July 21, 2016
WillCountyBaseball.org spent the last two days talking with four coaches and a parent of a highly recruited pitcher. The Philip Lawler State Summer Tournament is taking place and it was a good time to talk about pitch counts. Summer is a critical time for pitching injuries, and many kids will cross into a danger zone for innings pitched.
We caught up to Hall of Fame coaches Terry Ayers from St. Charles North and Phil Bodine from Plainfield South at the Lawler State Tournament. Naperville Central’s Mike Stock talked about the new rules and how they will affect a program that has won multiple state championships. We talked to Tim Marozas who is the father of heavily recruited senior Austin Marozas. And we also talked to Kelly Ash, father of Plainfield South’s Connor Ash, and head coach for Austin Marozas’ 18U team the Illinois Hawks.
WCB.org conducted a series of interviews which you can listen to below.
St. Charles North played Plainfield South out at Benedictine on Tuesday and Plainfield South moved on to play Naperville Central at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg in Wednesday’s Semifinal. South beat Central 6-3. Tonight the Summer State Final takes place between Plainfield South and Brother Rice in Schaumburg at 7:00.
Back on July 12 the National Federation of High Schools (the NFHS) established a new pitch count mandate for Association members. The debate is over. Pitch counts will be a new reality for Illinois high school coaches and players. As of early July Alabama, Colorado, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Kansas had established pitch count regulations. Now every state has to draw up pitch count rules. The NFHS rule states:
“Each NFHS member state association will be required to develop its own pitching restriction policy based on the number of pitches thrown during a game to afford pitchers a required rest period between pitching appearances.”
Illinois has been hashing out its own version of the rule. WillCountyBaseball.org talked to several influential players in the discussion back in June with this long feature: “IHSA pitch count debate heats up with summer temperatures.”
Dr. Preston Wolin is an orthopedic surgeon and member of the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. He is also a coach. He is a major supporter of a pitch count rule, but he sympathizes with the tough decisions that will face his fellow coaches. He realizes that the vast majority of baseball programs in Illinois are doing things the right way.
Paul Belo is head coach at Palatine and president of The Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association. Belo understands the concerns about pitch counts. But he, like many coaches in the area, is concerned about how the IHSA will write the rule and how it will be enforced. There are myriad factors to consider.
Both Dr. Wolin and Belo, along with 25-year Lockport trainer Joe Cunnane, commented extensively for our June article. WCB.org strongly encourages readers to listen to their interviews.
Terry Ayers is a 50-year coaching veteran and Hall of Famer. He is now pitching coach at St. Charles North. Ayers is a strong proponent of a pitch count rule, and he has established an interesting formula for pitchers’ rest times that his team uses. He thinks that for every pitch a kid throws he should get an hour of rest. In other words: 105 pitches equals 105 hours of rest. The math is actually in line with Pitchsmart guidelines.
Coach Ayers’ interview:
“Fatigue enters into the formula. Therefore, I think when you get – especially high school players that are maturing physically – when you get up to 100 pitches, 105 is Pitchsmart guidelines. I think that’s plenty of pitches for a pitcher. It’s just something that needs to be done. It’s different. We’ve got too many kids hurt. If you’re really concerned about the safety and health of kids we’ve got to quit hurting kids.”
Phil Bodine is head coach at Plainfield South. He is another Hall of Fame coach and a former pitcher at University of Illinois at Chicago. His young protégé, Austin Marozas, was one of the most heavily recruited pitchers in the country. Austin is a senor this year and has committed to SEC powerhouse Mississippi State. Bodine supports the pitch count rule; but like most coaches, he has some concerns about how a rule might be legislated. He understands the need to protect young pitchers and he knows things are going to change.
Coach Bodine’s interview:
“Now what you’re going to have to do when you’re calling pitches on 0-2, 1-2. You’re going to have to go after people. Because you’re not going to be able to waste pitches, or throw that high fastball in his eyes. You’re just going to have to go after people. And that’s OK, but you’re really going to have to change the way you call pitches.”
Mike Stock is head coach at Naperville Central. Central is a perennial playoff power that has won two state championships. Stock isn’t overly concerned about a pitch count rule. He is comfortable with how his program and neighboring programs are handling pitchers. He has no problem with a pitch count rule, but like Bodine and so many other coaches, he thinks the IHSA should be careful with how it’s written.
Coach Stock’s interview:
“Honestly, I’m not hitting the panic button with this (pitch count rule). I’m a dad. I’m a coach. And you watch it and I think that the good programs they’re already there. And those are the overwhelming ones we’re fortunate enough to play, and we choose to play. You hear some of these horror stories around baseball, and they really are horrible what you’re hearing. And if this (pitch count rule) is going to negate that then I’m all for it. At the same time I don’t want anything put in place that can’t be enforced.”
All three high school coaches – Ayers, Bodine, and Stock – were extremely complimentary about the IHSA’s direct consultation with coaches regarding a new pitch count rule.
Kelly Ash is the father of Plainfield South pitcher Connor Ash and head coach for the Illinois Hawks’ 18U team that Connor and Austin Marozas play for. Connor throws a lot of innings for Plainfield South and Kelly is in constant contact with Coach Bodine regarding the innings and pitch counts of both players. They are done after the summer state tournament.
Interview with Tim Marozas (father of Austin Marozas) and Kelly Ash, 18U coach for Austin and his son Connor Ash:
“We’re actually shutting Austin down and Connor down for the rest of the season because they’re right around 100 innings pitched – both of them. So I talked to Phil Bodine, coach of South, and we both agree that shutting the boys down at this point would be better for them to keep them healthy. Then they will take the entire month of August off. And then, starting on September 1, all the boys will go into a throwing program.”
Tim Marozas is the father of Austin. The Marozas family has benefited from the professional care that Coaches Bodine and Ash have provided. Austin is 6’7” and 230 pounds. He has always been a pitcher. WBC.org asked Tim if he follows pitch counts.
“If I don’t my wife does. But ultimately, he (Austin) has been blessed with some great coaches. His whole baseball career he has been blessed with great teammates. I’ve got nothing to complain about – anything. They care about him. And they know where he’s going with it.”
The debate about whether or not a pitch count rule will exist is over. 2017 will introduce a new era to baseball across the country. It should be fascinating to see how states develop and implement new pitch count rules. Many travel tournaments have already adopted stringent pitch counts. Two things are certain. 1) High school players will be protected from ambitious or careless coaches. 2) Many more kids are going to learn how to pitch and experience a unique athletic thrill.
*Feature photo from Plainfield South’s loss to Providence at Illinois Stadium in Champaign during the 2016 IHSA State Tournament.