My greatest fear for a twelve-year old pitcher came to fruition last night. Who watched the Minnesota/Louisiana? The pitcher for Minnesota was doing what I have harped about for decades about young pitchers throwing junk. I believe his name is Law. He threw a curve ball and you could see by the grimace on his face, that his arm/elbow just crapped out. Well done coach Well done. It doesn’t help when the ESPN gurus, included David Ross, who I’m starting to waiver on as an announcer, hail the massive breaking balls and slider these kids are throwing. It’s not their kid out their throwing the dice on the mound. And then when it happens, they are speechless, as they should be. If the kids stick with fastballs and the occasional change-up this wouldn’t be happening. But no, they don’t want that. They want the that piece of plastic or bronze on the mantle that will only start collecting dust after ten years.
I know what it’s like to feel the pain of the pitcher. When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with tendonitis. It was so severe, I couldn’t hold a baseball for two weeks. Eventually it healed and I went back to the mound. But did it really heal. Six years later I would be reminded it hadn’t. I decided to try our for the OSU’s, Oklahoma State University, baseball team. I worked out all summer and found a good friend to catch for me. All summer long, no problems. Arm/elbow felt great. On the day of the tryout I hadn’t been warming up for more than five minutes and the pain I remembered at fourteen came back with vengeance. Needless to say, I was hammered on the mound. Hard to put anything on the ball when your elbow is on fire. Coach Ward wanted all the pitcher to come back in two days for another look. It would be two weeks, TWO WEEKS before the inflammation settled down. Nope, wasn’t able to go back.
Over the years, I was still able to play catch with my kids, pick-up games and softball, but the damage had been done and I paid the price. Had I been throwing junk at thirteen and fourteen? Yes. Did anyone ever tell me not to No. Why? That is the question.
Today, there is enough medical evidence out there that says, “Don’t’ do it.” And that is sound advice that shouldn’t be ignored. But it will be by most coaches thinking, “it won’t happen to my kid. I know how to teach him properly.” They say that right up to the moment they release a curve ball and you can hear a pop or watch the pitcher’s arm drop to his side while he grimaces in pain. Now what are you going to do? Tommy John surgery at 12? Rotator cuff operation? Elbow reconstruction? Yeah, all of those seem like wonderful options for a youth pitcher. I think not. It’s insanity and should not be tolerated.
One last point on this. I knew a kid in Tulsa who was drafted by the Phillies. His name was David Frammel. Top high school recruit for the majors. He’d thrown junk his whole life. Signed with the minors and in his first year, his arm blew out. You guessed it-Tommy John surgery. It didn’t take and he was in constant pain. He told me he was on the strongest narcotics of the day, in the early 90’s and was still in constant pain. He wished he’d never have thrown that junk growing up, but the damage was done. Is this how you want you kid to turn out? If you answered yes, you have no business coaching youth baseball!