Frank Thoughts. Mountains, Mounds and Mole Hills

Recently, I needed to consult with a local person in the business of selling products to rid property of ground moles. The solution, apply a product to the yard that will eradicate any source of food for the moles and they will move elsewhere.

Jefferson Weaver, resident mole expert for The News Reporter, says putting a hog in the yard is the best solution. If a hog isn’t a viable solution, try the “Death Clutch” mole trap. What do moles have to do with sports is a valid question. The answer is nothing. But moles do make hills and occasionally the hills are made into mountains in sports discussions.

The spring of 2017 saw the NCHSAA put a pitch-count rule in place for high school baseball. This new rule fostered much discussion about the way high school baseball would be played. In retrospect, the mountain of expected issues turned out to be a molehill.

Here is a summary of the penalties that would be imposed. Violation of the pitch count rule will result in the use of an ineligible player, which according to the Penalty Code is a $500 fine and forfeiture of the contest. Failure to enter post-game pitch count information into MaxPreps will result in a $100 fine for late school information or other required documents. Pitch counts must be entered into MaxPreps no later than 11:00 a.m. the day after each game.

The NCHSAA does not release forfeiture and fine information. Member schools could release that information, but are not required to do so. NCHSAA Assistant Commissioner James Alverson said, “the number was tremendously low, as coaches generally did follow the procedure that was asked of them and protected their athlete’s health and safety as we expected they would. I know as a result of our Sportsmanship protocol in baseball this year as well, our coaching ejection numbers were significantly down in that sport as well. So overall, I could say our baseball coaches did an outstanding job this year on the whole with following the new rules.” Personally, I kept up with the pitch counts of TRC teams and can say the numbers were not put in MaxPreps in the time frame required. In the NCHSAA’s defense, it would be a monumental task to monitor this stipulation on a daily basis.

All in all, the high school rule seemed to be of little consequence this season. Coaches do what they usually do, make the needed adjustments to the situation they face.

After covering Dixie Youth tournament play for several weeks, I learned that the pitch-count limitations for 11-12 year olds are LESS RESTRICTIVE than for an 18-year-old high school player. I have put several scenarios together and cannot come up with a way for a high school pitcher to exceed 225 pitches over a six-day period. The Dixie Youth tournament rules would allow a pitcher to accumulate 285 pitches over a six-day period. Although that scenario is unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Before any coach feels my weight on his/her toes, let me say that I am NOT ACCUSING any coach, who I observed, of placing winning above a player’s well being. The Dixie Youth tournament rules and tournament length (as many as six days), bring the number of pitching changes into the spotlight. As long as Dixie Youth pitchers in tournament play stay under 41 pitches he/she may pitch again the following day, and again the day after and the day after. A high school pitcher is not allowed to throw on three consecutive days, regardless of the number of pitches thrown. In Dixie Youth local league play, the maximum number of pitches without a day of rest is 30.

Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill about the time on the pitching mound, but it seems something is amiss. Shouldn’t we be more restrictive on our younger pitchers? Is it possible a preteen would be more likely to suffer an arm injury from throwing too many high-stress pitches? One of the positives that the high school rule is supposed to provide is more players will be given an opportunity to pitch. Shouldn’t the rules for younger players foster more chances for mound time?

I feel confident in Columbus County we have coaches at all levels who place a player’s health above personal or team glory. Unfortunately, we need rules to keep the few over zealous coaches, trying to vicariously experience the glory they missed as a youth, from the possibility of overusing a youngster.