Changes coming to old school rules

Pitching limits are coming to the tradition-bound world of high school baseball.

On Friday, a panel researching measures to prevent pitching injuries decided to include defined limits on pitcher usage for Japan’s prestigious national tournaments. The panel will consider specific numbers for mandated rest and maximum pitches when it next convenes in September.

The panel concluded that hard limits were needed upon reviewing research data on youth baseball players presented by Dr. Takashi Masatomi, an orthopaedic surgeon employed by the National High School Baseball Federation’s medical committee.

“The doctor’s evidence was clear,” said the panel’s chairman Keio University professor Takanobu Nakajima said. “No opinions were expressed in opposition to placing limits on how many pitches can be thrown within a specific time period.”

“The schedule for the end of the tournament will become tight, but the talk was that restrictions are probably necessary.”

The panel will convene four times by early November and present its findings to the national federation’s board of directors at the end of that month.

The unlimited use of pitchers that saw Kanaashi Nogyo High School pitcher Kosei Yoshida throw 881 pitches at last summer’s national finals. The pitcher was gassed in the final, when he pitched for the fourth time in five days and got hammered.

For years, the national federation has done nothing but take baby steps toward attacking this issue, and it remains to be seen whether anything but double talk will come out of high school baseball’s national body.

The panel was only formed this March, and was seen by reformers as little more than public relations measure after the national federation in February shot down a plan by Niigata Prefecture’s federation to test pitch limits in its spring tournament.

Satoru Komiyama, a former professional pitcher who is currently the manager of Waseda University’s baseball team is on the 13-member panel, as is Japan Softball Association Vice President Taeko Utsugi. The choice of Yokohama High School manager Motonori Watanabe discouraged reformers from thinking anything might come from the committee, as Watanabe has so far publicly denied there is any need to reform the high school baseball system.

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