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In My Opinion

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Needing a tap on the shoulder

By Peter St. Onge
Associate Editor, Editorial Pages
Peter St. Onge
Peter St. Onge is The Observer's associate editor.

Today we’re going to talk about N.C. regulatory reform.

No? How about baseball? Today, we’re going to talk about N.C. regulatory reform and baseball – and a player named Dylan Fosnacht.

Dylan was the starting pitcher Tuesday for Rochester High School in the Washington State district tournament. The game against La Center High School was a pitchers’ duel, with no runs scored for the first 14 innings. Dylan pitched all 14 of those before he finally was removed after giving up two singles in the top of the 15th inning. By then, he had thrown an astonishing 194 pitches.

Rochester went on to win, 1-0, and word got around about the 194-pitch feat. Dylan even got a congratulatory tweet from David Price, a star pitcher for Tampa Bay Rays. “haha you’re a beast,” Price tweeted. But he also said: “let’s be a little smarter brotha,” along with the more pointed “#urcoachshouldbefired.”

There’s a reason for that. People who know baseball wince at 194 pitches, no matter the level, no matter the pitcher’s age. Recent studies have shown that arm injuries might be caused by overuse more than any other factor. Medical experts and baseball lifers suspect that a recent rash of arm surgeries in Major League Baseball is the product of players throwing too much when they’re younger.

Dylan’s manager, Jerry Striegel, knows this. It’s why, after the game, he said that he asked Dylan every inning how his arm was feeling. “He said he felt comfortable,” Striegel said. “He said he felt good. He didn’t want to come out.” Of course not. That’s what the adults are there for, to protect kids from themselves and injury regardless of whether they’re headed to a major league mound. (Dylan, who normally plays infield, is not.)

Unlike some states, Washington doesn’t have pitch limits for high schoolers, instead opting for a less-precise rule that anyone who throws four or more innings in a day must rest for two days before pitching again. That means coaches are left to their own devices, and as any youth sports coach can tell you, the spirit of the rules is often laid to waste by the score of the game. After all, what’s the harm of one more inning if the kid feels OK, right?

It’s a mindset that’s not intended to harm, even if it’s on the edge of purposefully negligent. It’s rationalization, and it’s something at which so many of us excel.

Which brings us back to N.C. regulatory reform. The topic is high on the agenda of some Republicans in Raleigh, and as we all know, reform to Republicans means “less of.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there are duplications and inefficiencies in regulations that are both frustrating and costly to North Carolina’s businesses.

But Republicans want to swing the pendulum too far. Regulations stifle economic growth, they say, and they consistently propose cutting back rules (and staff) in the name of “customer service” for businesses. The result: Companies are left to their own devices. They cut corners. They skirt the rules, because no one will get hurt, not this one time.

A legislator told me once that regulations aren’t going to stop the big rulebreakers, the ones who put profits over the good of others no matter what. Regulations are mostly for the companies that need a tap on the shoulder, a firm reminder that this isn’t the way things should be done.

If someone had done that this week – if they’d gone to the dugout and told Jerry Striegel that it wasn’t really a good idea to have Dylan Fosnacht throw 100 or 130 or 160 pitches – he probably would’ve thought twice about it. In an interview later this week, he said: “I probably would change the decision today.”

Most people, and most businesses, eventually get there. Sometimes, they just need a little help.

Email: pstonge@charlotteobserver.com.
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