Managing travel ball


#1

I’m taking this to a different place than blaming travel baseball all for major leaguers tearing their UCL’s, don’t worry. Kids 10-15 years old, play 6 tournaments in a 2 month span all over the country. My brother for example has a 3 day tournament next weekend. Many tournaments have inning limits. Our state tournament in Michigan has a innings limit of 8. I think a pitch limit would be better though, because 2 years ago my brother threw 118 pitches in a semi and into a final game.

But, when you have kids playing 5, 6, maybe 7 games in a 60 hour period, pitching multiple times, how do you manage recovery in these situations? It’s like an extreme version of a reliever in pro ball. Arm care wise, how does one recover in a weekend tournament?


#2

In tournaments like you are mentioning, I recommend limiting long single innings. If I have a pitcher throw a long single inning, I’ll try to take him out early so I can have him for the next game or the next day. Nothing multiplies fatigue and risk of injury like a long inning…especially if your offense goes down 1-2-3 during the next at bat. You may want to talk to the first two batter for the next inning and tell them to do what they can to work the count and give Ol’ Chuck a rest.
This 30-40 pitch inning should be a huge warning sign for you that it’s time to pull your pitcher when you are in a tournament situation where you have tons of games stacked on top of each other. Another sign that it might be time to pull the plug is consecutive 25 pitch innings with minimal rest between innings as mentioned above. Some days we would play 3 games. You can’t let one of your top pitchers struggle, even if you think he’ll settle down. Every pitch he throws after that long inning has a greater fatigue factor than if he had never had the long inning.
I don’t recommend this strategy under normal circumstances, but it has tremendous benefit in a compressed schedule weekend tournament.
Another thing you can do, even if your pitcher is cruising–provided you have a lead you can work with. Put him into the outfield for the next to last inning then keep him there if things go well for the reliever…or you can put him back in to close his own game if the relievers start to give it up.


#3

The number one thing to me would be to not care so much about winning. In other words, carry more guys on the roster or set rotations before the tourney starts and stick with them. The problem well organized teams run into is a guy really struggling and having a 35 pitch inning…they projected him to get 5 innings and he is out of gas after 3. Most teams are not well organized.
The problem with carrying larger rosters is parents and player will complain about paying money and traveling and not playing. So, you have a team full of parents and players who don’t want to not be in games and coaches wanting to win above nearly all else and 72 innings in 2 or 3 days. Bad mix.
Add in the fact that some teams in warm weather states play year round and will play 3 or 4 weekends a month and its crazy. Great for hitters, not so much for pitchers.
As for recovery…it depends. But, having seen multiple times where kids have pitched more than once in a day, pitched and then moved to catcher etc it doesn’t seem recovery is on the mind of many travel coaches. The kid/parent has to take the lead in this.
My biggest pet peeve is a kid that is playing the outfield or sitting the bench getting called in because the pitcher suddenly falls apart. He gets 8 warm up pitches and thats it. To me, this comes down to the roster being too small and or the coach being totally thoughtless.
The travel team my son plays for has a pretty disciplined approach to things. They will always have 1-2 pitchers in the pen. After the 2nd or 3 rd inning, no matter how well the starter is doing, they start getting loose. Bands, stretching and light catch. They number it 1, 2, 3. “Guys, get to a 1”…or…“Pen, 2”. One is light warm up. Two is harder throwing and slower paced warm up on the mound. Three is get hot cause you’re coming in soon. The advantage here is if the pitcher that is in starts to scuffle badly he is not out there long throwing extra pitches. Also, the pitchers in the pen have had at least a full inning to get loose and warmed up. When one pitcher comes in, another takes his spot in the pen. So, they are organized. They have their pen schedule for the games laid out, righties, lefties, pitch counts, things to work on ect.


#4

This is an excellent point. It’s best to limit arm use the same day of a pitching performance.

This is huge to saving the arm. A pitcher needs to properly warm up. Keep your first reliever on the bench (if you can) or make a mid-inning substitution for that player to get him onto the bench during your first mound visit (provided the tournament rules allow for “free substitution”…many do.). This move allows him a few extra tosses in emergency situations and often makes a difference in his initial effectiveness and efficiency once he enters the game.

If there is any indication that the next inning may be the current pitcher’s last, get someone loose during your team’s at bat, even if that player is going onto the field defensively, he can better manage getting fully prepared on just 8 tosses.


#5

When I was coaching, we didn’t carry a huge roster but we developed a lot of pitchers and we required every player to give at least an inning or two on the mound if needed. In 2-day tournaments, players who pitched one day did not pitch the other day. In 3-day tournaments, players we planned to pitch the 3rd day might pitch a limited amount the first day. If we somehow ran out of arms on the third day, we’d pitch by committee with each player pitching one inning.


#6

Younger ages had limits in our experience. Limits on innings per tournament & generally rest time required if more than a 3 inning outing. My son stayed with team for 4 years, coach’s did a great job (IMO) taking care of pitchers. Generally had pool pitchers, early bracket pitchers, & further in the bracket pitchers. Most tournaments were 2-3 days, pool pitchers would go as far as possible & would occasionally finish a game. Bracket pitchers were generally brought in for relief working 1-2 innings. Worked out great and provided a good warm up for the kids expected to pitch a day or two later. Coaches kept pitch counts and were quick to pull in a rough inning or after total count got around 90. Sometimes things didnt go well & bracket pitchers were burned in an attempt to seed higher or make the cut. Going forward to present day playing showcases many don’t have limits. My son is 16 now playing 17U & playing for a new team. Pitched complete game (7 inning) today (Friday) & coach told him he’d be used Sunday in relief because he only threw 85 pitches. Its not going to happen because I will veto the move. I applaud your efforts as well as our past coaches to look out for the well being of the kids. Not all coaches seem too concerned.