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Little League adds catcher restriction

There will be a new wrinkle added to the Little League baseball pitching manual next season.

After a rule regarding pitch counts in regular-season games and tournament play was added for 2007, catching now enters the picture. A provision has been added that prohibits a player who has been removed from a game as a pitcher to play the position of catcher for the remainder of that day.

The organization, based in Williamsport, has acted on the recommendation of Dr. James R. Andrews and Glenn S. Felsig of the American Sports Medicine Institute. Andrews and Felsig found that catchers have the second-most injuries due to arm overuse and that moving a player from pitcher to catcher increases the potential for injuries.

The rule is for all levels of play, from minors to the Big League Division. A manager who just became accustomed to the pitch count rule this past season now must account for the possibility that a pitcher, even if he throws just one pitch, cannot get behind the plate.

“We conducted a survey reviewing the first year of the pitch counts, and the overwhelming majority of leagues support it,” said Chris Downs, media relations manager for Little League.

A possible first impression of the new provision is that it would hurt smaller leagues with fewer athletes.

But Downs begs to differ.

“The primary reason for this rule is to help the smaller leagues who might not be as tournament-driven as the larger leagues,” Downs said. “I think the small leagues embraced the idea so they can concentrate on letting players do different things instead of just standing out in right field playing their (mandated) minimum.”

District 26 Little League administrator Robert Bates, about to enter his 12th season at the helm, saw the change coming.

“It's just part of the continuing move to watch pitching arms,” said Bates, a Lower Burrell resident. “If you allow a pitcher to throw all those pitches, then you're putting him behind the plate to throw even more pitches, it's defeating the purpose of the pitching rule. You have a catcher who uses his arm to throw back to the pitcher every pitch, too.”

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