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.
John Smoltz missed the 2000 MLB season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which threatened to derail his career. He returned in 2001 and eventually transitioned to a role as closer, before playing three more seasons as a starter into his 40s.
Smoltz, the first pitcher in the Hall of Fame to have returned from Tommy John surgery, has been very outspoken about the dangers of the surgery and said earlier this month that he doesn’t know if there will ever be another pitcher to enter the Hall of Fame after undergoing the procedure. With the baseball world watching Cooperstown for the Class of 2015’s acceptance speeches Sunday, Smoltz addressed the issue again and sent a warning to parents.
“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….
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.”