and more on pitching, pitching drills, pitching mechanics, and much more.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick