Sunday, May 23, 2004
Every player under count
By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer
When the Madeira Hurricanes host their annual gala of a youth baseball tournament next weekend, parent Keith Neu will be there watching the pitchers.
Not only does he keep track of the innings pitched by the kids in the game, but he is empowered by the host Hurricanes to tell any team's coach that they must remove their pitchers when they've had enough.
Tournament rules stipulate pitchers can throw only seven innings a day. If pitchers go seven innings, they can't pitch again until the fourth day. If pitchers go three innings in one day, they can pitch four the next. If they pitch four innings the first day, they must rest for 48 hours.
The Hurricanes count their own pitchers' pitches. They allow 70 pitches per game.
Neu has been known to go right up to the opposing coach, and tell them, "That's it; your pitcher has reached the limit, get him out of there." The coach must comply, said Jack Kuzniczci, coach of the Madeira Huricanes 12-year-olds and varsity baseball coach at Madeira High School.
Pitch counts are the best way to protect arms, but not everybody does it, and it's almost impossible to enforce. But it's serious business among coaches and parents who are serious about protecting the health of their young pitchers' arms.
And often it takes empowering somebody to enforce the rules to ensure young pitchers are protected.
Just ask Tim Kremchek, the Reds' team medical director and chief orthopedic surgeon.
Last year, he was watching the baseball game of his 9-year-old son, Teddy, and also paying attention to the pitch counts. He watched with increasing discomfort, and then shock, as the count for the opposing pitcher climbed over 100 ... then 110 ... and 120.
The pitchers on Teddy's team are not allowed to exceed 50 pitches.
"I went over to the coach and said, 'I would ask you to please stop him from pitching. He's young and he's thrown too many pitches,' " Kremchek said.
Kremchek is not bashful, but neither is he overbearing. He had to summon up some nerve to inject himself into this situation, because he knew some people might figure he was over-stepping his bounds to confront the opposing coach. And what did it get him?
A rebuke from some of the parents of the players on the team of the overworked pitcher.
"They were sitting in their lawn chairs and they yelled, 'Get out of there! You're on the other team. You just don't want to lose the game. He's pitching a great game! Let him keep going!' "
"It was like I wanted to take their pitcher out just so our team could beat 'em," Kremchek said. "It was amazing. I was shocked. I thought it took some guts for me to go over there. But I was the one who got kicked out, not the pitcher."
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