By STEVE KRAH
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association (IHSBCA) members have been surveyed on five proposals that have been passed on to the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA), which will then send them on to be considered to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) at its November executive committee meeting.
The first two proposals involve arm care, the third lengthening the season, the fourth adding summer baseball activity days and the fifth designating a person to track pitch counts during the state tournament series.
The IHSBCA’s proposed change to by-law 15-2.4 states: “During the School Year Out-of-Season, a student who participates in the Team Sport of baseball may throw a baseball as a part of a conditioning program (beginning M – WK26).”
“We definitely see throwing as part of conditioning,” says IHSBCA executive director Brian Abbott. “It’s hard to simulate throwing in baseball without a baseball.
“Our membership supports our proposals.”
According to the IHSBCA, which has been working with IHSAA assistant commissioner for baseball Robert Faulkens (who says he will have to see the IHSBCA findings before he comments publicly on the proposals), the rationale for the proposal is that “throwing a baseball generally involves a 15 to 20-minute session with a baseball so it is not a huge time commitment. The flexibility of the conditioning program is needed due to the fact a player needs to throw on multiple days.”
The IHSBCA has been a strong advocate for an arm care program since the pitch count limitations (1 to 35 pitches requires 0 days rest; 36 to 60 requires 1 day; 61 to 80 requires 2 days; 81 to 100 requires 3 days; and 101 to 120 requires 4 days) were put in place.
In appealing to its members, the IHSBCA says “preferably, this arm care proposal can be started immediately in preparation for the upcoming 2020 season. Track runners train their legs as a part of conditioning, the arm has to be conditioned in a similar fashion. In order to train the arm, just as the legs, a plan of progression and consistency is imperative for overall health of these muscle groups.
“As it currently reads, Indiana high school baseball players are allowed to throw a baseball two times per week preceding the beginning of the season. At which time these players are now allowed, and almost have to be in order to be ready for the season, to throw six times per week. The progression of going from two days to six days without a proper build up in between is not a healthy progression for an arm.
“This stage of arm care will NOT include bullpens. We are looking to train and prepare the arm
as a track runner trains and prepares their legs.
“Bullpens and competitive bullpens will only take place during the participation portion of the Limited Contact sessions currently allowed by the IHSAA.
“By allowing arm care to be a part of conditioning there are no additional times, dates, etc. … to supervise. The only supervision for school administration is during the Limited Contact sessions.”
For by-law 15-2.5, this is the changed being proposed by the IHSBCA: “Beginning on M – WK33 and continuing to M – WK37 (official practice starting date), the Team Sport of baseball will be allowed 1 additional day per week (2-hour max.) for the specific purpose of throwing bullpens … bullpens are defined as a pitcher, catcher, and the use of a pitching mound (s). No other baseball activities will be performed during this additional 1 day/week time period.”
Abbott notes that schools with a large number of pitchers will have difficulty in getting in all the pitches and have any time left over for other training.
“Some schools have 60 to 70 kids trying out,” says Abbott. “It takes a lot of their time. That’s all you get done for two hours.
“We next extra time. Proposal No. 2 adds another dimension with more opportunities for pre-season bullpens.
“In my mind, (the arm care proposals) are needed, but we’re only one piece of the puzzle.”
In getting pitchers ready for the season, coaches generally like to work up to at least 60 pitches by opening day and this tends to start with about 15 pitches on Week 1, 30 on Week 2 and so on.
Abbott says while the IHSAA will consider proposals in November, action is not expected until it meets in May after the IHSBCA is allowed to formally present its proposals, meaning changes would go into effect in 2020-21.
Though the IHSBCA would like to speed up that timetable for arm care.
“Pitch count was put in immediately because it was agreed upon by all parties,” says Abbott. “We would love arm care to go in place after Christmas, but we have no control over that.”
The IHSBCA requests that the length of the baseball season be extended by one week.
Abbott says that in the fall of 2018, Goshen High School athletic director and IIAAA Proposals chairman Larry Kissinger asked the IHSBCA and Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association (which covers softball) to consider options for length of season and games played.
Kissinger shared that 77 percent of coaches did not want a reduction in games. The IHSBCA has been working with the IIAAA on options. One way to continue to play 28 games of 26 games plus a tournament was by adding another week to the season.
Abbott notes that the softball season is 11 weeks and baseball is shorter. Spring breaks — in some districts two weeks long and some systems imposing mandatory time off — are cutting the compacted season. This does not happen with football in the fall or basketball in the winter.
In discussions with Randy Lewandowski, president and general manager of the Indianapolis Indians, Abbott learned that the minor league team prefers having the tournament off Father’s Day weekend as those are lucrative dates for the club at Victory Field.
The proposed timetable (with length of each season to the start of sectional play:
Current Season Length:
Football (1A-4A): 11 weeks plus 4 days.
Football (5A-6A): 12 weeks plus 4 days.
Boys Basketball: 16 weeks plus 1 day.
Softball: 11 weeks.
Baseball: 10 weeks plus 1 or 2 days (depending on sectional start date).
Proposed Season Length:
Baseball: 11 weeks (sectional tournament starts on Memorial Day and concludes the following Saturday; the 4-week tourney finishes the weekend after Father’s Day).
In 2021, Memorial Day is May 31, Father’s Day June 20 so that would make June 25-26 the dates for the State Finals.
In 2022, Memorial Day is May 30, Father’s Day June 19 and the proposed State Finals dates June 24-25.
For 2023, those dates are May 29, June 18 and June 23-24.
For 2024, they are May 27, June 16 and June 21-22.
IHSBCA’s fourth proposal states: “A School, and players from the School’s baseball program, may participate in Baseball Activities under the following standards:
“a. Schools may sponsor up to Ten (10) Baseball Activity Days (a day when a School’s baseball coaching staff coaches Two (2) or more players from the School’s baseball team engaged in Baseball Activities) during the Summer.
“b. A School’s Baseball Activity Days may include up to Four (4) Baseball Competition Days (a day when a School’s baseball coaching staff takes Two (2) or more players from a School’s baseball team to either Practice with or compete against One (1) or more players from another School or program).
“c. Prior to the first day of Summer, a School’s baseball coaching staff must designate to the School’s athletic director or the principal the specific Baseball Activity Days and the Baseball Competition Days in which the baseball program plans to participate.”
The IHSBCA’s rationale: “The IHSAA is asking all coaches associations to submit guidelines for summer participation.
“In most cases, travel baseball and non-school leagues dominate the summer environment for our sport; however, in the cases where the high school coach(es) is/are still running an in-house summer program these guidelines will serve as a basis for participation.”
In its fifth proposal, the IHSBCA makes this request: “that each tournament host site (sectional through State Finals) have a person designed to track the pitch count for both teams in each scheduled contest.
“This position will keep written or digital records and communicate with the coaches and umpires each inning to confirm pitch counts for both teams.
“This position will also mandate (through the No. 1 umpire/crew chief) the removal of a pitcher once their pitch count limit has been exhausted.
“The head coach will certify the availability of each pitcher prior to the start of each tournament level; records will be kept throughout the tournament to track pitch counts; ensure proper rest is observed; and, at no time, allow an ineligible pitcher to enter the game or remain in the game.
“These records will be available to member school head coaches, athletic directors, principals, and IHSAA personnel upon request.”
Note: Indiana’s American Legion state tournament has had a person assigned to pitch counts for years. The total is posted in the press box window at the end of each inning.
The IHSAA pitch count rule has meant that teams have had to develop more pitchers and share the load.
Steve Stutsman, veteran head coach at Elkhart Central High School, says the Top 10 pitchers in school history have more than 100 innings per season and the leaders 85 was the norm for the leaders a decade ago.
“Weather is also a consideration,” says Stutsman. “It’s long been a rule at Central that pitchers have to wear long sleeves until it’s 70 degrees.”
Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association (IHSBCA) members have been surveyed on five proposals that have been passed on to the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA), which will then send them on to be considered to the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) at its November executive committee meeting. (Steve Krah Photo)