Pitch Counts, Days Rest, and Why They Matter

pitcher facing batter

With the 2021 season kicking off, Dr. Phillips Little League in Orlando, Florida, shared a conversation on the importance of arm safety between League President, Rob Clark, and James Parr, the league’s Coaching Coordinator and a former pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Here is their interview:

Rob Clark (RC): James, thanks for joining me today to talk about this very important topic.

James Parr (JP): Of course! Thanks for asking and I appreciate this opportunity as this subject is very near and dear to me.

RC: Please give us an overview of the possible short, and likely long-term risks, of OVER-USING pitching arms.

JP: Overuse is a serious problem for the health of our young ballplayers – and entirely avoidable. Listen, the responsibility falls on the parents to communicate with their league manager or coach as to when their child has pitched for another team in the recent past. Otherwise, how can our Little League coaches know?!

Pitch Smart Program

RC: What if Johnny’s pitch count was less than 20 on Saturday morning at a travel ball tournament? Should the parent still make the manager or coach aware for a Little League game later that afternoon?

JP: Absolutely! The more transparent communication about their kiddos’ time on the mound, the better! Little League pitch counts and days of rest rules are in effect to protect players from abuse and, since many of these boys are also playing on one, maybe even TWO travel teams, the opportunity for overuse presents itself often. We need to do our part to ensure this overuse isn’t happening.

RC:  But James, winning that three-foot tall, plastic trophy is important! [insert sarcasm here] On the travel ball side, what is your philosophy when it comes to these young pitchers’ arms?

JP: Great question, RC! Heading into this past weekend, one of our travel teams had a mini tournament on Saturday. So, on Friday afternoon, I polled our parents, asking them to provide any info as to which players pitched this past week in Little League, and how many pitches were thrown. As an example, one of our kiddos in the Majors division threw 54 pitches on Wednesday night. In that same game, a pitcher for the opposing team threw 47 pitches. As per the Little League rulebook, for days of rest, the pitcher that threw 47 was eligible to pitch in Saturday’s tournament, whereas the kiddo who threw 54 pitches couldn’t pitch. The stink of it was, our team made it the championship game – and we could’ve used him – bigtime! Even though we lost that game, it was definitely the right decision not to allow him to pitch.

For these pitch count/days of rest rules to be effective, we all have to work together. Parents have to communicate with us, as coaches. There are no Little League rules that prohibit a kid from throwing 50 pitches in travel ball on Sunday, then pitching another 50 for their Little League team Monday night. The only people who can stop this from happening are the parents and, us coaches, who take the time to communicate with our families.

RC: Are you qualified to speak on this subject?

JP: After three major elbow surgeries from pitching in the Bigs, I’d say so.

For more information on Little League’s arm safety guidelines and pitch count rules, visit LittleLeague.org/PitchCount.