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HOF pitcher John Smoltz: Specialization hurts baseball

July 11, 2016 / Athletic AdministrationBaseballCoaching
Another key figure in professional sports is speaking out against sport specialization.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz speaks during his induction into the Hall of Fame. | Photo: Arturo Pardavila III
Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz speaks during his induction into the Hall of Fame. | Photo: Arturo Pardavila III

Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, an eight-time All-Star who spent the majority of his career with the Atlanta Braves, offered his opinion on the subject during a recent visit to the Field of Dreams in Iowa. Smoltz said the growing number of youth pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery is proof that specialization is hurting the sport.

From the Quad-City Times:

“As a player who grew up and loves sports, who got a chance to play multiple sports, I believe that’s the reason I was able to play baseball as long as I did,’’ Smoltz said. “It’s the reason, for the most part, that I stayed as healthy as I did. I didn’t consume myself with one sport the whole year.’’

Smoltz believes decisions being made for young players, frequently by parents with good intentions, are impacting the game.

“People think you have to play year round to be able to eventually play professional baseball or basketball or football. That’s simply not true,’’ Smoltz said. “I love where I grew up. Seasonal changes meant seasonal sports. I played three of them. The opportunity to get outside and play sports is one of the greatest things kids have.’’

According to The American Journal of Sports Medicine, nearly 57 percent of all Tommy John surgeries in the United States are performed on 15- to 19-year-olds.

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon shared a similar opinion last year, and NFL star JJ Watt has also spoken out on sport specialization. Parents are largely considered to be the main driver of sport specialization, as many believe focusing on a single sport gives their children the greatest chance to succeed at the next level.

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