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.

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