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McLean Little League

McLean Little League

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Mar, 2023

Get Ready for the Upcoming Season Now

Kids Need Spring Training Too

By Matt Austin

Major League Baseball began spring training a couple of weeks ago.  For baseball and softball lovers, it is one of the most exciting times of the year because it means the new season is right around the corner!  Spring training provides an opportunity for MLB players to “dust the cobwebs off,” get their bodies and minds ready for the season, and slowly ramp up into game-like conditions under the warm sun and palm trees.
Unfortunately, in McLean Little League, we are lucky if we have a couple of weeks of practices before the kids jump into the spring season.  We ask kids to go from minimal or no baseball or softball activity for several months to full-speed game action in a matter of days.  The “on ramp” to the season looks more like a vertical wall to climb.  This is less than ideal particularly when it comes to preparing our kids’ young arms to throw and pitch and can increase the risk of arm injuries.

As parents and coaches, it is critical that we are smart and deliberate about how we ramp up our kids’ throwing and get our pitchers ready for the season.  They need a spring training too (although we will have to do without the palm trees).  Here are a few approaches to take a spring training-like approach to preparing our kids for the season ahead:

Start Throwing NOW: It takes time to build strength and conditioning in pitchers’ arms, especially after a few months off (which should be encouraged for every Little Leaguer).  Professional, college, and high school pitchers have throwing programs that slowly build up the quantity and intensity of throws over several weeks or months.  With the season less than a month away, it is critical to have our kids start throwing now with a goal of throwing at least three times a week.  We have been lucky enough to have some very warm weather this month, so grab your gloves and a ball and go play catch.  MLB and USA Baseball put out a 4-week preseason throwing progression for Little League-aged kids (linked here), which provides a great framework on how to ramp up throwing in a smart way. 
Treat the First Month of the Season Like Spring Training:  No matter how much a pitcher has ramped up his or her throwing as part of a throwing program or other off-season training, pitching in a game is a different level of intensity and strain on arms.  As you see in MLB spring training, professional pitchers who have been training for months start with very low pitch counts in spring training games and slowly increase those pitch counts over several weeks.  It is important that we don’t ask our kids to immediately come in and start throwing at or near their maximum pitch counts, but start with shorter outings and let them build over time.  The MLL Board recently approved a rule change that lowers pitch limits for the first couple of weeks of the season, which is a great step in the right direction, but it is up to managers and parents to go even further and be very deliberate about managing in-game workloads of our pitchers’ early in the season, especially for those players that also play on travel teams.  While competitive pressures may push managers to “ride their ace,” it is better for the health of the player and for our players reaching peak performance for the City Series and All-Stars to treat the first month of the season like our spring training. 

Focus on Arm Care: Protecting young arms requires more than just ramping up slowly and managing workload, it requires a strong focus on arm care.  This means properly warming up to throw (not throwing to warm up, as we often see in youth baseball and softball), increasing the strength and stability of arms, and providing for sufficient recovery and rest.  I will get more into arm care in a later post, but this is a significant (if not primary) focus of the MLL Winter Baseball Pitching Clinic.  One of the most important tools for arm care used at all levels of baseball is the J-Band (linked here).  I encourage all pitchers in MLL (actually everyone who throws a baseball or softball) to use J-Bands as part of their warm-up and in between throwing sessions throughout the season to build up their arm strength and resiliency.  It only takes about 5-10 minutes and is highly valuable in maintaining arm health.  Linked here is a video of some J-Band exercises we use as part of the pitching clinic, which would be a good place to start.
While MLL baseball and softball games are still a few weeks away, the players should be ramping up now.  We can’t offer 80 degrees and palm trees, but we can give them what they need – a spring training of their own.  


McLean Little League
1836 Westmoreland St 
McLean, Virginia 22101

Phone: 703-000-0000
Email: [email protected]

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