Mailbag: Baseball's new pitch count rule, spring weather, summer teams

Erie Roosevelt baseball

(Greg Moore/gregfmoore.com)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Opinions in this Mailbag do not reflect an official viewpoint of CHSAA.

Baseball has implemented a new pitch count rule this season, and it's drawn wide-spread attention.

In this first-ever installment of the CHSAANow.com Mailbag, we tackle the question of if it's good for the sport, as well as other topics, like the spring weather (of course), summer baseball, and hockey's growth.

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It seems to me that baseball's new pitch count rule is hurting some teams. Do you think it's bad for the sport?

— Bill, Highlands Ranch

Absolutely not. I think it's a great thing for the sport, because it's looking out for the long-term health and safety of its participants. In fact, I think those who are making an argument that it's bad for the sport are out of touch.

The bottom line is that the pitch count rule — which is being used for the first time this spring instead of the previous innings limit — is designed to protect young arms. And that fact is more important than anything else, including competition. This is the high school level, it is not a professional league. Too often, that is forgotten.

As Bert Borgmann, the assistant commissioner in charge of baseball put it recently, "High school remains a developmental game. These kids are still developing physically, and in terms of learning the game."

The pitch count rule was created after many, many meetings of experts in the sport and medical community. More importantly, it brought together members of the high school and club baseball communities so that there was consensus in its creation.

The people making a lot of noise about the pitch count rule this spring are doing so because, A., it's new, and B., the extra-crazy weather we've been having is making it difficult to maintain a consistent rotation. Worth noting, too, is that those making the most noise on this aren't coaches, athletic directors, athletic trainers, or even players — who are by-and-large on board with the new rule.

Lakewood Pomona baseball

(Matt Mathewes/MVPSportsPics.com)

Everyone involved with the creation of the pitch count rule agreed that it would cause teams to develop more pitchers. The best coaches in the sport agree that doing so is only a good thing for the sport.

"The thing I tell our freshmen when they first arrive as freshmen is that they're all pitchers. That's the very first thing we do," Rocky Mountain coach Scott Bullock said in the video CHSAA produced in January on preventing arm overuse in youth baseball. "We think it's important to develop the depth, not only for our program, but obviously for the health of their arms, and to help them get to the next level."

I've also heard some argue that establishing a pitch count rule goes against the sport's "tradition"? Please. The long-term effects of the overuse of arms in youth sports have been well-documented. John Smoltz, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher called the rash of Tommy John surgeries in pitchers "an epidemic." The health of young arms is something that supersedes any straw-man argument like "tradition."

"I believe that our number one priority is protecting the young man, or the young lady, and I think the pitch counts that have been incorporated are fair. I think they make sense," Cherry Creek coach Marc Johnson said in the CHSAA video.

"It's about the kid, and what's happening with the kid, and the health of the student-athlete," ThunderRidge coach Joe White said in the CHSAA video.

The fact is that pitch counts are a national movement from USA Baseball, and CHSAA's rule is on the leading edge. In fact, other states are using it as a model in developing their own rule.

And, finally, the new rule is working. There have been only two cases of violations of the pitch count rule reported to the CHSAA office out of the 3,574 regular season games in all classifications to date.

Is it possible that CHSAA looks at extending the spring season into June?

— Corey, Aurora

It's possible, but at this point in time does not look likely.

The first thing to remember is that CHSAA is not a group of people who sit around and create rules and policies. CHSAA is a collection of member schools who submit proposals to the Legislative Council to vote upon. That's how bylaws (rules and policies) are created. The Legislative Council is, for the most part, made up of athletic directors and other administrators.

Don't get me wrong: I absolutely think that extending the season is a great idea. I believe it should start later than it does (well after the completion of the winter season), and then finish up in mid-to-late June. It would help us avoid the weather issues that consistently plague the regular season (and more recently, postseason) schedule.

The issue, though, is that most graduations are in early and mid-May, and many schools are completely out of session by the end of May. That is the main reason why many school administrators oppose an extension to the spring sport season. And, those same administrators are the ones who would be voting upon any proposed change to the spring season.

It's possible that the sentiment changes in the future. I just don't think it's very likely right now.

Can seventh-graders play on high school summer teams?

— Rex, Fort Collins

There's a lot that goes into this answer. The short version? Yes, they can.

The summer teams that a lot of high school players are a part of are actually club baseball teams, and are not allowed to represent their high school. Doing so would be a violation of CHSAA rules. Because of that fact, seventh graders can play on those teams.

One issue that could arise, though, is if a coach or someone involved in that club is wearing hats/shirts/other gear with their high school logos on it. Then, that could be possibly construed as recruiting. This fact would be especially relevant with any eighth-graders who are playing on the club summer team — particularly if they are out of the high school's attendance area.

Can you please give me a list of high schools in CO that have ice hockey teams at their schools?

— Cheryl, Centennial

Sure. Your best bet is this story which contains a list of teams in their new alignment (at the bottom). It is the most up-to-date list, at least until the bulletin comes out next winter.

The sport is now up to 32 teams, which is the most it's ever had. A number of other schools are on the verge of adding teams, and a few district-level teams are exploring splitting up their teams, similar to how Mountain Vista's split created Castle View prior to last season.

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