Thought on the Little League World Series

I have been watching the Little League World Series this past week with great interest and enjoyment. To me, it’s some of the best baseball on television. However, I have a question that no one I know is able to answer, so I’ll throw it out there to the readership for a comment:

Little League International innovated the pitch count rules several years ago which many youth baseball organizations subscribe to. There is an ongoing debate about whether Little League has actually followed the best advice from sports medicine experts in changing those rules for this year, but in watching the LL World Series I have noticed a different problem which remains unaddressed: The use of breaking balls (curve balls) by youth pitchers.

Everything I have learned from sports medicine in trying to be a better baseball coach states that curve balls should NEVER be thrown by players until they are 15-16 years old and have experienced the physical development in their arms that can withstand the unique strains this pitch requires. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that youth pitchers who throw curves too early directly affect the growth of their radius and ulna bones, damaging both the wrist and the elbow.

I don’t allow any of my players to throw anything other than fast balls and change-ups. In my opinion, the deceiving nature of a curve ball can also be effectively accomplished with a cut fast ball (“cutter”) which is thrown with a fast ball motion and still breaks across the plate but does not endanger a young pitcher’s arm. Why Little League seems preoccupied with pitch counts while ignoring the use of a dangerous and damaging pitch in high-level competition seems to me to be both inconsistent and irresponsible.

What do you think?

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One thought on “Thought on the Little League World Series

  1. I’m not a doctor but I would contend that it is more important to teach Little League pitchers proper mechanics than to teach them an array of pitches. Even if you are throwing just fastballs, improper mechanics can put excessive strain on an arm which will result in injury.

    If I’m coach…I’m teaching these kids proper mechanics and how to pitch (not throw). The mental aspect of pitching is such a large piece of the equation. The kids will benefit more if you focus on mechanics, throwing strikes, and pitching according to the situation. And sure…mix speeds by throwing change-ups. If we can teach our kids even a fraction of that… job well done.

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