Little League International will be conducting a Pitch Count Pilot Program during the 2006 season, available as an option to all of its 7,400 local programs worldwide.
The optional program will proscribe actual pitch limits on each pitcher, rather than the traditional method of limiting the number of innings.
“Little League has historically pioneered safety innovations in general and specifically in Little League,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “The Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program is a test to determine if it is feasible and practical to implement a regulation limiting the number of pitches a Little Leaguer can throw in a day, and the rest required before pitching again. Our goal would be to educate everyone, particularly parents, on the potential injuries that can occur from throwing too many pitches, and thereby reduce those injuries.”
For all of Little League Baseball’s history, and for the history of amateur youth baseball in general, pitching regulations have used innings pitched to determine pitcher eligibility. Recently, researchers and medical professionals in the field of sports medicine have been working to determine if the actual number of pitches thrown (i.e., pitch count) is a safer way to regulate pitching in youth baseball.
The Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program is available for the 2006 regular season to any chartered Little League that chooses to participate. It is an extension of a similar successful test program conducted by a small number of leagues in 2005.
In early 2006, Little League International will advise local leagues on how to enroll online in the Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program. Those leagues enrolling online will receive further information on tabulating pitch counts and maintaining these records. The program is for the baseball divisions of Little League only, and not for softball.
During the 2006 season, and near its conclusion, Little League will conduct surveys of the leagues that took part in the Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program, and will use those surveys to determine the feasibility of a new pitching regulation. The earliest a new regulation would be in place is for the 2007 season.
It is important to note that Little League’s pilot program will not determine whether the revised regulations are of medical benefit to players. That is for medical professionals to determine, and their ongoing research is outside the purview of Little League. However, the Pitch Count Pilot Program will help Little League create a model for the future.
Currently, Little League pitching regulations limit pitchers (league age 12 and under) to six innings per week (Sunday through Saturday), and six innings per game. If a pitcher pitches in three or fewer innings, one day of rest is required before pitching again. If a pitcher pitches in four or more innings, three days of rest are required. The number of innings allowable is increased for older age groups.
The optional regulation for the leagues taking part in the Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program in 2006 will limit the number of actual pitches thrown by a pitcher in a day, regardless of the number of innings pitched. The number of pitches allowable is based on the pitcher’s age. Specific rest periods are in place when a pitcher reaches a higher threshold of pitches delivered.
The full text of the optional regulation for 2006 can be found at http://www.littleleague.org/media/Pitch_Count_Regulation_06.pdf
Little League also continues to explore other pitching-related issues, such as the use of breaking pitches.
“While there is no medical evidence to support a ban on breaking pitches, it is widely speculated by medical professionals that it is ill-advised for players under 14 years old to throw breaking pitches,” Mr. Keener said. “Breaking pitches for these ages continues to be strongly discouraged by Little League, and that is an issue we are looking at going forward.”
Little League is the world’s largest your sports program, with about 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in all 50 U.S. states and scores of other countries. About 2.3 million of its players are in the baseball divisions.