During his Hall of Fame induction speech this July, John Smoltz used his platform to address the Tommy John epidemic in baseball.
His message of letting a young arm rest — especially in the offseason — is one all players and parents should hear.
Here’s the text:
“Before I hand it over to next inductee, I’d be remiss if I did not talk about Tommy John. I’ve been given an opportunity as one of the only players, the only one right now, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Tommy John Surgery. It’s an epidemic. It’s something that is affecting our game. It’s something that I thought would cost me my career, but thanks to Dr. James Andrews and all those before him, performing the surgery with such precision has caused it to be almost a false-read, like a band-aid you put on your arm.
I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is 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 is a shame that we are having one, two and even three Tommy John recipients.
I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that 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, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. Please, take care of those great future arms.”