High school athletic directors across Pennsylvania likely did a little celebrating last Wednesday.
That’s because the PIAA board opted not to increase the number of maximum games that varsity baseball teams could play in a season.
Currently, Pennsylvania teams are permitted to play 20 baseball games each regular season. The PIAA baseball committee recommended that limit be increased to 24 games next season. The baseball committee’s proposal wouldn’t have made the season longer, but instead the change would have allowed teams to schedule more games in the same span.
The PIAA board, thankfully, rejected that recommendation — at least for now.
“The board felt that if we were going to look at adding games, we shouldn’t do it piecemeal,” PIAA executive director Robert Bob Lombardi said. “We should look at all of the sports. If that’s something that has merit, then we should try to do it evenhanded across the board.”
Idea has little merit: Well, to be frank, it’s a proposal that has little merit. It’s a change that would be both unnecessary and unwieldy.
In fact, 20 games are already too many to cram into seven spring weeks each season. The PIAA should look at reducing the number of baseball games allowed, not increasing it.
During the best of Pennsylvania springs, teams now average about three games and three practices per week. Spring, however, is famously fickle in the mid-Atlantic region. One day it can be 72 degrees with bountiful sunshine, and the next day it can be 40 with sideways sleet.
Spring baseball postponements are a fact of life. It’s just a matter of how many.
The 2017 spring, for example, was an absolute nightmare for the area ADs. The early spring was downright awful, leading to a blizzard of postponements. To catch up later in the season, teams had to play four or five games each week.
Stretching pitching staffs: With the PIAA’s new strict pitch-count rules, teams needed five or even six pitchers to survive.
How many high school teams have that many quality pitchers? The answer is almost none. A 24-game season would stretch already-thin pitching staffs past the breaking point.
Limiting practice, adding to AD workload: In addition, the unpredictable spring weather also limits the ability of teams to practice outdoors.
Adding four more games to the seven-week schedule would further reduce the amount of outdoor practice time available.
Any good coach will tell you that practices are vital to the development of any team, especially those workouts that can be held outdoors. Practices allow teams to work on fundamentals and improve on weaknesses.
Fewer practices will almost always result in fewer quality games.
Finally, keeping the season at 20 games should help the state’s ADs keep their sanity.
Spring is already a notoriously difficult time for athletic administrators. There’s no need to add to their heavy workload.
The proponents: Proponents of the proposal noted that schools in some neighboring states play more baseball games than PIAA teams.
For example, the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows 27 regular-season baseball games.
Well, that’s just dandy for Ohio, but that doesn’t make it a good idea for Pennsylvania. It’s not a good idea for Ohio, either.
Supporters of the change also claim that more games would provide more opportunity for the players. Well, if a player can’t show his abilities during a 20-game schedule, it’s unlikely that four more games will make much of a difference.
Finally, backers of the change say teams don’t have to play more games. There won’t be a required minimum number of games. The change would simply give teams the option of more games.
Well, it’s highly unlikely that teams would settle for playing 20 games when their rivals down the road are playing 24 games. That’s just not the way it works in a highly-competitive environment.
PIAA makes right call: That’s why the PIAA made the right call by not approving the change to 24 games.
The organization is helping to protect the best interests of the players, the coaches and the game.
Not to mention the ADs.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.