Sunday, August 12, 2007

Image Conscious?

Imagine Nolan Ryan standing on the mound in the bottom of the 9th, no hitter, two outs, and no runners on base. The manager walks out, puts his hand out asking for the ball, as he says, "You've reached your pitch limit." Twelve-year-old Daniel Inmacolato had this happen to him in a summer baseball camp.

This is the first year that the 85 pitch count will be in effect at the Little League World Series. In the past a child could throw six innings - the equivalent of a complete game. This year pitchers will be limited to 85 pitches per outing. Pitchers who throw more than 20 pitches in a game may not pitch in consecutive games. A pitcher who throws 46 or more pitches in a game must rest at least two days before pitching again. Gone are the days when a team with two good pitchers could get through a series. This new rule may lead to a dilution of the pitching quality in Little League.

Each year kids get better at putting the bat on the ball. This means every foul ball counts in your pitch count. If you run a few counts 3-2, you're gone in the fifth. So who pitches the 6th? The bullpen. With the volatility that is the "Bullpen" even at the Major League level, we are a short hop from set up guys and closers for the Little League managers to worry about. Some say it will develop more talent, but look at the expansion of the MLB and the way it diluted the pitching in the majors.

They are youngsters, so I understand the facts of arm fatigue, and injury. When I played you threw until you couldn't get guys out, and in more than one league at a time. I felt for Daniel as I read the account of him kicking the dirt, wanting the no hitter. That changed when I got to the end of the article and I read, "I like playing in the field, because if the other team makes runs, it's not my fault.'' I know he is young, but finger pointing is not good baseball. What in his playing career has made him think it is the pitcher's fault for runs to score? Or that it is not the shortstop's fault that runs score.

Someone needs to tell the kids that it is not if you win or lose, but how you play the game. With an attitude like that I'm wondering if the coaches are sending the right message, or if it is just a sign of the times.

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