Imagine a high school game between two crosstown rivals. Imagine it's an important game for both teams. Imagine both pitchers going the distance and throwing a lot of pitches. 501 of thems to be exact.
Break out the ice and ibuprofen.
That's what happened last week in New Orleans when Metarie beat Archbishop Rummel in a 2-1 18-inning contest. Yes, they took Ernie Banks' advice and played two in the figurative sense of the word. Both teams threw their aces, Louisiana State signee Mitch Sewald started for Rummel, with Emerson Gibbs, a Tulane signee, tossing for Jesuit. The two young men combined for 347 of the pitches (or 68 percent) in the contest. Sewald threw 10 innings with 10 strikeouts and 154 pitches, giving up one run on two hits, while Gibbs pitched 15 innings with 13 ks, accounting for 193 pitches.
But not all are happy with the decision that both coaches took to leave their hurlers in that long and Dr. James Andrews, America's lead orthopedic surgeuon, suggested that they exceeded the number of pitches that should have been thrown.
Both pitchers greatly exceeded the recommended 105 pitches for players aged 17-18 as set by Dr. James Andrews, the nation's leading orthopedic surgeon.
"I treat young athletes from the region every week," he said. Andrews is famously or infamously, known for his service to the stars as most every baseball player with an elbow or shoulder injury is recommended to see the surgeon. Andrews, who opened the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida, in 2007, has seen the increase in young arms with injuries. I treat young athletes from the region every week," he said in an interview with Rivals Sports.
The question remaines: How much is too much? Steve Frey, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and current pitching coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, said that those pitch counts are too risky to justify.
"It is outrageous. It's off the charts," he said. "I really don't know how to respond to those numbers."
Frey told Rivals Spprts that while he is not fundamentally opposed to triple-digit pitch counts, although he did not have a pitcher throw more than 100 pitches this season, he doesn't see the upside in the high totals.
"Not on our varsity squad this year. We had a JV kid throw just over 100," he said. "It isn't that I won't let them, especially late in the season when their arms are stronger, it just doesn't benefit the player in the long term to do that."
Taking into consideration the long-term effects and the strain on the arm of each pitcher, Frey disapproves.
"Those kids are headed to LSU and Tulane and even if they weren't, you have to consider what could happen to them in the future," he said. "It isn't right."
Following a controversial 181-pitch effort (in two games on the same day) by then soon-to-be MLB first-round draft pick Dylan Bundy, Andrews estimated he performed nearly 500 reconstructions a year.
"Just myself alone, on shoulders and elbows, probably 400 or 500 (a year)," he told the Tulsa World at the time. "In three weeks - the last two weeks of April and the first week of May - I did 36 Tommy John procedures. Most of them were high school kids. That's unbelievable. That's a major operation.
"We're seeing more of that type injury now in high school than we do in the pros and college." Much of that, Andrews said, was because of the increased pressure to win.
"The problem is, coaches get fired in high school just like they would at the college or pro level," he said. "High school coaches don't have the number of pitchers they need, so they feel pressure to (use pitchers in too many innings). A kid goes 160 pitches on Friday night and then on Saturday the coach asks him if he can come back for two innings."
Frey said that pressure to win may be the cause but it is not a justification. "It is important to win, I understand that," he said. "But you cannot put the health of these players second."
As a former professional player, Frey also said that the effect of this outing may not be known immediately, especially because young players are more reluctant to admit injury.
"It could be a week from now, it could be longer," he said. "The strain may have happened right now but these kids are young and they will pitch through little things. It is when those little things start to become big will be when they look back at this game.
"There is a lot of baseball left to be played. From the professional side of this, if those kids have that talent, why risk it?" The best recourse, according to Frey, is for the coach to be the adult in the situation and look out for the best interest of the kid. "They will be mad at you for taking them out, sure," he said. "But they will thank you later and that is what counts."
Attempts by the media to reach Jesuit coach Joey Latino and Rummel coach Nick Monica went unreturned.
someone was asleep at the wheel. Let's hope there are no long term effects on either of these kids.