Jamie Ross, a junior pitcher at Deering High, said he kind of laughed last year when he first saw Greg Tosi, the school’s certified athletic trainer, loosening up Taylor Candage’s arm with stretching techniques.

Ross isn’t laughing now. He’s a firm believer in Tosi’s program.

With the statewide start of high school baseball and softball practice for pitchers and catchers on Monday, coaches will be limiting the number of throws to make sure pitchers protect their arms. Teams are allowed to have eight pitchers and two catchers begin practice a week before the rest of their teammates. Baseball pitchers will be on a tight pitch count the first week.

Trainers such as Tosi help pitchers get their arms in shape and treat soreness should it arise.

Most schools have athletic trainers whose job is to prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate injuries. Certified athletic trainers must have a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and pass a comprehensive exam before earning their credential, and they must keep their knowledge and skills current.

March is National Athletic Training Month, and the theme for this year is: “Sports Safety is a Team Effort.”

“It means working with the athletes, the parents, the coaches and doctors in order to provide the best care,” said Tosi.

FOLLOWING THE PROGRAM

Athletic trainers have programs that can help strengthen arms so pitchers and catchers are better prepared to start the season, which often begins in chilly weather in the Northeast.

Tosi helps improve arm strength with his manipulations and range-of-motion exercises with elastic bands.

“It actually helps them warm up before they throw,” Tosi said of his program. “They don’t have to throw as many pitches to warm up. I’m able to stretch them without hurting their mechanics. It will definitely improve their pitching. Some of the kids have really caught on.”

Ross, Deering’s quarterback in football and a starting forward in basketball, has enjoyed the time off between the winter and spring seasons. But he hasn’t just been sitting around the house. Ross has been lifting weights and pitching at an indoor facility.

“Taylor swore by Greg Tosi stretching his arm and then using the elastic bands,” said Ross. “He told me I should try it.”

Tosi’s program is optional, but after listening to Candage, Deering’s top pitcher the previous two seasons, Ross was convinced.

“Taylor did it before he pitched and said it worked wonders. It makes your arm looser,” said Ross, who is slated to be Deering’s No. 1 starter.

“Greg stretches your arm for five to 10 minutes, then you stretch with an elastic band. It really stretches you out.

“I’ll definitely use him in the preseason and before I pitch during the season. I’m really looking forward to the season. I started throwing a month ago.”

STRICT PITCH LIMITS

Some baseball and softball pitchers throw indoors during the winter, but many don’t. No matter how much or how little they’ve thrown before the official start of practice, all the pitchers throw the same number of pitches the first week.

Coaches keep their trainers informed about practice routines.

“We talk,” said Mike Coutts, Deering’s baseball coach. “Greg knows what we’re doing every day the first week or two.”

Baseball pitchers’ workouts have to be more closely monitored than that of a softball pitcher. Throwing a softball is a more natural motion than throwing a baseball and puts less stress on the arm. That’s why softball pitchers can pitch several games in a row, while a pitcher in baseball is required to rest his arm three to four days before his next start.

“The baseball pitching motion is an unnatural motion,” said Tosi. “The arm motion goes over the shoulder.”

Deering breaks its pitchers into two groups. On Day 1, a group will throw off a mound while the other group does long toss. The next day they switch, and the groups keep alternating the rest of the week, gradually adding to their pitch counts.

“I’ll have them throw 18 pitches the first day at 70 to 75 percent effort,” said Coutts. “The long toss will start at 30 feet and expand to 100 feet.

“We do a lot of conditioning and core strengthening. The last thing you need is a sore arm.”

At Thornton Academy, Coach Greg Paradis uses a five-day rotation to get the pitch count up.

“Group A will throw 15 pitches the first day, rest the second day while Group B starts,” said Paradis. “We increase in increments of 15 the next time a group throws. We don’t have them throw live batting practice until they get up to 60 pitches, and they don’t start throwing curve balls until the third week.”

A FOCUS ON HEALTH

At schools that have certified athletic trainers, the trainers are present to make sure pitchers are aware of the exercises available to promote healthy arms and bodies.

“Our trainer, Neil Carroll, works with all the athletes on a daily basis,” said Jim Cronin, Scarborough’s baseball coach. “I have him come in and talk about what he does and what they can be doing to strengthen their shoulder and arm muscles. It’s important to keep the little muscles around the rotator cuff strong.”

And when there are injuries, athletic trainers are first responders.

“We prevent and care for injuries,” said Rob Sullivan, Falmouth High’s trainer. “We educate kids on rehabilitation. We maintain good communication with coaches, parents and refer athletes to their primary care doctor or a specialist if needed. It’s such healthy insurance for us to be there.”

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]