Coaching Baseball: Pitching and Catching the Same Day?

I recently received an email from a parent that asked about his son playing pitcher and catcher on his travel team. This is a great topic to discuss because it brings up the question of arm health in our youth baseball players.
He wanted to know if his son should be pitching and catching on the same day.

The Rise of Tommy John Surgeries

There are so so many different directions that I can go with this topic (especially with the rise in Tommy John surgeries) but to stay pretty specific, I want to talk about an all too common scenario in youth baseball. That is…your player has one of the best arms on the team so he will be asked to both Pitch and play at the Catcher position the same day. Is it OK to do both? Is it OK to pitch on Friday then Catch on Saturday? Here are my thoughts…

American Sports Medicine Institute

Being a catcher and a pitcher will lead to overuse injuries in a player’s arm unless you are smart about when and where your player plays. I see this happen quite a bit…especially at the 10-14 year old level. I hate to say it, but I’ve witnessed coaches at the high school level take a pitcher out after throwing 100+ pitches in the 5th inning then put him behind the plate for the rest of the game. And sometimes catch the next game too! Most of the time, the best arms are placed as catchers, pitchers and SS at the youth level. If your son is going to pitch and catch, make sure he has plenty of rest between games.

Here is a scenario played out way too much…your son is playing on a youth travel baseball team and you’re playing weekend tournaments. These tournaments involve playing up to 5 and sometimes 6 games on a weekend with 2 or 3 doubleheaders in a row. Your player catches the first game then pitches the next (or catch then pitch). That’s like throwing 200+ pitches in one day! You would NEVER ask a high school, college or pro baseball player to throw that much in one day. Plus, you still have 2 games the very next day.

So what can you do to avoid overuse of your players’ throwing arm?

If you are a youth travel baseball coach, here are some tips.

  • Select a team with multiple catchers (2-3) that can get you through the back to back double headers.
  • Keep in mind that a catcher makes just as many throws as a pitcher does in a game and more. A catcher may play the entire 7 inning game even when you put in multiple pitchers to preserve pitcher arms.
  • Utilize your player as the DH. If your Pitcher/Catcher catches in the first game, have him sit or DH the next day if you are planning for him to pitch. If you’re playing in a 3 day tournament, that catcher would have at least one day rest before starting on the mound.
  • AVOID having your player pitch and catch on the very same day. I’ve seen other coaches do this and ruin kids’ arms.

If you are a parent of a youth baseball player that likes to Pitch and play at Catcher.

  • Communicate with the coach your concerns of you player’s arm health. Hopefully the coach is on the same page and knows enough to NOT put players in a situation that will “overuse” their arm. Here is a great resource to share with your child’s coach: American Sports Medical Institute position on throwing overuse injuries in baseball.
  • As your player gets older, he should choose to be a pitcher or catcher and NOT both. Once you are at the middle school level (12-14 years old) players generally start to gravitate to a position or two that fits their ability and the needs of the team. Usually by high school, your player should hone in on ONE position. Especially if you are a pitcher/catcher.

Have you seen youth baseball players playing pitcher and catcher and overusing their arms? Do you have any thoughts on the arm health of youth baseball players?

Stay on plane…

About CoachK

Owner and head instructor at Colonial Baseball Instruction. CBI serves Southern VA with baseball camps and private lessons. CBI also developed My Coach: Baseball App and sells a variety of baseball training aids.