First of all, I want to thank everyone for the responses to today’s Sunday feature on pitching at the high school level. I’ve had some great baseball minds reach out to me, which has been humbling. I want to stress that this story is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a topic with many, many layers to it, and I’m currently working on putting together a roundtable discussion with coaches, doctors and specialists to examine the issue in more detail. Within the space that I’m given in the paper, I can only delve so deep into the subject. There is clearly much more to it, and I hope that this leads to further examination of pitching at ages when the body is still developing. With that being said, there are a few points that I wanted to make…
I knew when I began working on this story that some might view it as an attack on coaches. That was not my intention, but when coaches are mentioned by name, some will choose to view that as an indictment. There have been some negative comments directed at New Rochelle coach Pete Annunziata and other coaches, and I’d like to ask everyone to pause for a moment before they jump to conclusions. For the sake of full disclosure, I graduated from New Rochelle High, and I have known Pete and members of his coaching staff for years. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job that they do – as I do for many of the coaches in Section 1 – and their hard work is evident based on the success of the program in recent seasons. I used John Valente’s pitch count as an example because I was there tracking each pitch that day, but I’m confident that there have been local pitchers who have exceeded that total. I cannot fault any coach for how any pitcher is handled because they obviously know their athletes better than I do, and they are simply working within the current guidelines in New York state. No one has broken any rules here.
If you ask my honest opinion, I do feel that the state should consider implementing more restrictions when it comes to pitching based on the research that I have done. Many, many experts who know much more than me about this topic agree, and I think that the system that the PSAL has in place is a good model to work off of. As I state in the article, this is an inexact science, and although pitch count tends to garner the most attention, there is way more to it than that. But as many coaches have pointed out to me, stricter guidelines would take some of these decisions out of their hands, which would certainly eliminate a lot of the finger-pointing. And as many have stated, a competitive kid is never going to tell a coach that he wants to come out of a game. To think otherwise is simply naivety.
I’ve been covering high school baseball for three years, and of all of the questions that I receive, this subject is one which probably comes up most often. Every year I see unfortunate injuries and escalating pitch counts, and as I continued to look into it, it became quite clear that this is worth a discussion. First and foremost, I am a journalist, and if there is a legitimate issue that the public is interested in, I will always address it. I can tell you wholeheartedly that my only agenda was to report the facts and hopefully create an educated discussion.