Wake up Little League, and Do the Right thing!

It just galls me that LL Baseball continues to pat themselves

on their back by trumpeting their 85 pitch count limit….

when they don’t tell you that during the LL World Series

in Williamsport, young kids 13 and under are not only

allowed to throw an endless assortment of curveballs

and sliders, but UNDER LL RULES, each kid can throw

on two days’ rest and can throw up to 255 pitches in a

week! As Steve Kallas has pointed out on his blog,

the pitch counts that these developing arms rack up

is staggering….and here’s LL Baseball saying that

it’s not curveballs that hurt a kid’s arm, but the NUMBER

OF PITCHES! Well, if that’s true, how come these kids

can pitch so much? Nobody from Williamsport or

ESPN seems to want to answer that question.

Then there’s Mike Mussina on ESPN saying that he’d like

to see the number of HR’s cut down in the World Series.

Well, why not start with getting rid of the aluminum

bats? Mike, who’s on the LL Board of Directors, has

publicly said that there’s no difference between wood

and aluminum bats. Huh??

I know some of you must have become tired with my

rants about LL and the issues I have with them regarding

pitch counts, their blessing of curveballs, their use

of aluminum bats, and so on…and in truth, I think

the concept of LL Baseball is great. But please, let’s be

honest here. Safety is NOT a top concern to LL – it’s

all become a business enterprise, fueled by licensing

and TV money.  Next time you have to fork over

$100 to register your kid in LL, just bear in mind

that LL Baseball (according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo

Sports.com) has more than $75 MILLION in cash

reserves. Enough said.

Youth Tennis: Parents, educate yourself!

I thought that Gary Weiner (of TENNIS: EUROPE) had some fascinating insights on how kids should be introduced

to tennis at a young age, and that parents need to educate

themselves on how all-involving a kid’s ranking in the

USTA is.  What was eye-opening was that kids (and quite

honestly, their parents) can manipulate where a youngster

is ranked by simply playing in a lot of tournaments, and

of course, getting credit for walkovers when an opponent

either forfeits or is injured.

Gary also made it quite clear that in order for a player

to be good enough in a top collegiate program, such as the

Ivy League, or even the Division III NESCAC schools,

a kid has to be one of the top ranked players in their

section.  In other words, it’s extremely competitive.

And Weiner pointed out that lots of US college coaches

simply go to Europe to find talented players to fill out

their roster.  I wonder – what are the European tennis

coaches (and the parents there) doing better than the

American coaches and tennis parents? Hmm….

Observations from mid-August on Sports Parenting issues….

I do hope you enjoyed the show this AM with Jeffrey

Marx, author of THE LONG SNAPPER and SEASON OF

LIFE. I just wanted to share with sports parents and

coaches everywhere this amazing story, and put a

spotlight on just how important the role of self-confidence

is in sports — at all levels.

Meanwhile, the LL regional playoffs are in full-bloom.

Lots of 12-and 13-year-olds throwing curves and

sliders, most of them with poor arm mechanics. Lots

of kids using aluminum bats, with line shots whizzing

past pitchers and infielders. 

Also, I just want to point out that — yes – despite all

the clamor in LL about pitch counts, we are all aware

that too many parents knowingly allow their kids who

pitch to throw on other travel teams besides their LL

team. Everybody agrees that too much wear-and-tear

on young arms is detrimental to kids and their health.

Parents, wouldn’t it make more sense for your kid to

have a strong arm so by the time he’s in HS, he can

still pitch? Why overuse him when he’s only 12 or 13?

That doesn’t make any sense  at all.

Safety Issues with LL Baseball Continue

I was stunned but also vindicated that the NY Times

Magazine ran a feature length article today which

focused on the confusion at LL Baseball regarding

suggested pitch counts for kids 13-and-under.

On one hand, Steve Kallas and I have been pounding

this point for literally years – that Dr. James Andrews,

the world’s most famous orthopedic surgeon, has

said that kids in LL should rest for 4 days after throwing

75 pitches. LL Baseball took this recommendation,

and turned it over to the LL coaches who, being

eager to win, dismissed the good doctor’s expert

advice, and went with 3 days of rest. Even worse,

the Times reported — as Steve Kallas has reported

and written about for years – that in the LL World

Series, the days of rest are cut back to two!

So, hats off to the Times — glad to see that they have come to

the same startling conclusions that we have on the

Sports Edge. True, it’s a few years late, but better

late than never.

And while I’m on my soapbox, let me just add this

about pitch counts, which seems to be the campaign of Dr. Fleisig (an

associate of Dr. Andrews). Fleisig says it’s not curve

balls that damage young arms, it’s too many pitches.

Well, Dr. Fleisig, why don’t you make this point to

Steve Keener, the CEO of LL Baseball? And bear this

in mind: it’s not how many pitches you throw – it’s

making sure that the mechanics are well taught. Seems to

that LL Baseball should be doing their best to teach

kids (and their coaches) how to pitch properly. That

would cut down dramatically on injured arms. And

just remind kids not to start throwing benders and

sliders until they’re in high school.

Is it okay for kids to throw curveballs?

Tremendous reaction to the show this past Sunday when Steve

Kallas and I discussed these two new studies that SEEM to

to suggest that it’s okay for LLers to throw curve balls.

In truth, both studies have very small samples (less than 35

kids in each) and one of them focused only on pitchers

ages 14-18. As you know, LLers have to be 13 or younger.

In any event, Dr. James Andrews, the world’s best known

surgeon when it comes to arm injuries, still publishes papers

which strongly cautions kids from throwing curves at a young

age. My conclusion? I side with Dr. Andrews.

Besides, if LL Baseball in Williamsport is so concerned

about the safety of kids playing ball, why don’t they

just ban curveballs entirely? It’s easy to do (just empower

the umpires to warn a pitcher when they toss a deuce; on the

the second curveball, the kid is removed from the

mound and asked to play somewhere else in the field).

But come later this month, during the LL World Series

in Williamsport, all we’re hear about are the great curves

these kids are throwing. Somebody has to be held

accountable here. Why not start with LL Baseball?

The Growing Dangers of HS Softball

I received an overwhelming number of calls this past

Sunday about HS softball players getting drilled by

line drive off composite and aluminum bats.  Moving

the pitching rubber back to 43 feet in the next year

or two IS NOT about protecting the pitcher; rather, it

is being done simply to prevent HS pitchers from

dominating. However, more and more states are

considering making acrylic face masks mandatory to

protect pitchers and fielders as balls come off the

composite bats as fast as 100 mph. Remember, 40 feet

is only abut 13 yards – kids just don’t have time to react/

If your daughter plays softball, would you insist

that she wears a face mask as well as shin guards

when pitching? It may become the law sooner than

you think.

The Latest Thoughts from Coach Wolff…

First off, I’m glad to be back online again! My sincere thanks to David Bell and Justin Sapp for getting me back on track!

As in the past, I’ll be posting my thoughts and comments each week, and as always, I look forward to hearing from all of you and your opinions on timely and topical sports parenting questions. Be sure to check in here when you can to see what the latest insights are….many thanks – Rick Wolff