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Should Virginia Expand Regular-Season HS Baseball?

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Each year, the Virginia High School League limits state baseball teams to 20 regular-season games. But what if that number were increased?

More than half of the other states, plus Washington, D.C., have game limits greater than 20. Most of those are in the 21-to-30 range.

Some have limits greater than 30. On the high end of the spectrum is Iowa, which has a limit of 40 regular-season games. However, the season there runs from late May until late July, so the colder weather of the earlier months isn't a factor. And much of the season is played after the school year.

There are various factors that come into play with contest limits. But there could be benefits in playing more games.

"I'd love to see more games, because more games ends up making kids a little bit better, in my opinion. That's just strictly my opinion," said Tim Lowery, who recently retired after finishing his 31st year as a head baseball coach and his 11th year at Cosby.

Ray Moore, who has coached at Douglas Freeman for eight years, also would prefer that more games be allowed.

"Personally, I think that the benefits would outweigh the costs," said Moore. "Because it gives the kids more opportunities to play."

At Benedictine, Sean Ryan has plenty of experience with playing more games. The VISAA doesn't set contest limits, and Ryan, the Cadets' coach, generally tries to schedule 25 to 28 games per season. He cited several reasons.

One is the condensed VISAA tournament schedule. To win a state title, teams have to win three games in five days. So Ryan wants his team to play at least three games in a week during the regular season.

Another is player growth.

"The more games they play, the more you can see them develop," said Ryan, who has coached Benedictine for 14 years and recently won his second state championship with the Cadets.

Increasing the contest limit also could increase parity. Moore believes the new pitching limits enacted before this season would have a greater impact if there were more games.

"If you have two or three pitchers and you throw those guys in two games each week, you're going to have to develop a bigger pitching staff, and you're going to have to rely on guys who you may not have had to rely on in the past," said Moore.

Moore said there probably would be more upsets because of matchups in which one team perhaps has its ace on the mound while another team its No. 4 or No. 5.

"And that can make all the difference," said Moore. "The team that's throwing their four or five pitcher might be the better team, but the other team's ace may be able to keep them at bay that day."

Ryan can attest to that. He said that if Benedictine schedules 28 games, most years that schedule isn't necessarily designed to go 26-2.

"It's going to be very hard for us to do that with the level of teams that we're playing, in addition to knowing that there's going to be some games where we're going to have to go a little bit deeper into our pitching staff," said Ryan. "And that's not a knock on our guys, it's just the way things shake out sometimes."

Some see drawbacks to allowing more games. Schools could face additional costs for umpires and travel. And smaller schools, with perhaps less depth, could encounter physical problems.

"When you say contest limits, you got to think not just the big schools in Richmond and up here," said Sal Colangelo, the director of student activities at C.D. Hylton in Woodbridge and the manager of the Bethesda Big Train summer college baseball team. "You got to think of all the schools in the state that don't have the numbers that we have. Not talent, just numbers to come out for their programs."

Colangelo said games can sometimes pile up in a week because of rainouts. He voiced concern about player health with some continuing to play and pitch on other teams after the high school season.

Colangelo, who also coached baseball at Potomac High School and Christopher Newport, was a member of VHSL's Executive Committee from 2014 to 2016. The committee establishes contest limits. However, according to Tom Dolan, VHSL's assistant director for compliance, the limits aren't reviewed annually.

"As proposals come up, they would consider them, but that is not something that they look at unless a school or region has brought forward some kind of proposal," said Dolan.

As far as the factors taken into account for contest limits from VHSL's side, Dolan said a number of things would probably be considered. Among them: measuring the comfortable number of games played in a week against the length of a season and size of a budget.

Moore said he sees both sides. But he said most coaches enjoy competition and want to give players a chance to show what they can do in a game as frequently as they can.

"Obviously, we don't want to overdo it," Moore said. "But a few more games wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for high school baseball."

(804) 649-6823

wepps@timesdispatch.com@wayneeppsjr

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