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Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017: McQuaid's Stewart scores 35 in season debut

   Leading off today: Highly regarded sophomore Isaiah Stewart made his season debut Wednesday with 35 points in McQuaid's 78-75 boys basketball victory over Rochester's Monroe High.

   The 6-foot-8 post player had been sidelined all season following surgery on a broken tailbone during a USA Basketball tryout camp last fall. He already holds offers from a slew of Division I programs including Florida, Georgetown, Syracuse and Tennessee after averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds as a freshman.

   The return of Stewart and junior guard Thomas Jones (concussion) this week changes the Class AA landscape in Section 5, where Fairport and University Prep had started separating themselves from a pack including Aquinas, Bishop Kearney and Victor. Wednesday's win improved McQuaid to 10-5.

   Jones had been sidelined since being injured during a scrimmage in early November. HeĀ averaged 12.1 points and 8 rebounds last season.

   Tackling ban? There's a renewed push in progress to ban tackling in New York youth football.

   A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, a Bronx Democrat, would prohibit youth leagues from allowing anyone age 13 or younger to tackle. The bill cites research connecting repeated blows to the head to brain-development issues.

   The proposal has been around for four years but has not picked up a sponsor in the Senate to help move the bill forward. It calls for a fine of up to $2,000.

   "All of these hits, they don't necessarily cause concussions and usually do not," Benedetto said Tuesday. "But all of these hits causes mass accumulation of blows to the head that damage the development of the brain."

   Assemblyman Walter Mosley, a Brooklyn Democrat who played and coached youth football, recently decided to support the bill.

   "This was a very difficult decision for me," Mosley said. "I have a son who's now 10, who does not like football. I'm kind of blessed in that way, because I don't have to convince him not to play."

   Speaking of regulations: I came across this tweet Tuesday night:

   Take that as an indication that there are misgivings out there about measures State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia wants to institute. If passed by the State Board of Regents, the regulations would put school administrators in a hopelessly uncomfortable position when deciding athletic eligibility for some students. Superintendents in neighboring districts could face requests citing identical circumstances and come to completely different conclusions as to whether a fifth season of eligibility should be OK'd.

   I delved into the details more extensively in a blog in December.

   Speaking of regulations: The new pitch-count rule approved by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association last week already is attracting questions from critics who think there may not be adequate rest built into the standards.

   Under the new rule, which replaces restrictions on innings pitched with standards for pitches thrown, a varsity hurler can throw 105 pitches on Monday and return to the mound Friday to throw another 105.

   Vincent Mercogliano of The Journal News wrote this week that college and pro pitches typically get an additional day of rest between appearances of a similar duration. In fact, a high school hurler can throw 95 pitches on Monday and return to throw 105 on Thursday.

   Dr. Steve Jordan, a surgeon at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla., called the rest portion of the new rule "a big issue." The standards are at odds with the Pitch Smart guidelines developed by nationally known surgeon Dr. James Andrews, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball.

   "Hours of conversation and research went into this decision," NYSPHSAA baseball chairman Ed Dopp said in an e-mail to the paper. "We have reviewed all of Dr. (James) Andrews and USA Baseball, along with MLB recommendations. We really can't compare high school with college and MLB as for a variety of reasons. They are apples and oranges."

   Dopp went onto write that, "We are concerned with running out of pitching at levels." That has been a frequent concern

raised by a variety of people since the NYSPHSAA began considering its changes last year.

   Wellsville coach and AD Dennie Miles, who is about to start his 41st season, has long been skeptical of pitch counts.

   "On paper it looks great to have a pitch count but Tommy John surgery is up -- I don't even know the percentage -- but if there's any proof at all it's an indication through Tommy John surgery that babying a pitcher's arm is not being effective," he told the Olean Times-Herald.

   (In a column Thursday, Rob Centorani of the Press & Sun-Bulletin cites data on the increasing frequency of Tommy John surgery on MLB players.)

   Miles anticipates a move by some coaches to get the most out of staff aces in key league games and then going to a "bullpen by committee" approach the rest of the week.

   "I've seen it happen in Little League where they'll pull pitchers at a certain time so that they can bring them back the next day or the next day and a young arm I don't think that's in the best interest of the kid to have pitch counts, at least the way that it's worked out right now," he said."

   Said Bolivar-Richburg coach Dustin Allen: "It's almost getting to be like the majors where you're going to need a starter, a middle reliever and a closer. There's going to be games where you won't have to, but my JV coach set up a spreadsheet of every game I have this year and what my pitchers can throw in order of the next game and so on."

   The Observer-Dispatch got an interesting perspective from an umpire.

   Tom Giruzzi, a Mohawk Valley umpire for 18 years who was previously a coach, says he's sometimes wondered, "Why is this kid still out there on the mound?" But he points out it's been the exception rather than the rule.

   "For the most part, coaches use good judgment," he said. "Unfortunately, Major League Baseball magnifies pitch counts, so it's natural to blame the injuries on that.

   "I do think 105 pitches for a seven-inning game is reasonable. But was it necessary? Most coaches use common sense. But some kids throw year-round, some are throwing curveballs and sliders at 12 years old, and today so many kids are specializing in one sport and when you're talking baseball and pitching ... I think that's more of a factor than pitch counts at the high school level."

   West Canada Valley coach Greg Jones said he charted a Little League World Series game last summer in which one starting pitcher threw 82 pitches and 49 were curveballs.

   "That's insane at the age of 12," Jones said. "That's where the problems begin."

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