As a parent, you are likely thrilled when your child wants to take part in any activity. Being active in sport as a child is a great way to get physically fit, make friends, and learn lessons that can last a lifetime. When it comes to a sport as storied and timeless as baseball, the excitement is often shared fully between parent and child.
Of course, you don’t want to see your child injured while pursuing a passion such as baseball. While there are risks associated with playing any sport, the children participating should always be as protected as possible when on the field. One way that coaches and parents can work to protect the health of the kids is through a careful and consistent monitoring of pitch counts.
A pitch count is exactly as it sounds – the number of pitches that are thrown by the pitcher during a given game. This number is tracked closely by all professional teams to monitor the health of their pitchers, and coaches of teams at lower levels should be doing the same. When a pitcher is asked to throw an extreme number of pitches in a given game, or within a series of games as is often the case in youth baseball, damage can be done to the arm of the pitcher. It is in the best interest of the short-term and long-term health of the child if pitch counts are watched closely and limits are set.
There is something of a misconception regarding the pitch counts of many young baseball players. Some coaches, and even parents, believe that unless the child is going to go on to play college or professional baseball, the pitch count should be ignored. Some figure that they may as well ‘use up’ the arm of the young player because it won’t be needed later on. This is the wrong way to look at pitch counts. Not only is it wrong to do harm to a child’s pitching arm intentionally, it is also counterproductive to their experience as a baseball player. Regardless of when their career will end, pitch counts should be respected to help the child have the best-possible experience throughout their time playing this great tame.
While some leagues have set limits on pitch counts in an attempt to restrict coaches from making bad decisions, there really is no ‘magic number’ when it comes to how many pitches would be considered safe. Rather, it needs to be monitored on a case by case basis with input from all parties involved. The building of arm strength is something that takes time and needs to be done gradually – so not all kids will be ready to throw the maximum number of pitches allowed right away. A good coach will communicate with all of the pitchers on the team to develop smart pitch counts that keep their health as the top priority.
For parents, it is important to simply be aware of the importance of pitch counts and how they can affect the health of your child. Most kids will gladly play through the pain of a sore arm in order to help the team, so there needs to be an adult in place to make smart decisions with the big picture in mind. Having an open conversation with the coach of the team can help to make sure that pitch counts are being monitored as the season moves along. In addition to the coach, it is helpful to keep the child informed as to the importance of pitch counts and why they may have to come out of a game that they think they could keep pitching in. As with anything else in life, preparation and communication are the keys to making smart decisions when it comes to pitch counts and your child’s baseball experience.