Pitchers are groomed from the time they reach Little League age and throw almost year ’round. It puts a lot of strain on a young, growing arm/elbow, especially if the youngster is throwing a breaking ball within his assortment of pitches.
Being an old catcher, I have witnessed a lot of pitching. The best pitcher I ever caught was all done at 15. Surprisingly, I still remember his name, Bo Humberston. We both played for a Pony League (13-14 years old) team in Hagerstown, Maryland, back in the mid 1960s.
Bo had a great fastball, but it was his curve or breaking ball that was already professional quality. Not sure who taught him the pitch, but it would come in about belt high and then break a good six to eight inches down and away from a right-hand hitter. Bo was also right-handed, and I witnessed scores of young hitters buckle at the knee before Bo’s breaking ball.
By the time we got to high school our freshman year, Bo was finished. His elbow and shoulder would not allow him to even gently toss a ball overhand. Being from a small town and not from a wealthy family, surgery to repair his elbow was not an option. “Tommy John” surgery for pitchers wasn’t even thought of until 1974. Bo had to just give up a sport he dearly loved. The wear and tear of that great breaking ball was just too much for Bo’s still growing tendons and ligaments.
I caught several pitchers over my younger years that were signed to pro contracts and went on to have successful minor league careers. Most ended their baseball lives on the injury lists at some point. But the best pitcher I ever caught did not get a chance to play pro ball. Bo was great and maybe, just maybe, if he had someone to guide him with the knowledge not to throw such a tough breaking pitch so early in his baseball life, he might have had that chance to go pro.
What all this is leading up to, is the suggestion that if you, as a father, big brother or uncle, know of a young pitcher trying and wanting to be the best, advise him to stay away from the breaking ball until he is older. Or, at least, use it sparingly.
Teach good mechanics and emphasize that control of a good fastball and a change of pace will win just as many games and preserve his arm for future dates on the mound in high school, college and possibly pro ball, if that is the goal.
A lot of pros are dealing with the problem. Some will rehab and return to form. Others will just have to quit, never regaining the velocity or the break that they once had before their elbow was destroyed by the torque of the breaking ball.
Do your young hurler a favor; teach him control and a change to go along with that blazing fastball, not a hard-breaking curve.