New high school baseball bat rule aims to improve safety
March 9, 2012
Chris Healy is the last of his kind.
Playing for Bishop Manogue’s baseball team in the 1970s, everyone used a wooden bat. There was no such thing as aluminum and#8212; not until costs began to get out of hand with countless wooden bats breaking every game. Aluminum changed the game in the amateur levels, giving the offense more advantage to blasting the ball out of the yard. Pitchers worried about giving up the long ball but not as much as getting whacked in the head by a line drive.
But all of that changes this season.
After following the BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) guidelines the last decade, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) changed the bat rules this season and now everyone is required to use a BBCOR (Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution) stick. The ball will no longer fly off the bat as fast and the offensive numbers will seem more realistic to wood bats.
and#8220;We all wish we could go back to wood,and#8221; said Healy, a veteran umpire who’s also the Northern Nevada baseball officials commissioner and liaison to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. and#8220;The rules committee has been evaluating the process seven or eight years.and#8221;
The BESR and BBCOR bats are completely different.
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The thin walls on a BESR bat allowed the ball to exit much faster, making it seem like the hitter was using a juiced bat. Teams would score in double digits and home runs were common every game, even from the bottom of the line-up. Safety, as well, was in jeopardy with the ball traveling more than 100 mph off the bat.
Now, the game has changed.
BBCOR slows down that exit speed with a thicker barrel, making it the closest invention to a wood bat. Everyone has been involved with the process from educated officials to rules committees to scientists.
and#8220;I felt really out of place being a journalism major and sitting with the physicists and doctors running these labs,and#8221; Healy recalled. and#8220;The game is not intended for everyone to be a home run hitter.and#8221;
The consequences to using an illegal bat, however, are severe.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the penalty for use of an illegal bat is an out or the defense can take the result of the play. The batter can be called out once he steps into the batter’s box with an illegal bat. The head coach, though, is restricted to the dugout on the first offense and is ejected if it happens a second time. The batter can also be ejected if he tries to use an illegal bat a second time during the game.
But teams will notice a big difference with BBCOR bats, especially if they’ve relied on heavy hitting.
Instead of blasting home runs or gapping doubles, small ball will be as important as ever. Bunting, hit and runs and stealing are expected to come into play this season. That 350-foot home run down the line will now be just another can of corn.
and#8220;It’s intriguing and pretty fascinating at time,and#8221; Healy said. and#8220;Everyone will need to get use to the bunting, hit and run, and stealing. It’s returning the game to its roots.and#8221;
Pitchers, too, will now be able to throw inside more without worry about the hitter yanking the ball down the line for a home run. Healy said, too, that some coaches expect less off-speed because their pitchers won’t have to fear as much about the hitter taking them deep on a fastball.
and#8220;Pitchers are going to be able to use both sides of the plate,and#8221; Healy added. and#8220;One of the ramifications is a bunch of the coaches here will need to learn how to teach their kids to throw inside. You’re going to see more hit batsmen. It’s going to be an evolving process. It’s going to be really interesting. It’s a big adjustment.and#8221;
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