April 23 - High school coaches had a number of questions and concerns entering the season regarding the state’s new nationally-mandated pitch count rules, implemented late last summer to protect pitchers from potential injury.
How were pitch counts to be kept, monitored and enforced? How would they affect how pitchers and staffs were managed? How might they change the game, especially at smaller schools with thin rosters and staffs?
Some of those questions have been answered thanks to GameChanger, an application created by a New York-based company at the beginning of the decade. GameChanger allows teams to score games live, produce box scores, keep statistics and spray charts, and keep ‘followers’ updated on their seasons.
Like many state governing bodies nationwide, the Virginia High School League has employed GameChanger as its source for tracking pitchers and ensuring teams are adhering to the new guidelines. The VHSL receives a daily report notifying them of each game, with the home team’s scorekeeper responsible for providing the ‘official’ pitch tally in addition to being on the hook for recording the final score.
Shawn Knight, the VHSL’s Assistant Director of Athletics who oversees baseball, has been pleased with the early returns.
“It’s been seamless,” Knight said. “We were able to get the information out about how to get teams on the system, and initial concerns about wifi were alleviated because you obviously don’t need that for the application.”
Count Langley coach Kevin Healy among the fans of the system. “I’m loving GameChanger,” he said. “Out of old habits, I still have my clicker I use in-game and carry around with me. But you can see where the other team’s guy is … it streamlines in-game decisions and where you used to have to do all the charting and reference those.”
Knight said the VHSL has had no violations to date, which would result in a team forfeiting the game for use of an ineligible player. Other states haven’t been so fortunate, with a simple Internet search yielding several cases of teams forfeiting games and coaches being suspended for breaking guidelines.
And while other states have taken steps such as hiring an additional game official whose sole responsibility is to keep pitch counts, the onus in Virginia remains with the scorekeeper - generally an assistant coach, team manager or parent.
The Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, which governs the state’s private schools, doesn’t utilize GameChanger, instead requiring opposing coaches to confer following games on pitch counts and having those coaches enter the counts into MaxPreps. The VISAA, which mirrors the VHSL guidelines for pitch counts and required rest between outings, has implemented a policy of suspending a coach for a game for an initial violation, with a second offense resulting in a five-game suspension.
The VHSL has encouraged coaches to confer throughout games - as often as each inning - as to avoid any conflicting pitch-count tallies. “It's a lot easier to figure out where you may have missed a pitch each inning as opposed to after a game,” Knight said.
Knight said the system is still a work in progress, and hopes by next season to have the ability to provide coaches with reports each day. Other potential adjustments, such as adjusting counts and required rest later in the season as opposed to at the beginning of the season, could also be presented in coming years to the VHSL’s committee of coaches, athletic directors with baseball backgrounds, and sports medicine officials.
Photos of Madison’s Ryan Kopka by Albert Jacquez and of Battlefield’s Zach Agnos by Joey Kamide
Tag(s): Feature Stories