A team we played in a 12u tournament a couple of weeks ago had Kryptonite in their name. They must have thought our team was made of Supermen. That we were indestructible from a 5 oz pitched ball hurling at us at between 50-60 mph.
I want to be careful not to sound bitter, but as a youth coach, how many hitters does a pitcher have to hit until you realize he is out of control and more of a weapon than a pitcher. The pitcher who hit my son and broke his arm (ending his season on his second day) this weekend the opposing pitcher hit 7.
There seemed to be no remorse from team or coach (I don’t recall if anyone even took a knee or if anyone even came over to ask how he was). I have been in other leagues where if you hit 2 batters in an inning you have to be pulled, but in this tournament there was no such rule.
So how many is too many batters to hit? Everyone I asked seemed to agree 7 was too many but did not know when to draw the line.
Pat Rigsby, former college baseball coach and father of a 6 year old said:
One of the things that we must consider as coaches is when the development of one individual impairs the development of the group. Whether we’re talking about a pitcher hitting or even walking a number of batters, impairing the development of their own team or the hitting of batters limiting the development of opposing players – we need to think about about the good of the group as coaches.
Pat eloquently breaks this situation down to the two key points.
- This game, tournament, etc is about development. We need to keep our kids healthy and teach them what do if they are hitting batters and if they are going to get hit.
- We need to think about what is good for all players on the field. We are playing a game not in battle. We need to think about the character of the players we are developing and if we are teaching them proper sportsmanship.
In most cases, hit-by-pitches at the pro level are forgotten, even if they involve the head. Sometimes pitches get away and the batter gets hit. Truth be told, rarely does a pitcher want to hit a batter and give up a base. As we can see here, Joba Chamberlain is quick to apologize to Derek Jeter for hitting him by accident:
Another example we can use to teach is when Red Sox righty Steven Wright bought a Blue Jays player a gift after accidentally beaning him. These men are playing the game but it is their business. Let us not forget at the youth level these are kids we are dealing with.
Austin Wasserman, author of High Level Throwing shared:
I’ve been in games and have coached games in which an athlete has hit 2 batters in one inning and without a question, they’ve been taken out of the game as pitch count has either elevated and total work load appears to have intensified for that athlete, or there’s just a fatigue issue or just a flat out control issue.But in every case, the pitcher has gone over to the hitter or said something to them.. like “hey, sorry man, I didn’t mean it” etc.I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the same pitcher has hit more than 3 or 4 batters and that pitcher continues on. Walks yes, HBP, no. Especially if the athlete is throwing excessively hard with little to no idea of where any pitch will be going. Coach has to be better at recognizing that.
Need to get better at throwing. Period. Pitching is just specialized throwing. Target work in practice needs to be implemented by the coach.CoachesNeed to realize that control is a function over time. The more an athlete learns how to throw with better patterns, the transfer to mound is more applicable.Also they need to understand workload per inning in regards to the hit batters. If it was 1 batter every inning and just a random misthrow each time, based on his other throws, that is questionable as to what were the factors involved (fatigue, high pitch count per inning, high total pitch count).If he hit 2-3 batters in 1 inning and just continued like that… throws were all over the place, there is an underlying issue/patterning sequence error or arm pathway error that could be contributing and a COACH needs to recognize that.
I posted this to a private baseball coaches forum for their input into this article and some of the responses should be alarming.
One coach asked “Why does the other team need to “take a knee”? Sorry but getting hit is part of the game.” I responded “They don’t have to. It is courteous and sportsmanlike to show remorse. Especially when it was clear this was a break and not just a ball into the leg, butt or back.”
Luckily coaches like Joshua Moore responded “In little league, taking a knee when an opponent or teammate is hurt has always been kind of an unwritten rule! No it’s not mandatory but at this age it’s a nice gesture to show sportsmanship. I’m sure no one was intentionally throwing at players so take a knee and clap when the players get up to show that you’re glad the player is ok or able to walk off under their own power! I coach my players to take a knee when another player is hurt, teammate or opponent. Just seems like the right thing to do at this age! Now the big leagues, different story! We’ve all seen someone beamed on purpose.. lol.”
But other coaches chimed in saying it was “just stupid to take a knee”.
Coach Shane Stricker shared “It’s not always about winning/losing, it’s about life lessons and making gentlemen out of these youngsters. In today’s society there are more single parent families out there than ever before and sometimes good ethics aren’t taught at the home, so sometimes it’s not all about baseball that is be taught.”
Umpire Alex Long said “I’ve umpired three seasons, and if a kid hits the ground, so should the teams’ knees. Especially if the coach comes out to take a look at him.”
Travis Brown concluded the discussion:
“Hmmm tough one. This is a game of failures and sometimes having a kid work through his failure is a chance for them to grow or even lose confidence.
Unfortunately a perfect pitched ball broke your kids arm and hit it in the right spot. Could have been a foul ball hit off the catchers hand as a foul ball breaking the catchers hand.
As many safe guards as you can throw at it you can combat it as well. Elbow guards, arm guards, foot guards, turning into the pitch correctly. I think this is key and totally understanding at any moment and time a kid can get hurt badly in baseball or any sport.
Now does the wild pitch help? No, but was it an opportunity for the player/pitcher to learn and battle through adversity?”
In a recent article about baseball prodigy Theo Epstein, the baseball operations genius behind the breaking of the Red Sox World Series curse and well on his way to breaking the Chicago Cubs curse, they asked him about his formula for success.
“When deciding whether to add a player, Epstein focuses most of his attention on an athlete’s personal characteristics rather than just his physical abilities…
“Scouting the person more than the player…”
“In the draft room, we will always spend more than half the time talking about the person rather than the player,” Epstein said. “What are their backgrounds, their psyches, their habits, and what makes them tick?
If you are looking to develop ball players, I think you should be equally concerned that your kid’s coach is just as concerned with developing great people not just great players.
A pitcher who is hitting batter’s needs to work through it. That is part of his development. You certainly can and should have him throw bullpens while batters or stand in for batters are in there while he pitches.
My 11 year old son is not upset that he was hit. He understands that it is part of the game, an obstacle he will work through and come back with even more determination next season. Was he frustrated that his season is over, that he can’t play the game he loves anymore this year? Sure he is. Do I have a clear guideline for you? No! When I discussed this post with my son, I asked him what he would do if he was the pitcher. He said he would want to call the kid later and apologize, maybe get him some movie tickets or something so that he could do something else fun, since he couldn’t play baseball anymore.
So I leave you with three questions:
- How many batters does a pitcher have to hit before you pull them? What would you do to help your pitcher if he is having trouble and hitting batters?
- What do you have your team do or not do if they hit a batter and injured them seriously?
- What kind of coach do you want for your youth athlete?