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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Big League Dreams, Little League Arms

This past weekend, I paid a visit to our old stomping grounds, the Willow Glen Little League ball park, in order to watch our good friend's son (Michael) play. Michael hit well and pitched even better. In fact, he pitched better than any of the other players on his team, including one kid (let's call him Al) who, barring a major arm injury, will be a dominant force in high school and possibly college and beyond.

Al can throw the ball by just about anyone. Unfortunately, he (and from what I was told, his father, who is the team's manager) is under the impression that he needs an array of pitches in his arsenal: not only a fastball, but also a curveball, a change-up and possibly a slider. Who are they kidding? The only time the other team got a hit off of Al was when he threw one of his off-speed pitches (i.e., everything but his fastball) because they were the only pitches they could get around on. When I asked one of the other managers what the deal was, he said that they told their players to just wait for his curve ball (or change-up or slider) and smack it.  Sounded like a good strategy to me. (It certainly worked in the game I watched.)

A more interesting (and disturbing) question is why bother throwing all these pitches when you don't need them? My impression (and I could be wrong) is that his father has his sights (not necessarily his son's sights) on a big league career. The irony, of course, is that by having Al throw all these pitches (Al's Dad  calls all the pitches), he's increasing the risk that Al will have a serious injury to his arm (see "Unhealthy Competition / Young kids are training like professionals, and have the injuries to prove it"), which, of course, could end his career prematurely. Sounds like a bad strategy to me.

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