Change, we need change.
It's the slogan that helped President Barack Obama get into office.
But sometimes, even in baseball, it's taken to an extreme.
Jamey Oberbrunner, one of the more decorated pitchers ever in Waukesha, doesn't like the change that has undergone pitching in baseball over the past couple decades. The assistant varsity baseball coach at Waukesha North High School made his pitch in a recent interview to end the trend of "pitch counts" - taking a hurler out of the game regardless of results once a certain pitch threshold has been crossed.
When Oberbrunner, a University of Wisconsin-Parkside Hall of Famer, toed the rubber, he didn't come off it until the game was completed.
"Understandably, in the big leagues, they bring in left-handers to get a left-handed hitter out in crucial situations, but it's gotten to be extreme, even at the Major League level," Oberbrunner explained. "I don't know why they don't let guys go longer."
In high school, the National Federation has a rule in place, disallowing a pitcher to throw more than seven innings in three days, unless he starts the game. In that case, he could pitch up to 10 innings if the game goes to extras.
The mentality to preserve pitchers for their own good is different than in the past. The concern is that arms will become more susceptible to injury if repeatedly allowed to work more a certain number of pitches, though a pitcher's tolerance for workload varies from arm to arm.
"I can't understand it," said Oberbrunner, a former San Diego Padres farmhand and replacement player in Spring Training for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1995.
"When I pitched, I had the mentality to do my job. That meant throw strikes, get ahead of hitters and give my team the best chance to win. Today, everyone's worried about pitch counts."
One-hundred pitches has become a barometer for high school pitchers, as well as in the pros.
Oberbrunner, who flanks Waukesha North head baseball coach Dan Sykes in the summer, says there's a time and place to take someone out of the game, but it doesn't involve numbers.
"You just have to see it. The way we handle it, if a kid is struggling, he's struggling, and it's time to take him out," Oberbrunner said. "It's really simple. If he's not getting anyone out, take him out."
Oberbrunner, a long-time Land O' Lakes and Langsdorf League standout, doesn't want himself, or his students to be a number.
"Bottom line, pitch counts are a joke. Get ahead, stay ahead and you'll be successful," he said.
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