Coaches concerned about proposed pitch-count limit in Colorado | PostIndependent.com
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Coaches concerned about proposed pitch-count limit in Colorado

Jon Mitchell
jmitchell@postindependent.com

Eric Nieslanik is seeing a lot of different possibilities to the proposed rule change for high school baseball in Colorado. He’s also seeing what most of the coaches and athletic directors on this side of the state feel about that proposal.

“I’m being told that no one is in favor of it,” Glenwood Springs High School’s baseball coach said on Wednesday.

That rule change would implement a pitch count for high school baseball pitchers in Colorado, tightening the current pitching standards that the Colorado High School Activities Association already has in place. It’s a proposal that, according to CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann, “will encourage teams to develop pitchers more appropriately, and ultimately strengthen pitching in Colorado.”

Opponents of the rule change contend it would not protect the arms of high school pitchers, but instead leave them more susceptible to injury. It’s a measure that, along with several other proposed rule changes, will go to CHSAA’s Legislative Council for approval when it meets today in Aurora.

Other proposed changes involve student transfers, with the proposed move aimed at eliminating student transfers for sport-specific reasons. Another would change the enrollment-requirement numbers for classifications in the state, with those numbers going into effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.

The proposal on pitch counts in high school baseball, however, would go into effect for the upcoming baseball season if it is approved today. It requires teams to keep track of pitch counts for every hurler who takes the mound and requires a certain number of days rest based on the amount of pitches the student-athlete had thrown. The criteria, which is different for varsity and junior varsity baseball, requires up to three days of rest of pitchers who throw anywhere from 86 to 110 pitches in a game. The proposal also prohibits pitchers from throwing more than 110 pitches in any appearance.

It’s based in part on the research of CHSAA’s ad-hoc baseball committee which, in previous meetings dating back to August of 2014, came up with the proposal. It also uses data from USA Baseball’s recommendation on pitch counts, which said pitchers 17 to 18 years old should wait four-plus days to regain full strength.

Borgmann stated in a column posted on http://www.chsaanow.com that Colorado’s current rule of a 12-inning limit over 72 hours with no pitch count has gone from one of the nation’s stronger pitching limitation to one of its weakest.

“Colorado can be a leader in determining the direction of its own limitations, rather than having to be forced into a certain direction,” Borgmann stated.

Members of all classifications of the Western Slope League, along with the hybrid Class 5A/4A Southwestern League, are opposed of the rule change. Coaches and athletic directors say that limited enrollment numbers in smaller schools, along with weather-related cancellations that can force make-up games to be strung together up to five consecutive days, would make the proposed pitch-count rule difficult to comply with.

Rifle High baseball coach Troy Phillips noted in an email articles that showed an increased number of pitchers in the Major Leagues who have had Tommy John Surgery, which coincides with the pitch-count limitations teams put on their players. One article Phillips noted from The Bleacher Report stated that while percentage of 110-pitch starts dropped to 13 percent in 2012, the number of Tommy John Surgeries among pitchers peaked at 47. That’s up from six pitchers in 1997, when 24 percent of all starters threw at least 110 pitches in an outing.

“In 20 years of coaching, we have only had one major arm injury, and that wasn’t from too much pitching,” Phillips said. “It was more of a conditioning issue.”

For the enrollment issue CHSAA will tackle today, the association is proposing to change the number of students required for classifications in an effort to bring an equal number of teams — 42 — to each classification. The new numbers, however, could potentially make Rifle and Glenwood Springs among the smaller schools in Class 3A football while potentially moving Grand Valley from Class 3A to Class 2A. Changes would go into effect in time for the 2016-17 academic year.

For the transfer issue, the proposed amendment would prevent students making athletically motivated transfers to other CHSAA sanctioned schools. Though there are exceptions, the proposal would prevent a student from playing a varsity sport they’d previously participated in for a full calendar year if it is found that a student was athletically motivated in making the move. The proposal aims to discourage athletes, whose families have the necessary resources to move, from jumping to more successful programs.

All of the proposed moves can be found at http://www.chsaanow.com.


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