Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wood Bats Belong in College Baseball

RT Staff Note: We were watching a summer collegiate league baseball game over the weekend and realized just how nice it was to hear the crack of the bat from these young, talented college players. I watched dozens of college games this year and I got so used to hearing the PING, that I almost forgot what it was like to hear wood in the close confines of a college stadium. So we dug up an article that ran yesterday that mirrors our thoughts on wood bats. Enjoy.

by Eric Dorval, June 15, 2009 – 10:29 am

“Ping! Ping!” That’s the sound baseballs make when they come off the bat during college games. But why does it have to be this way? Why does college baseball still not use wooden bats?

The answer is simple: money. There are two issues here. The first is the cost of the bats and the second is endorsements. Many top college teams and coaches have lucrative endorsement deals with metal bat manufacturers. In addition to providing bats, these top schools receive additional money for advertising.

We are led to believe that college baseball teams would break a dozen bats per game and be forced to buy hundreds of bats per season. This is simply not true. Obviously bats will break over the course of the season, but wooden bats are less expensive than metal bats. A good metal bat starts around $250, while good white ash and maple bats are roughly $50 and $100, respectively. You can buy several wooden bats for the price of one metal bat. In fact, when the state of North Dakota outlawed metal bats in high school play, the average bat cost per school decreased.

The other issue revolves around the endorsement deals that the big universities have. But wouldn’t wood bat companies provide the same deals as those making metal bats? Louisville Slugger makes both.

The NCAA has allowed the use of metal bats in college ball since 1974, so this is certainly nothing new. Sure, allow metal bats in high school ball, but college is different. Who cares if everyone can’t hit the ball 400 feet? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

The College World Series is always held in the Omaha Royals’ Stadium. They are the Triple-A affiliates of the Kansas City Royals. Over the past few seasons the fences have been pushed back when the College World Series comes to town. This is due to the fact that the metal bats used by college players are simply too powerful for the stadium. Does it make sense that a professional ballpark has to remodel in order to accommodate college hitters?

All major college sports are different than their professional counterparts in one way or another. College footballs and basketballs are both smaller than the ones the pros use. In college football, the hashmarks are wider than in the NFL, which definitely changes the game. In college basketball, the three-point line is closer than in the NBA.

But baseball is different. Going to a baseball game is a very sensory experience. The smells. The sights. The sounds. Watching a sporting event is about more than the players. In baseball, one of the most recognizable characteristics is the sound a ball makes when it strikes a bat or pops into a glove. By using metal bats, it alters the way the game sounds, a difference not to be taken lightly.

Nike had a famous commercial with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux talking about how “Chicks dig the long ball”. While it is true that everyone loves a home run, this is just one facet of the game. Baseball is about much more than smashing balls all over the ballpark. Just ask Ozzie Smith, who made the Hall of Fame even though he only hit 28 home runs in 19 seasons.

The wood-metal difference also makes it extremely difficult for scouts to compare college players to their pro counterparts. And it prepares them poorly to make the professional transition. Are we far from seeing MLB push for the college game to make the switch? Perhaps not.

The choice is clear. Metal bats change the game more than just on the scoreboard. They change the sound and feel of the game, which is what sports are all about. It’s like instant replay. Instant replay can break up the flow and change the feel of a game.

Bring the sound and feel of real baseball back to college. Bring back the wooden bats.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Here in Florence we have the Redwolves of the Coastal Plains League. They are college players who use wood bats and the difference is amazing. I coach Dixie Youth 11-12, and 13-14 and the better the aluminum bats get even at that age the more dangerous the game gets.

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