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Smoltz makes plea to parents to end Tommy John epidemic

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It seems every year now, more than one ace pitcher from a major league team undergoes Tommy John Surgery. Some reports have the number as high as 25% of major league pitchers and 15% of minor league pitchers have undergone the surgery to repair a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

John Smoltz underwent the surgery in 2000 and is the first pitcher to have had it and made the Hall of Fame. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Smoltz took some time to thank Dr. James Andrews who performed his surgery, and Tommy John himself for calling him encouraging him to battle back and continue his career. But, more importantly, to him, he addressed the parents and coaches that have helped develop the culture where Tommy John surgery is now viewed almost as a sort of rite of passage, than a major injury.

"I want to encourage the families and parents out there to understand that it's not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old," Smoltz said during his speech. "That you have time, that baseball's not a year round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don't let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way. We have such great dynamic arms in our game that it's a shame that we're having 1 and 2 and 3 Tommy John recipients. So I want to encourage you if nothing else, know that your children's passion and desire to play baseball is something they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don't go outside, they don't have fun, they don't throw enough. But they're competing and maxing out too hard and too early and that's why we're having these problems. So please, take care of those great future arms."

To illustrate the severity of the problem, the current New York Mets rotation comprised of many former Binghamton Mets features Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, and Jon Niese. Of those hurlers, only Niese and Syndergaard have not undergone Tommy John surgery with Wheeler currently recovering from and not expected to pitch again until June 2016 at the earliest.