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Top Major League Baseball Athletic Trainer Sees Merit in Little League’s Pitch Count
“It is definitely a step in the right direction,” Mr. Reed, who has worked with professional baseball players for 25 years, said. “Major League Baseball has worked off of a pitch count for a long time, and I think Little League’s pitch count certainly will protect young arms.”
Mr. Reed stated that Little League-age players are skeletally immature and typically should only be throwing an average number of pitches four times their age. His example is a league-age 12-year-old should only be throwing 48 pitches per day. By comparison, he said, “the 100-pitch mark is when the yellow light starts flashing on a Major Leaguer.”
He agrees that use of a pitch count will prompt Little League coaches to seek out more pitching. The success of the rule in his opinion hinges on the managers and coaches teaching proper techniques.
“Over the course of the regular season and into tournament play is when you will see the benefits of counting a player’s pitches, “Mr. Reed said. “By keeping pitch numbers down in April and May, these players will be better pitchers in June and July.”
Often, the first question that Mr. Reed fields as he talks to volunteer coaches and managers is: How do you determine who has the potential to be a pitcher?
He explains the simplest way to evaluate raw potential is to simply have a player long toss. After the player has properly warmed up, Mr. Reed said, “the farther he can throw the ball, the better natural mechanics and arm strength he has.”
When it comes time to teach pitching technique and mechanics, Mr. Reed said to stay away from breaking pitches.
“The hardest pitchers to hit are those who can spot a fastball and change-up,” Mr. Reed said. “The Little Leaguers who throw sliders and curveballs are not the pitchers I’ll see at the Major League level.”
During the season, managers are always faced with the decision of when to remove a pitcher. Mr. Reed said the tell-tale signs a pitcher has “lost it,” are the drop in velocity and accuracy.
“When the control goes, then velocity goes, and that tells you the pitcher is starting to fatigue,” Mr. Reed said. Kids should not be sore. If they are then they’re either mechanically unsound, or more likely they are being overworked.”
Offering some general health tips, Mr. Reed focused on diversity in sports as the best way to keep a player’s body injury-free. As a professional athletic trainer, he can say from experience that the healthier pitcher is one who has developed cardiovascular and core strength, which helps take a load off the arm.
“Those of us in pro baseball want to see multi-sport kids,” Mr. Reed said. “These athletes have developed full-body stability because of the emphasis that different sports place on different muscle groups.
“Pro scouts are looking for kids who start pitching as juniors and seniors in high school, or even as late as their freshman year in college,” Mr. Reed said. “The reason why is, kids who started pitching at 11- or 12-years-old use up their arms. There are only so many times you can stretch a rubber band.”
Mr. Reed is not against off-season workouts (core, strength, cardio) as long as it does not involve a baseball. It is his contention that every time a player picks up the baseball it is continuing the cycle of overuse.
During the season, he recommends a pitcher focus on stretching the throwing shoulder and elbow on recovery days following a start. The day before a start, he or she should work at 50 percent of maximum effort and concentrate on proper mechanics.
Mr. Reed, a Major League Baseball trainer for 10 years with the Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, has been PBATS president for five years. A total of 65 Major League Baseball athletic trainers and 225 minor league athletic trainers are PBATS members.
More information on the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society can be found here: http://www.pbats.com/
Information on the Little League Baseball pitch count can be found here:
Jamie Reed, left, is head trainer for the
Texas Rangers and president of the Professional Baseball
Athletic Trainers Society.