State’s baseball coaches moving forward with pitch count rules

Wando coach Dirk Thomas is not sure he favors a pitch count system but does favor a mandated rest schedule between outings. Wade Spees/Staff

In a move precipitated by the National Federation of High Schools, the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association is moving forward with the implementation of new rules that protect high school pitchers.

The association met on Monday as part of the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association annual clinic at the Charleston Convention Center through Wednesday. Monday marked the initial steps toward a pitch count system which will take effect for the 2017 season.

The board of directors met Monday morning with South Carolina High School League assistant director Charlie Wentzky and began work on a proposal to submit to the league sometime in the early fall. The proposal must meet the approval of a medical committee before being presented to the SCHSL executive committee for final approval.

“We have to be proactive in this and find a workable solution or be faced with someone else making the decision for us,” said Tim Christy, incoming president of the baseball coaches association. “This is something that is going to happen for this coming season, so we need to work together and present something that we as an association can work with.”

The initial proposal in the early stages includes several levels of pitch counts to go with a coinciding mandatory rest phase. The committee is using a formula recommended by USA Baseball that has been endorsed by Dr. James Andrews, the nation’s leading surgeon for arm injuries.

In the early proposal, a pitcher throwing 30 pitches or less is eligible to pitch the next day. From 31 to 45 pitches, a pitcher must have one calendar day of rest, and a two-day minimum rest is required from 46-60 pitches.

Up to 75 pitches in one outing means a three-day rest, while 76 to 105 pitches in a game results in a four-day rest. A five-day rest period would be required for any pitcher throwing between 106 and 120 pitches with 120 pitches being the maximum number of pitches a pitcher can throw in one outing.

Most coaches feel finding a workable pitch count and rest period is an easier task than figuring out how the pitch counts will be kept at every game, as well as the penalty for violation of the rules.

“These types of things we need input on and we need to work on,” Christy told the association’s coaches. “It some respects, these smaller things are a little more difficult to iron out.”

Wando head baseball coach Dirk Thomas is not sure he favors a pitch count system but understands why most feel some sort of safeguard is put in place. He does favor a mandated rest schedule between outings.

“I don’t know that I am necessarily in favor of a pitch count, but sometimes coaches need people from the outside to help them make the right decision,” Thomas said. “Coaches get caught up in the heat of the moment. You want to win and the kid wants to win. The kid will always tell a coach he’s good to go for more. Sometimes you need an independent source to come in and mandate what you should do as a coach.”

Thomas says he can recall only one or two instances where he has let a pitcher throw more than 100 pitches in a game. However, he said he has coached against teams where a pitcher’s safety could have been in doubt due to a high pitch count or lack of rest.

“For the most part, coaches do a great job of protecting kids, but maybe we need something to ensure all coaches are protecting kids,” he said. “When a high school kid gets close to 90 or so pitches, we should be aware of his health and how he looks out there on the mound.”

Proposal for high school pitch counts for 2017

0-30 pitches — can pitch consecutive days

31-45 — one calendar day rest

46-60 — two calendar day rest

61-75 — three calendar day rest

76-105 — four calendar day rest

106-120 — five calendar day rest

Maximum of 120 pitches in any outing