Counting pitches

Naugatuck’s Steven Marinaro pitches April 13 versus Torrington at Naugatuck High School. The CIAC implemented a rule this year that mandates rest for high school baseball pitchers based on pitch count. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

A new CIAC rule dictating the amount of rest for high school baseball pitchers based on pitch count has raised some eyebrows.

“I think it’s a waste of time based on the practices that we’ve already had in place,” Naugatuck High head baseball coach Tom Deller said. “The well-being and safety of my ball players is my job, and there is no way I would put any of my players in jeopardy of being injured.”

According to a report on high school pitch count rules by state published in February by Baseball America, only two states that sanction baseball have no limit on pitches in one day — Massachusetts, which doesn’t follow the National High School Federation rules, and Connecticut.

The rule regarding rest in Connecticut was implemented this season. It mandates one day of rest after a pitcher throws between 26 and 50 pitches, two days of rest after throwing 51 to 75 pitches, three days of rest after throwing 76 to 110 pitches, and a pitcher who throws over 110 pitches must rest for five days.

The task of counting pitches falls on teams to police themselves — an in-house policing that could negate the rule’s intention should improprieties arise, especially when a team is in a do-or-die situation with the playoffs at stake.

“I don’t need a rule to tell me what’s in the best interest of my ball players,” Woodland head baseball coach Mike Kingsley said. “The guys coaching this game are guys of integrity. I don’t think there is a problem with teams keeping their own pitch counts. After all we have the kids’ best interest at heart.

“No coach is looking to hurt their kids. The CIAC created this rule to appease some complaints about last year’s state tournament. But the numbers of 50 pitches, or what have you, has really no significance or science behind it.”

In general, the rule was implemented for the safety and well-being of players. History shows that many of promising careers have fallen by the wayside because of a team’s desire to win at all cost.

In June of 2015, the National High School Federation held a symposium in which several topics were discussed, including the overuse of pitchers. In one report, Dr. Brandon Erickson looked at nearly 800 patients who had undergone ulnar collateral ligament reconstructive surgery (Tommy John surgery) from 2007 to 2011 and 56.8 percent were between the ages of 15 and 19, according to a Poughkeepsie Journal report.

Some local coaches have complained that the new rule limits their ability to manage their pitching staff. Others have called for a mercy rule in which the game is called after one team is up by a certain amount of runs at a given point in the game. The state used to have a mercy rule in place for high school baseball but did away with it following the 2001 spring season.

“If they want to make a rule that really makes sense, why not institute a mercy rule of 15 runs,” Deller said. “They are so adamant about too many pitches, what happens when the game gets out of hand and kids are forced to throw two more innings and maybe another 50 pitches when the game is already out of hand.”