Breaking Balls in Little League

Yesterday I watched a Little League game (11-13yo I think?) and the the pitchers on both sides were throwing breaking balls and the coaches and parents were hooting and hollering over the movement of the pitches.

I didn’t start throwing curves until I was 17 and I’ve been lucky enough to never have an arm injury.

What do you guys think about throwing breaking balls at a young age?

It’s probably not a good idea, but the bigger problem is that kids are still playing baseball in November (because that leads to overuse injuries).

I think breaking balls are a symptom of a kid who’s playing too much baseball and who is heading for an overuse injury.

It’s probably not a good idea, but the bigger problem is that kids are still playing baseball in November (because that leads to overuse injuries).

I think breaking balls are a symptom of a kid who’s playing too much baseball and who is heading for an overuse injury.[/quote]Down here (in Palm Beach County) baseball is played by all ages year round. It’s funny that you said that considering I just moved here from Chicago and I couldn’t believe how seriously they take fall ball little league down here.

More people shown up for this game than for my AAA game on Sunday. :shock:

I have some clients in FL, so I know the culture well.

While this long-season to year-round ball does help some kids, I think it probably ruins more arms than it helps.

I agree with Chris on this one. The stress from overuse and throwing breaking balls is to much for a young arm. I am a 12yo pitcher who dreams of some day pitching in the majors. I try to take care of my arm. Todays game is not worth my future. I have never thrown a breaking ball and probably won’t for a few years. I throw a hard fastball and didn,t pick up a baseball much last month to give my arm a rest. :shock:

if thrown correctly, it shouldn’t harm you. but they hardly ever throw it right

I have a bit of a different take. IMO it’s the approach…I’ve coached LL in this state for better than 25 years and I’ve come up with an approach I feel is productive and healthy. First let me say that no pitch thrown correctly in my opinion is more or less damaging…I think National Little League has borne that out by the way you see them approach it…they limit pitches and not pitch types. I think if they had compelling evidence they’d ban a breaking pitch in a heartbeat…remember they are THE most conservative of all kid baseball associations and if there in their mind is a sliver of a chance of the association garnering liability (By erring against a kids arm health), they’ll get rid of it. That said…I believe I’ve seen the curve/slider thrown in terrible and injurious ways…spinning the arm like a top…ouch…but to me that is a training or lack of training issue and not per say the “fault” of the pitch…to the contrary…because so many adults are “afraid” for a kids arm…they don’t teach how to throw it properly at all…the down side is that it is then learned either kid to kid (Because they will…or many, will throw it…the temptation is huge…it works…heck they see other 12 yr olds throw it in the LL WS for heavens sake…it can’t be too bad…at least in the mind of an invinceble 12 yr old) or trial and error. I believe that a kid should be taught the pitch and taught responsibility…it’s another reason I think that the pitches should be called by the coach (At least at the younger ages). It doesn’t stop there…In my state, baseball can be played year round and it is up to a responsible parent to balance a kids life as well as his activities. My kid threw a curve at 12, he did it responsibly and he did it properly…BUT he also didn’t play 100 games a year…we played regular spring ball, All-Stars and Fall Ball…a total of maybe at most 30-40 games in a calender year with breaks interspaced in which he was able to rest…usually it went no ball in Jan. say til the end of Feb…then after AS which traditionally ends in July (Early August when we won the State Championship), no ball til fall ball which traditionally began in late Sept and ends in early Nov. In those 30-40 games he likely had at most 15-18 starts…in fall ball (We used it more as a fundementals camp atmosphere) he never threw more than 4 innings usually it was a 2-2-2 kinda deal…so even in our heaviest years he would throw 8-10 complete games with a ton of rest. He’s never been injured nor faced over-use as a problem and he’s a college freshman right now as a scholarship player and his teams #1…We incrementally increased his load over the years and now he’s got plenty of arm and throws cg’s nearly every start.
This approach I believe if adopted would lead to an overwhelming decrease in arm injury between 11 and 16…The problem is getting guys to believe that their kid can miss out on 100 game seasons with the highest level of competition without hurting future chances…I have seen travel squads that have no problem with letting a kid pitch complete games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (In the case of a double elimination tourney they can play 6-7 games in a weekend) and just keep doing it year on top of year…NOW add in throwing a higher percentage of breaking pitches because the skill level can hit most anyones heat…and…well the Andrews Clinic is in Alabama…so it’s just a short jaunt for the TJ surgury…they travel all year with little or no break…What does a resonable person expect the outcome will be?

It may not be politically correct and I may sound like a monster because of this wildly irresponsible view…but I know it works, I know it can be very successful.

i was a retard and started throwing a curve at 11. but i quit. so yeah i say not to throw until ur around 15 or when u start shaving. :slight_smile:

The question to me is much like the pitch count controversy in that a rule can not be enforced unless a chronological age can be affixed to a ban on the pitch. Yet evaluating the problem by age is using much too dull a tool to form an reasonable opinion. This is true not only for an organization but for a parent.

The concept I would rather apply is the relative physical maturity of the individual pitcher. This requires a parent willing to learn and apply his/her common sense and determine when his athlete is mature enough to handle the unique stress latent in different types of breaking balls. The knowledge and expertise of the parent has a huge effect on that variable as does the availability of pitching coaches that are qualified to develop a young pitcher.

The overuse issue is part of the totality of circumstances in that a young pitcher becomes more likely to suffer injury when fatigued, whether by high pitch count per inning, per game, per week or per season. The breaking ball requires a conscious effort to deviate from the fastball delivery and this conscious effort will be compromised as the pitcher becomes more and more fatigued.

So IMO a parent or coach with his eye on the pitcher’s mechanics, accuracy, velocity and other fatigue indicators can reduce the risk of injury and still permit the use of the breaking ball in youth pitchers. I think alot of parents and coaches allow youth pitchers to use the breaking ball for the wrong reason and fail to recognize their own limitations when it comes to the art and science of pitching.

I was not comfortable with my son throwing a breaking ball until age fifteen plus when I deemed him mature enough to handle the pitch properly and after he had developed the fastball and change up to some degree. I know he sacrificed some early success but he was a late bloomer so to speak, experiencing rapid growth spurts. Parents like JD are obviously able to manage the addition of the breaking ball at an earlier age.

I first threw my slider at 12, but it is one of the easiest pitches on the arm if thrown properly. Zita is with me when I say that you “roll the wrist, not snap it.” So it comes down to technique, like Navarro said.

I throw my curve/slider (ggrrr constantly changing) as a set it and forget it pitch. Literally, I get the grip in my glove, and throw a fastball. The pressure I put on the one side of the ball causes the ball to come out of my hand as a breaking ball.

I either get hard 12-6 break or Sabathia slider break depending on which arm slot.

With younger pitchers, just because a pitch doesnt hurt doesn’t mean it’s ok to throw it. There is a cumulative effect. I think the curve is safer than the slider because kids are less inclined to twist their arm. Even when a slider is taught correctly most kids don’t have the functional strength to maintain their hand position through release, and this creates more twisting. And even IF they throw it correctly, there is still supination into release which means pronation is happening later–this all adds up.

Also, many coaches at the youth level are not qualified to teach or limit use of a breaking ball. There are very few, if any, 11-14 year olds that can actually hit a breaking ball, so it’s very easy for a young pitcher and even a coach to fall in love with the pitch. That’s where the problems are.

:allgood: Great comments, Palo.

So what it appears like many are saying is that it is not liked. Ok these opinions are valid. What about the fact that at the highest levels the governing bodies of all of the associations for this age group promote it? What about the media which by sensationalizing it to earn ratings cause good, hard working kids to defy their parents (In some cases…) and start doing it anyway…I mean if your kid is going to be denied the opportunity to pitch in the LLWS because you refuse to allow them to throw a hook, that every single pitcher on every single team is throwing…A) Do you think the kid won’t defy you and B) Will he miss the opp because of it?
This is how I developed my opinion on it…at the very highest levels the pitch is unavoidable…my kid at 12 went into a state championship run…now do I make him not use it, use one he makes up or learns from little Johnny or do I teach him and control the use of it? And once the cat is out of the bag…what then…I was at every single game my kids played up until this summer…so I was able to supervise the usage…but what percentage of parent actually does that? I know it’s provocative but how can we not teach it and teach responsibility with it? No matter how much you may personally think that it’s not the way…just trying to really wrestle this to the ground here…Should we all crusade to eliminate it? Will that work? My personal opinion is that it’s a part of the game…as much as the stretch and pick off moves…If good folks teach it right and then attempt to control it with rational usage…well it’s better than having an uncontrolled “kid” underground learning process or in the hands of the unscrupulous coach out for ego assuaging…Does anyone who is against it on this thread dispute that it will be used within the age group? With that variable dealt with then our likes and dislikes kinda go to the wayside and arm health and maintenance becomes the issue…I think.

A couple thoughts :

  • Well known orthopedics take a strong stand against throwing curve balls at the LL level … ask Dr Kremcheck of the Reds his thoughts about the number of arms he has cut into.

  • Is there a benefit to the LL pitcher from throwing curveballs … does it have anything to do with future success ? ( mine was not allowed to throw a hook until 14 ).

  • If there is even the possibility that it can be damaging, why then risk it?

IMO …there is absolutely no reason for a 12 yr old to be allowed to throw curve balls … period. One can debate whether 13 , 14 or 15 is the right age … but why 12U ? Aside from the physical damage they might potentially encounter , if we are to develop sound pitchers for the future we need to discourage them from falling in love with junk pitches and learn how to throw the fastball ! It’s not about W / L’s … it’s about developing young pitchers with sound principles that will allow them to safely enjoy this great game for years to come.

While you may not be able to control how your competition approaches it at that level, as a coach you can control your staff. A few years back I was lucky enough to handle the pitchers on a team that went to the CRBR 12 yr old World Series, and we did it with a group of kids that were only allowed to throw fb’s and straight changes. We educated both the parents and players with the “Why?” and they were very supportive…seeing numerous kids in slings, from states to the ws, certainly helped . Btw, as a result of the success we demonstrated as being possible, legislation was passed in the local league we came out of banning breaking balls for 12U ( along with max pitch count / rest guidelines ).

Sorry for getting on my soapbox …

So Terp you suggest a grass roots program to eliminate it all together?
Is that how I’m interpreting your remarks? 8)
League by league? What if a league doesn’t buy in? Or if LL doesn’t and CRBR does…or any variation therein.
Please address my question in the previous post I’m really behind resolution but we need to have an answer.

I think the only thing that can be done is to educate. Most LL coaches are volunteers and since the arm health of young pitchers is an ever growing concern, every coach should be educated. They should have to learn the nuances of keeping pitchers healthy through proper warm up, throwing programs, breaking ball limits, etc. I didn’t even mention pitch counts because to me that is the easiest way out for LL. If the kids were properly prepared to pitch, then pitch counts would be less of an issue. Since they’re not prepared, pitch counts limits have to be implemented. Now I’m not against limiting pitches, but I think more needs to be done at the root of the problem.

After all coaches and parents are educated on proper arm health, it should be up to the parents to decide between short term success and long term expectations. If they want to win some big LL games with curve balls and possibly sacrifice the future, then that’s fine. It’s risk/reward like many things in life.

Implementing universal rules limiting breaking balls just doesn’t seem realistic. So many young kids throw natural cutters that turn into big slow “sliders”–and they’re trying to throw a fastball.

First off JD, I would trust you with my kid…I know you would do the right thing.

Having said that, I have seen the reality of what goes on in youth league games…coach needs to get through the top of the order one more time , Johnny stays in an inning longer than planned . Needs a big strikeout (s) , go to the hook. You know where I’m going … if you leave it to the coaches discretion, well, they won’t always make a decision that’s in the best interest of the kid ( I know I know…there are good coaches out there ) . Btw, most times the parents won’t either …

You may not change the approach of a league, an organization, or even a team … but if you start with one young pitcher, there’s no telling how many you will eventually influence.

It can be done … I now know that for a fact.

[quote=“terprhp”]First off JD, I would trust you with my kid…I know you would do the right thing.

JD, I would trust you with my kid, too. O wait, nevermind… :lol: :roll:

Implementing universal rules limiting breaking balls just doesn’t seem realistic. So many young kids throw natural cutters that turn into big slow “sliders”–and they’re trying to throw a fastball.[/quote]

I never said it was an easy process … only that I have seen it done successfully. It’s all about priorities brotha …