NYC Baseball Facility Aims to Show Young Athletes the Right Way to Play
All this week, WFUV News is looking at an alarming trend affecting baseball players of all ages, from Little League to Major League Baseball.
Research shows that more young ball players are having arm injuries and needing Tommy John surgery. Studies show that in the early 1990's, teens were very rarely going under the knife, but doctors say elbow surgery has become more common in the 2000's, and they attribute the trend to athletes overusing their arms.
The Baseball Center NYC caters to kids and teens. It's where some young baseball players took their first swings and threw their first strikes. Michael Lombardi, Executive Director of The Baseball Center NYC, said the facility teaches kids the right way to toss a ball early in a player's development to avoid injuries down the road.
"It all starts with picking the baseball up, making sure they're holding it correctly in a four-seam or two-seam grip," said Lombardi. "Past that, it becomes a proper arm motion, so that they're utilizing their bodies correctly and their release is consistent with every single throw."
Lombardi said besides proper mechanics, the facility uses pitch counts to keep players from overusing and injuring their arms, but he said one of the challenges is trying to find out how much these young athletes throw outside The Baseball Center NYC.
He said instructors talk with parents and coaches to understand how often a player throws.
"It's really getting the whole picture on these kids, how much they are throwing, under what conditions are they throwing, and how often they throw during the week."
While doctors agree that overuse is the main cause for arm injuries in young ball players, studies show throwing breaking balls increases the chances for arm injuries. Lombardi said the facility is careful when it comes to teaching sliders and curveballs.
"It really doesn't start till the teenage years for delivering breaking balls," said Lombardi. "It's not until the bodies are more developed [and] they can consistently throw with the right mechanics, then we might introduce new pitches.
"But fastball and change-up can get [a player] through youth baseball until age 16, and a good change-up can be just as effective as a breaking ball."
Lombardi, a Long Island native, spent a few years playing in the Philadelphia Phillies organization in the mid-2000's. He said growing up, elbow surgery was uncommon, but he notices now that more athletes are having it.