While 2017 season will see high school hurlers on a pitch count, what that number is and how it will be enforced is to be determined
A national governing body this week approved pitch count restrictions for high school baseball players, leaving athletic associations across the country with plenty of questions to answer.
The news came as little surprise to the PIAA, which now has to set up specific guidelines for the pitch-count restriction ahead of the 2017 baseball season. The NHFS has left it up to the individual states to come up with specifics for the mandate.
“I think when Little League Baseball went to a pitch count years ago and Major League Baseball has been using one with their pitchers for years,” said PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi. “I think it was always a question of when, not if. So the time is here. We’ll adjust it and implement it, and move forward.”
The change comes as welcomed news to Central York baseball coach Mike Valencik, who called it “something that was long overdue.” But Valencik has plenty of questions about what the particulars of new rule will be when it’s rolled out next season.
“Now I guess the question will be how many pitches,” Valencik said. “How are they going to control it, how’s it going to be monitored and done. There’s a lot of grey area left there to try to figure out.”
Eastern York baseball coach Blaine Garner echoed a similar sentiment.
“I need more details,” he said when asked for a reaction to the new rule.
The exact specifics are unknown at this time since the new legislation was only recently announced. The PIAA will convene its baseball steering committee to work out the details. They are hoping to have recommendations to present to the PIAA board of directors at the fall board meeting Oct. 5, according to Dr. Lombardi.
Several states have been ahead of the pitch-count curve.
Alabama and Oklahoma were already planning to implement pitch-count restrictions next season before the NFHS made their announcement. Originally the Oklahoma rule was only going into place for the fall baseball season and would be re-evaluated moving forward.
The Oklahoma rule limits players to 120 pitches. Four days rest will be required if they throw over 100 pitches, three days rest is required for anyone who throws 76 to 100 pitches, two days rest for a pitcher who throws 51 to 75 pitches, and one day of rest for anyone who throws 36 to 50 pitches.
Alabama’s rule also limits pitchers to 120 pitches and requires three days rest for pitchers who throw 76-120 pitches in a game. Pitch Smart, a joint initiative between Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, recommends pitching limitations by age.
Spring Grove baseball coach Kevin Stiffler hopes that the PIAA uses what other states have done as a model to build their pitch-count rule around.
“I’m sure they’re going to look into and talk to some coaches about what they think is the best,” Stiffler said. “Look at what sports doctors, who have done a lot of studies with this, what they recommend.”
Garner is hoping the number is near the 100-pitch mark.
“I’d like to see the kids to be able to get close to 100 (pitches) for that one game of seven innings,” Garner said. “If they pitch multiple times in a week, maybe up to 150 total for the week. We don’t want to overthrow these guys.”
Valencik, Garner and Stiffler all said they kept track of their players pitch count in the past. Stiffler said they use an IPad to help track pitches, Garner said he uses the program GameChanger to keep track, and Valencik uses a manual pitch counter.
All three coaches have been conscious of trying not to overwork their pitching staffs, and it is part of the reason Eastern pitcher Brandon Knarr doesn’t think the new rule will be too much of an inconvenience.
“I think it’s something that kind of felt – at least on our team – was kind of already in place a little bit,” Knarr said. “Our pitching coach monitored our usage and that sort of thing. Obviously if we were good to go we’d go back out, but I think that overall it’s a pretty good change and our team will adapt to it.”
Like the coaches and the PIAA, the new restrictions don’t come as too much of a surprise to Knarr. He’s noticed the trend in baseball over the last few years and sees the need for pitch count in high school baseball.
The Eastern pitcher has stayed up to date with the larger issues of arm injuries in high school baseball and likes to follow the guidelines set by Pitch Smart.
“They say for ages 17 and 18 (years old) kids should be throwing no more than 105, 110 pitches,” Knarr said. “I think that’s a good estimate of where you should be… I think that’s probably a good number to set yourself by.”