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Don't Let Your Catcher Play School Ball & Travel At The Same Time

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  • Don't Let Your Catcher Play School Ball & Travel At The Same Time

    This is a real life cautionary tale for the parents of teenage catchers.

    This past spring, my 14U catcher son played 31 games over a 10 week period – playing on his middle school team and travel team at the same time. On top of this, he probably had around 15 middle school practices in addition to all the games. But, based on games alone, this works out to “about one game every other day on average” for 70 straight days. And, my guess is that he caught around 65% of those 31 games.

    By mid-June, you could tell that his throwing arm was hurting.

    He did have a brief two week break at the end of June. But, in July, things got crazy again – another 13 games over a three week span coupled with 8 practices with his soon to be High School team. And, at the end of July he had to shut it down completely and was diagnosed by an orthopedist as having rotator cuff tendonitis.

    He's now 7 weeks into “rest” and has been doing physical therapy for about the last 3 weeks. At this point, he’s just starting to feel better – although he has work ahead of him in terms of a return to throwing program.

    In retrospect, there’s no doubt in my mind that playing school ball (12 games and about 15 practices) and playing travel ball (19 games) at the same time, over a ten week period, was a mistake. And, that was the root cause for his injury.

    Maybe that works if your son is a first basemen or a right fielder? But, for a catcher, it’s too many throws over a relatively short period of time.

    People do protect pitchers from overuse. But, the same consideration is not always given to catchers.

    Since he is a teenager and I am the parent, I shoulder (no pun intended!) some of the blame here. I could have said no to some of those travel games. Or, I could have said “He’ll play – but, he can’t catch.” Not having the sense to do that is on me.

    In any event, I’m sharing this here now with the hope that our mistake helps others in the future. If your son is a catcher and he plays on the school team, don’t play travel – or at least don’t play a lot of travel – at the same time.
    Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

  • #2
    No one should be playing middle school ball and travel at the same time. It doesn’t allow for any down/rest time. Play school then travel. I was concerned we had a slight overlap in middle school.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Francis7 View Post
      This is a real life cautionary tale for the parents of teenage catchers...People do protect pitchers from overuse. But, the same consideration is not always given to catchers...
      As the dad of a high school catcher, I totally agree. In my kids situation, there are two full-time catchers and one other kid that sees limited action. What is often overlooked is the amount of work done in the bullpens. His high school team had 10 kids that saw action as pitchers. That means that every one of these kids throws multiple bullpens during the week. The workload on catchers during these bullpens is much higher than what the pitchers. Besides the workload on the arm, their knees, thighs, and backs are stressed with every pitch, and their bodies are beat up with blocking balls. You've got to really want it to be a catcher once the velocity jumps into the 80s. Throwing yourself down in front of a pitch to stop a base runner from advancing take some real guts.
      Put your junk in your pocket!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JettSixty View Post
        No one should be playing middle school ball and travel at the same time. It doesn’t allow for any down/rest time. Play school then travel. I was concerned we had a slight overlap in middle school.
        Our MS team had 19 players this spring - twelve 8th graders and seven 7th graders. There was not one kid on the team who was not playing travel at the same time as playing on the MS team - although there was only maybe two kids who were playing as much travel ball as my son. The rest of them played probably around half the amount of travel games this spring as my son. (The difference was that he was on two tournament teams and the other kids all played in the one game a week local travel league.) That said, there were probably around 8 kids on the team who were playing school ball, travel ball AND rec (Little League) at the same time. But, none of them were catchers.

        There's another thing here. School team had 19 kids - twelve 8th graders and seven 7th graders.

        Four of the twelve 8th graders almost never got into a game. And, if they got into a game, it was maybe an inning here or there in a blow out. And, five of the seven 7th graders hardly ever played as well. Those 9 kids basically where there for the team picture and the year-end pizza party. So, it was probably very safe for them to play travel and/or rec at the same time because they were just collecting splinters on the school team.

        My son was one of four catchers on the team. Two of the four were catchers because they owned catchers gear. But, they were defensive liabilities - really big ones - behind the plate and only appeared in one or two games each, for the last inning of a huge blowout game. The other catcher (besides my son) caught maybe 3 games and my son caught all the rest.

        That was the "problem." My son carried most of the load of catching for the team. Maybe things would have different for him if he didn't catch as much on the school team? Again, there are no rules or focus on catchers usage...like there are in most places for pitchers.
        Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

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        • #5
          i dont understand travel leagues/coaches/etc that operate during school. obviously that is a terrible idea.

          around here typically travel teams start working together inside in january and 13u+ shuts down at school tryouts in march. teams may have workouts if there are enough kids not playing for school but otherwise it is school only until june 1st.

          as far as i know, there are zero tournaments or active leagues for 13u+ within 90 minutes of me until memorial day.

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          • #6
            Here, travel doesn't really start until the MS season is over. However, in my son's 7th grade MS year he played 12U rec which overlapped the MS season a week or two. He practiced a couple times but no rec games until MS was done.
            Ty Cobb-"Every great batter works on the theory that the pitcher is more afraid of him than he is of the pitcher."

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 2022dad View Post

              As the dad of a high school catcher, I totally agree. In my kids situation, there are two full-time catchers and one other kid that sees limited action. What is often overlooked is the amount of work done in the bullpens. His high school team had 10 kids that saw action as pitchers. That means that every one of these kids throws multiple bullpens during the week. The workload on catchers during these bullpens is much higher than what the pitchers. Besides the workload on the arm, their knees, thighs, and backs are stressed with every pitch, and their bodies are beat up with blocking balls. You've got to really want it to be a catcher once the velocity jumps into the 80s. Throwing yourself down in front of a pitch to stop a base runner from advancing take some real guts.
              It's funny. A lot of other dads of catchers see my kid and I know they think "Crap, my kid isn't going to play." But, I am the exact opposite. I sincerely LOVE to see other solid catchers on my son's team. I don't want to see my son catching all the time. If we had a tournament and he only caught one or two games, I would be thrilled. That's really enough.

              I think a team should have one good catcher for every three or four good pitchers on a team. Spread the work around and give a kid a break. But, good catchers and/or kids who are willing to catch, are a comodity and hard to find. Usually, we find ourselves lucky if there's one other good catcher on the team. And, even then, the work is not usually spread out equal.

              My son had a tournament in early June. It was him and another catcher on the roster. And, they were alternating games in pool play. It was good, to me. Then we get into tournament play. My son starts the first game. The other kid catches the second. We make the semi's. My son is catching and we win to make the championship. The game is literally 15 minutes after the end of the semi's game. My son pops over to me and says that he's catching the championship game. I said "Isn't it the other kid's turn?" And, my son says "I thought the same thing. When the coach told me I was catching, I asked 'What about the other kid?' and he told me there was no way he wasn't having his best catcher catch in the championship game." Now, I get that...people want to win. But, again, no one is thinking "Geez, this kid must be gassed by now..."
              Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by abc123 View Post
                i dont understand travel leagues/coaches/etc that operate during school. obviously that is a terrible idea.

                around here typically travel teams start working together inside in january and 13u+ shuts down at school tryouts in march. teams may have workouts if there are enough kids not playing for school but otherwise it is school only until june 1st.

                as far as i know, there are zero tournaments or active leagues for 13u+ within 90 minutes of me until memorial day.
                They do that at HS age by me. If you're playing HS ball, and you're on a serious travel team, then your travel team is not playing until June when the school year is over. But, at MS age, the travel teams are all still playing. And, it's worse because the MS coaches can do whatever they want. We have pitch count rules in Little League and in High School - but, nothing for MS ball. I am 90% sure our MS coach doesn't even count pitches. Anyway, there really is a disconnect here. I have friends with kids who go to other schools and it's all the same, all over the place, kids are playing MS ball and travel at the same time.

                Bad for pitchers and catchers. Maybe not a big deal if you're a 1B or RF or bench player.
                Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by chief2791 View Post
                  Here, travel doesn't really start until the MS season is over. However, in my son's 7th grade MS year he played 12U rec which overlapped the MS season a week or two. He practiced a couple times but no rec games until MS was done.
                  Every year we always have that band of "12U" kids who are playing LL, travel and MS school at the same time. In LL, they are playing 46/50. In travel, they are playing 50/70. And, at school, they are playing 60/90. All in the same season. It's insane. Maybe that stops now with LL having the 8/31 date for everyone - and that will take out the 46/60 part of it?
                  Coaching experience: Managed 5 Little League teams and coached on 4 others. So, what do I know?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Francis7 View Post

                    Our MS team had 19 players this spring - twelve 8th graders and seven 7th graders. There was not one kid on the team who was not playing travel at the same time as playing on the MS team - although there was only maybe two kids who were playing as much travel ball as my son. The rest of them played probably around half the amount of travel games this spring as my son. (The difference was that he was on two tournament teams and the other kids all played in the one game a week local travel league.) That said, there were probably around 8 kids on the team who were playing school ball, travel ball AND rec (Little League) at the same time. But, none of them were catchers.

                    There's another thing here. School team had 19 kids - twelve 8th graders and seven 7th graders.

                    Four of the twelve 8th graders almost never got into a game. And, if they got into a game, it was maybe an inning here or there in a blow out. And, five of the seven 7th graders hardly ever played as well. Those 9 kids basically where there for the team picture and the year-end pizza party. So, it was probably very safe for them to play travel and/or rec at the same time because they were just collecting splinters on the school team.

                    My son was one of four catchers on the team. Two of the four were catchers because they owned catchers gear. But, they were defensive liabilities - really big ones - behind the plate and only appeared in one or two games each, for the last inning of a huge blowout game. The other catcher (besides my son) caught maybe 3 games and my son caught all the rest.

                    That was the "problem." My son carried most of the load of catching for the team. Maybe things would have different for him if he didn't catch as much on the school team? Again, there are no rules or focus on catchers usage...like there are in most places for pitchers.
                    Every kid doing it doesn’t make it right. It just means every player had a clueless parent. Every parent had smoke blown up their arse about what kids have to do to get to the next level. Actually, every parent had their pocket picket in the lie of what it takes to get to the next level. All you had to do is tell the travel coach your son will be available when the middle school season is over. If he’s worth having the coach will wait.

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                    • #11
                      disagree this is on the parents. this is on travel coaches 100% who don't shut their program down and let kids focus on school.

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                      • #12
                        Move to a state like IL where there is no MS ball. Problem solved!

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                        • #13
                          In my area only about 25% of the middle schools field teams. So the travel programs are necessary for kids to play at all in the Spring. And the training and competition in the travel programs is so much beyond what a middle school can offer that the kids who have access to a school team feel that they have to do both to keep up.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Francis7 View Post

                            It's funny. A lot of other dads of catchers see my kid and I know they think "Crap, my kid isn't going to play."
                            Sounds to me like it's your own kid's fault for getting hurt. He's scaring away all the other catchers - like the supermodel who can't get a date.

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                            • #15
                              My kid was the C for his MS team and split C amd OF on his travel team. Luckily all school ball games were on the weekend and prioritized his school games over travel in the spring. He was spared a lot of innings.

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