Niigata high school baseball federation to defer introduction of pitch limit
March 19, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)

Japan High School Baseball Federation executive director Masahiko Takenaka offers a comment in response to Niigata Prefecture's high school baseball federation's decision to defer implementing a pitch limit, at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in the Hyogo Prefecture city of Nishinomiya, on March 18, 2019. (Mainichi/Aya Iguchi)

The Niigata Prefecture high school baseball federation announced on March 18 that it would defer the implementation of a pitch limit from the upcoming spring tournament in this central Japan region.
It was also made known that its chairman Nobuhiro Togashi will join a panel of experts on preventing injuries to pitchers, to be established by the Japan High School Baseball Federation in April. Although the Niigata federation originally announced last December that it would introduce a rule forbidding a player from throwing more than 100 pitches, it accepted the national federation's demand to reconsider the decision.
The national federation urged a review in a Feb. 20 board meeting citing that such a rule could have a serious impact on teams with player shortages and change a unified national standard that has an impact on game results, among other reasons.
"It's regrettable that our (injury preventing) efforts were not accepted," Togashi said in a March 18 interview. However, he appreciated the concept of advancing discussions with the national federation's expert panel. "I had positive thoughts that we could express our opinion and mindset during the discussions," the chairman explained in offering the reason for the postponement.
In response, national federation executive director Masahiko Takenaka commented, "I appreciate their (Niigata federation's) understanding of the national federation's intention." He also stated, "As Niigata Prefecture is very advanced in injury preventing efforts, I seek suggestions in the meeting with experts."
Koji Ota, 67, former professional baseball player and one-time ace pitcher for High School Misawa in Aomori Prefecture, expressed his reluctance to set a unified pitch limit as each player has different physical strength. Ota, originally from northern Japan, pitched for all 18 innings and in the consequent replay in the 1969 National High School Baseball Championship. "We must spend more time discussing the pitch limit," said Ota, who agreed to the deferral.
Meanwhile, Japan Rubber Baseball Association executive director Toyomi Munakata expressed regret for the postponement but said that major progress was achieved by raising the issue. The association had decided to introduce a system to limit elementary school players to 70 pitches from the upcoming summer softball baseball national tournament. "It's fine to have various opinions, but it's important to think first of the athletes' health," insisted Munakata.
Former professional baseball player and Ishikawa Prefecture's Seiryo Senior High School graduate Hideki Matsui commented, "The implementation of a pitch limit may be good for the players in the long run, but there are also athletes who might end their competitive life having given their all as a player at Koshien (venue for the National High School Baseball Championship)." The 44-year old ex-Major League Baseball star added, "I think we have no choice but to hold many discussions on the issue."
(Japanese original by Mitsutaka Yasuda and Maiko Nagata, Osaka Sports News Department, Aya Iguchi, Niigata Bureau, Shun Iwakabe, Hokuriku General Bureau)