Riding The Pine

Games Recap

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the chance to put together a Season Update for the 12U NEB Dirt Dogs. Two weeks ago was the Legends Slugfest Tourney #1 in Kensington, NH. The Dirt Dogs won both games vs. the Knuckleheads, and lost to both the Worcester Heat and Atkinson Bulldogs for a split record. Last weekend, the Dogs also lost both games to Team Connecticut on Saturday and fell again to the Tri-Valley Phantoms for both games on Sunday. On the upside, there were great home runs clubbed by several members of the squad over the two weekends, and now the Dirt Dogs’ Home Run Club is posted on the Season Update Page. This weekend will be the Legends Slugfest Tourney #2 in Kensington, but the Dirt Dogs will be two key players/pitchers short for the remainder of the season due to injury: Rohit and Matt.

Hidden Risks in Competitive Baseball

During Saturday’s game vs. the Phantoms, Matt suffered a season-ending injury while pitching in the 1st inning to the 3rd batter: sudden, acute upper arm pain that has been diagnosed by an orthopedic/sports medicine specialist as due to a stressed growth plate. The irony is that Rohit was also placed on the Disabled List the week before due to a similar complaint that was determined to be an actual partial growth plate fracture. This occurred when he was throwing a ball across the diamond from 1st to 3rd base.

Both players were strictly supervised regarding pitch count limits and enforced days of rest between outings on the mound. However, the total stress on the arm due to play on the larger 50/70 diamond along with the combination of games & practices (including the concentration of 4 games each weekend) equaled an overuse for both players that is not accounted for with monitoring pitch counts alone. Baseball parents should be aware of this as it is a little-discussed risk with competitive baseball in younger players who still have much growing to do.

In Matt’s case, the stress injury was not determined to be a fracture, so the prognosis is good. However, he is now on the 30-day Disabled List and shut down from all baseball activity pending a re-evaluation in 30 days. Additional rest and rehabilitation remains to be determined, including whether Matt will be able to take the field for the Cal Ripken All-Star state tournament this year.

Riding the Pine: A tough new lesson in Teamwork

Being on the Disabled List is hard for any kid who lives the game and simply wants to play, but the situation also presents an opportunity to develop an aspect of sportsmanship and being a team-mate that is often overlooked: Staying with the team even when your new position is “Riding the Pine.” In my experience as a coach and baseball dad, I have often observed that kids placed on a team roster who become hurt and unable to play simply disappear from the dugout. It’s understandable that parents aren’t interested in making the sacrifice of time to get their kids to the game if they are not going to play, and also understandable that the kids themselves don’t find it fun to hang around in the dugout all the time. For recreational baseball, this is the rule rather than the exception.

However, competitive baseball is another matter. Although it is true as a parent that you aren’t as invested in the team or the game results when your child isn’t directly contributing to the score, the team deserves the ongoing commitment of both parent and player especially if a select roster is involved. Unless a player cannot physically attend the game because of their injury, they should report to the field in uniform and play their new position as a “Dugout Dog.” It is very important for players to realize that they contribute to the overall performance of their team in many intangible ways. The essence of teamwork is that the team is greater than the individual and “Together Everyone Achieves More.” Especially in baseball, the mental aspect is paramount. Team morale is essential, and nothing deflates a team faster than to see their bench emptied by injuries.  Matt will continue to be with his baseball brothers and see the rest of this Spring Season through.


A Primer of Manly Baseball Skills

Among my favorite sites to visit is the ArtofManliness.com which is also found on the DirtDog Blogroll. You will have to check out the site for yourself to appreciate the manly wisdom and knowledge which is imparted there.

Among many great articles are these which constitute a Primer of Manly Baseball Skills. I pass them along for your enjoyment and edification:

Go Ahead, Ask A Pink Hat

Warning: The following audio is dangerously funny and may cause you to hurt yourself laughing.

Toucher & Rich, “Ask A Pink Hat”

Here is some hilarious woman-on-the-street audio from members of Red Sox Nation’s “Pink Hats.” For those not already in the know, the “Pink Hats” refers to female Red Sox fans of the “camp-follower” variety who act like groupies and sport the designer team sportswear that current team ownership is fond of marketing. Usually young, attractive and of mating age, they can be found frequenting the watering holes on Lansdowne Street and are prominently featured in the wide-angle camera shots of the stands on TV broadcasts.

A general rule is this: the hotter the weather, the hotter the Pink Hats in the stands. The emergence of Pink Hats as a species can be dated to 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series in more than 80 years and became fashionable to follow.

NOT to be confused with Pink Hats are the honest women of Red Sox Nation who actually love and understand the game of baseball, closely follow the fortunes and misfortunes of their team, and generally wear authentic team gear at least to the Cathedral at Fenway. These are the women who faithfully visited the graves of their fathers and grandfathers after the 2004 World Series to leave bittersweet mementos of love and joy. These are also the women who are great Baseball Moms.

All credits to the Toucher & Rich Show on Sports Hub 98.5 in Boston for this classic bit. Check out the link for more great stuff from these guys and the other teams on the station.

Perfect Games in MLB History

Congratulations to LHP Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s for pitching a perfect game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays on Mother’s Day; only one of 19 pitchers to do so in American professional baseball history.

Previously, Braden had never pitched a complete game in the major leagues, but now he’s in the company of Catfish Hunter as the only members of the A’s to throw a perfect game.

Check out the following link to FoxSports.com and learn about the other perfect games in MLB history…


Ghost Adventures: Dirt Dogs Split with Phantoms 4-0, 6-5

The NEB 12U Dirt Dogs were rained out of a double-header against RI Baseball Institute on Saturday 5/7. Sunday brought back the sun with a cold, vengeful wind and a 2-game contest against the Tri-Valley Phantoms at Pirone Park.

The Dirt Dogs took Game #1 from the Phantoms in a 4-0 shut-out thanks to the ghost-busting “Southpaw Express” with Matt starting on the mound and pitching 3 innings of no-hit ball while striking out 7. Mike P. relieved for the rest of the game, striking out 2 more and holding the Phantoms hitless until the middle of the 6th inning. On offense, the Dogs got to work in the 2nd inning with 3 runs scored by Brad, Scott and Rohit. An insurance run by Zach in the 4th inning clinched the win. The greatest hits of the game were a double by Jonathan, a 2-RBI single by Rohit, a 1-RBI single by Zach, and Scott also stroked two singles. Matt earned his 6th pitched Win of the season and Mike took the Save.

Game #2 was a nail-biter with Brad starting on the mound, followed by Rohit, Anthony and Zach. The Phantoms scored in the 1st inning on a fielding error which was answered with a tying run by Anthony in the 3rd. The Dogs then scored a go-ahead run by Jonathan for a 2-1 lead in the 4th inning. The Phantoms then re-captured the lead with 2 more runs in the 5th inning, and the Dogs tied it up with a run by Aaron in the 6th to extend the game into extra innings while Anthony kept the Phantom’s bats silent by pitching a no-hit 6th. In the top of the 7th inning, Anthony did more yeoman’s work with a line-drive 2-RBI homer, only to see the Phantoms steal the win with a heart-breaking, 3-run rally in the bottom of the 7th based on a series of costly fielding errors. 

It is fair to say that the Dirt Dogs lost Game #2, rather than the Phantoms won it. Fielding errors will kill you every time, Nuf Ced. The big shots were fired by Anthony with a home run, Aaron with a double, Scott, Jonathan and Nick with singles. Runs were scored by Anthony, Aaron, Jonathan and Nick. 

Stay tuned for next week’s games at the Legends Slugfest Tourney in Kensington, NH…

Dogs Split with Triple-Play 1-1, Chase Bulldogs 2-0

The NEB 12U Dirt Dogs won 3 out of 4 games in another full weekend of double-header baseball which also revealed the unintended consequences of participating in town-based Cal Ripken programs along with a full AAU commitment.

NEB vs. Triple-Play on 5/1

On Saturday, NEB played the Triple-Play All-Stars from Central Mass. at Pirone Park. The Dogs took the first game 2-1, opening up an early 2-run lead in the 1st inning with runs scored by Matt and Jonathan. Good defense anchored by Aaron behind the dish and Matt at 1st combined with strong pitching from Anthony for 3 innings including 5 strikeouts kept Triple-Play scoreless until the 5th inning. Mike P. pitched in relief, earning the Save while Anthony took the win. On offense, Matt hit a double while Jonathan and David both went 2 for 2 with singles. and Brad also clubbed a single. Aaron scored 4 times while Jonathan and David each scored twice.

NEB then lost to Triple-Play 20-14  in a slugfest which saw runs scored by the entire batting orders of both teams while they clubbed each other nearly to death. NEB scored 6 runs in the 1st inning which was answered by Triple-Play with 8 runs in the 2nd. Then it was ON. The heavy-hitter of Game #2 was Aaron, who went 4 for 5 while hitting 2 singles, a double and a triple. Matt and Jonathan each hit 2 singles for RBIs, Collin stroked a 2-RBI double, and Brad, Scott, David, Rohit and Anthony each added singles to NEB’s part of the beat-down. The NEB pitching rotation ended up as a true team effort, with Nick starting, Zach in early relief and Mike D. closing.

 NEB vs. Groton Bulldogs on 5/2

On Sunday, NEB played the Groton Bulldogs in Groton. The Dogs took the first game 12-7, with Matt on the mound for 3 innings while striking out 7 and allowing 2 hits. Matt then moved to 1st and Rohit pitched in relief, earning the Save while Matt collected his 5th Win of the season. On offense, Aaron was once again the Big Gun, going 3 for 4 with a triple and 2 singles. Jonathan also went 2 for 4 with a triple and single. Brad and Rohit both hit 2 singles, and Matt, Anthony, Zach, David and Nick all contributed singles. Zach scored 3 times, while Aaron, Jonathan and Collin all scored twice.

 The Dogs also took the second contest 9-3, with Brad on the mound and going deep into the game while pitching 4 innings and striking out 4. Aaron pitched in relief, closing the door with his knuckleball and striking out 3. Brad took the Win and Aaron the Save. With the Dogs at bat, Aaron went 2 for 4 with a double and single, Matt went 2 for 2 with singles, Brad clubbed a double, and Jonathan also stroked 2 singles. Mitch and David also hit key singles to round out the effort. Matt and Jonathan both scored twice.

The Value of Pitch Counts

Last week was Opening Week for Cal Ripken baseball in this area, and a majority of the players on AAU teams also play on town-based teams in order to qualify for the All-Star Tournaments in early Summer. This is the first time I have had to balance competing schedules along with pitch counts. The matter of pitch counts is crucial because it is imperative that young, competitive players be protected from injuries due to overuse and repetitive stress. Having two competing schedules can make for too much baseball in a short period of time, so it is the parent’s responsibility to be on top of this issue and communicate with all coaches to set some protective limits. Here is the current Pitch Count recommendation from Little League International for younger pitchers which is based on sports science and is a good foundation to manage your player’s physical well-being:

Daily Pitch Limits

  • 13-16 years (95 pitches per day)
  • 11-12 years (85 pitches per day)
  • 9-10 years (75 pitches per day)
  • 7-8 years (50 pitches per day)

Rest Requirements (16 years and younger)

  • 61 or more pitches = 3 calendar days rest
  • 41-60 pitches = 2 calendar days rest
  • 21-40 pitches = 1 calendar day rest
  • 1-20 pitches = no calendar days rest

Pitchers also can’t pitch in consecutive games unless 40 or less pitches were thrown in the previous game. Read more here from the Little League publication on pitch counts and protecting the arms of young pitchers. It is the parent’s responsibility (not the coach’s) to make sure that their kids are protected.

The 12U NEB Dirt Dogs now have a 7-5 Divisional record. Stay tuned for next weekend’s action…