AUGUSTA — The Maine Principals’ Association took the first steps toward establishing a pitch count for high school baseball games, when the sports medicine committee approached the topic at its meeting on Wednesday morning.

“We feel it’s best to ask the (medical) experts,” Nokomis Regional High School assistant principal Phil St. Onge, representing the MPA baseball committee, said.

Last month, the National Federation of State High School Athletics, which establishes playing rules across the country, announced states must limit pitchers via pitch counts, rather than innings pitched, beginning with the 2017 season. The federation left the pitch count number up to each state. The MPA baseball committee will meet on Oct. 18 to come up with a pitch count number, but first wanted input from the medical professionals on the sports medicine committee.

Dr. William Heinz, an orthopedist, is a liason to the sports medicine committee, as well as the chair of the National Federation of High School Associations medical board. Heinz said that while a pitch count can help limit arm injuries, nothing can prevent them.

“Because of the increase in shoulder and arm injuries, we felt a better way to control this is pitch counts,” Heinz said. “The reality is, there’s no magic number (of pitches).”

Heinz suggested a sliding scale for pitch counts, with varsity players allowed to throw more pitches than subvarsity players. St. Onge said how pitch count is monitored will be a big topic of discussion for the baseball committee. As a way to monitor pitch count, Heinz offered the example of Vermont, which already uses a pitch count limit in high school baseball. In Vermont, a varsity pitcher is limited to 120 pitches. The junior varsity limit is 110 pitches, while middle school pitchers are limited to 85 pitches in a game. Each team keeps track, and exhanges pitch count each inning. Vermont schools are required to report pitch counts to a central authority after each game, Heinz said.

Currently, Maine high school pitchers are required three days rest between games if they pitch more than three innings in a game. In Wednesday’s meeting, there was some discussion about requiring more rest days, depending on the number of pitches thrown. For example, a pitcher throwing more than 75 pitches would be required to rest four days before taking the mound again, while a pitchers throwing 50 pitches would rest three days.

Chris Sementelli, the program manager for MaineGeneral’s training staff, said perhaps the baseball committee should clearly define rest.

“If a kid catches the next game (after pitching) and throws back to the mound 130 times in the game, is that really rest?” Sementelli said.

MPA Assistant Executive Director Mike Burnham said at many of the state’s smaller schools, the team’s best catcher is often also the best pitcher. Adding another level of rest could make it difficult for some small schools to field a baseball team.

“I’m lucky if we have 10 kids (play baseball),” said Charles Brown, principal at Rangeley Lakes Regional School, whose enrollment was 65 students last year.

A new preseason policy should help high school coaches develop more pitchers. In the past, each team could have a week of throwing workouts with eight pitchers and two catchers before full team practices began. Now, teams will be allowed to have as many pitchers and catchers as wanted for those workouts.

“It’s really in (coaches) best interest to take care of that pitcher’s arm,” Heinz said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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