Archive for the ‘Dangers of Aluminum Bats’ Category

DANGERS OF LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL: When Will LL Baseball Finally Make the Change to Either Wood or BBCOR Bats?

In light of the $14.5 million settlement between the Stephen Domalewski family and Louisville Slugger and Little League Baseball, isn’t it about time — once and for all — for Little League Baseball to finally make the shift (like the NCAA and HS baseball already has) and mandate that aluminum bats are no longer to be used by kids 13-and-under?

Inexplicably, as LL plays its Championship game today on ABC/ESPN, it’s still very much legal for LLers to use these “weapons” as many people have called them. For years (including today), Steve Kallas and myself have pleaded on-the-air for LL to intervene and ban these bats. But amazingly, LL still hasn’t done so. Maybe with this major multi-million dollar settlement just being announced, LL might finally do the right thing.

But let’s not hold our breath. Remember, rather than abide by years of medical research showing that kids under 13 run a serious risk of arm injury by throwing curves and sliders, LL decided to come out with their own study, suggesting that decades of medical research is all wrong – that throwing curves really isn’t dangerous at all. As a result, all you see on the televised LL games are kids throwing what LL refers to as “breaking balls” – -not curves or sliders. The ESPN commentators must think we don’t know the difference.

And yet, all we keep hearing about are the dramatic rise in Tommy John surgery over the last decades for kids in middle school and HS. Dr. Timothy Kremchek, the long-time orthopedic surgeon for the Cincy Reds, has appeared on my show and publicly decried LL’s research. So has Rick Peterson, the highly-respected major league pitching coach. He wouldn’t let his own boys throw curves until they were out of HS.

Then there’s the pitch count nonsense. It wasn’t until Kallas and myself pointed out to LL officials that their entire approach to pitch counts didn’t add up – that, in effect, LL coaches were allowed to overrule the pitch count suggestions from LL’s own medical advisor, Dr. James Andrews, the well-known orthopedic surgeon. And once LL finally figured that situation out, Kallas and I still pointed out the discrepancies about pitch counts in the actual LL World Series in Williamsport, and how competitive coaches were wearing out kids’ arms. In other words, the pitch counts were only being applied to regular season games, not the games in Williamsport. Fortunately, that’s now been corrected.

All in all, we DO think we’ve made some progress with LL. But for an organization that prides itself on “safety first” for kids, it’s amazing to me that it’s taken them SO long to start to address these critically important issues.

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DANGERS OF ALUMINUM BATS: $14.5 Million Settlement Announced in Domalewski Case Against Little League and Louisville Slugger

DOMALEWSKI (NJ KID WHO WAS HIT IN CjHEST WITH BALL OFF ALUMINUM BAT AND SUFFERED BRAIN DAMAGE) SETTLEMENT SENDS A BIG MESSAGE

                                                                                  By Steve Kallas

 

Many of you are familiar with the sad story of Steven Domalewski who, on June 6, 2006 (at the age of 12), was hit in the chest with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  The resulting commotio cordis condition caused brain damage to the point where Domalewski has had a very limited ability to function and essentially needs care 24/7 (for a more thorough history of the case, see Kallas Remarks, 5/25/08 and 8/2/10).

 

Earlier this week, in a settlement of a lawsuit against defendants Little League Baseball and Louisville Slugger in Superior Court, Passaic County, New Jersey, it was announced that the Domalewski family will receive $14.5 million dollars from the two defendants (no word on what the split between defendants is; that part of the settlement is, apparently, not public information).

 

Rick Wolff, on his excellent WFAN radio show, “The Sports Edge,” will discuss this case and its ramifications this Sunday morning at 8:05.

 

WHY THE SETTLEMENT?

 

Well, you can imagine that, in any case where you have a sympathetic plaintiff (in this case, a child who simply went out to pitch in a youth baseball game at the age of 12 and had his life significantly changed (for the worse) forever), defendants aren’t anxious to go before a jury.

 

But there was some very good lawyering done by New Jersey attorney Ernest Fronzuto on behalf of the Domalewski family.  Domalewski was not hurt in a Little League game, but Little League was named as a defendant because they, essentially, claim that these aluminum bats are safe to use.  As we have seen over the years, there are certainly times when they are not.  Plus, the sizeable amount of the settlement ($14.5 million) shows that this was not a case where a few hundred thousand was paid as a “nuisance” value.

 

Louisville Slugger (official name Hillerich & Bradsby) has made these bats for years and has paid a few judgments over the years after jury trials for damage done to young pitchers and, in one case (Brandon Patch), for the death of a young pitcher.

 

While the money, obviously, will not give Steven Domalewski his life back as he knew it, it will help to offset the millions in medical bills that he is facing now and in the future.

 

WHAT IS THE BIGGER MESSAGE?

 

It is submitted that there is a much bigger message than the settlement of a case where a boy is brain-damaged for life as a result of being hit with a ball hit off an aluminum bat.  For some inexplicable reason, Little League has affirmatively decided NOT to change the power of the aluminum bats used in the Little League Majors Division (9-13 year olds; what you are seeing right now on the ever-present Little League World Series on ESPN) and below.  Little League has, to some degree, introduced BBCOR bats (that is, bats that are weaker in power than the previous aluminum bats that were used) into Junior League Baseball (the age level above LL Majors) and has made BBCOR bats mandatory for the older Senior League and Big League divisions.

 

But, in a world where kids are growing bigger and bigger (and are stronger and stronger), it defies logic that BBCOR bats would not be mandatory at the 13 and below level, especially given the fact that the pitching rubber remains only 46 feet from home plate (the shortest pitching distance there is) in the Little League Majors Division and below.

 

Given the fact that Steven Domalewski was 12 when this happened to him, here’s hoping that Little League will (sooner, rather than later) announce that BBCOR bats are mandatory in all Little League divisions with no exceptions.

 

At some point, there will be a new standard of care in this country where the old “weapons,” as described by many, will simply be viewed as too dangerous to allow our kids to be on a baseball field when those types of bats are being used.  As you probably know, these more powerful bats have been banned by the NCAA in college baseball (in 2011) and by the National High School Federation in high school baseball across the country (in 2012).

 

Having said that, in the Little League lower divisions and in many other youth sport baseball leagues and various summer travel tournaments throughout the country, it’s still the rule that these powerful, non-BBCOR bats are legal. 

 

The settlement announced in New Jersey this past week should help move along a complete change to weaker (or “truer,” as described by noted baseball pitcher and announcer Ron Darling, since they are closer to wooden bats) BBCOR bats.  Hopefully, someday, we will simply have a return to only wooden bats.

 

Then, baseball will again be played the way it was meant to be by children of all ages.

 

WHAT BASEBALL BAT SHOULD YOU USE IN 2012 IN COLLEGE, HIGH SCHOOL OR LITTLE LEAGUE?

By Steve Kallas

Another baseball season is upon us and, while the rules for baseball bat usage are clear in college and
high school, they become a little murky (or even difficult to understand) in Little League and travel
league baseball.

COLLEGE BASEBALL

The NCAA went to only approved BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats starting with
the 2011 college baseball season and the results were as expected; that is, a decrease in offense and
a return to baseball as it was known for most of the 20th Century. Indeed, according to an article at
postandcourier.com (and thanks to reader/listener Doug Newman for the heads-up), NCAA offense
returned to levels of 30-40 years ago. In this writer’s opinion, there is little doubt that safety returned
to “olden” day levels as well.

Specifically, according to NCAA stats, the combined batting average of NCAA teams in 2011 was .282,
the lowest since 1976. The earner run average for pitchers across the board was reduced to 4.70, the
lowest ERA since 1980. Home runs per NCAA game were reduced from .94 per game in 2010 to .52 per
game in 2011, almost a 50% reduction.

Or, if you are scoring at home, baseball in college returned to being baseball as it was known for about a
century. Once upon a time, the bunt was important, defense meant something, pitchers could actually
pitch inside and the hit-and-run and manufacturing runs were meaningful parts of the game.

That all returned to college baseball in 2011 and will continue as such in 2012 as only BBCOR-approved
bats can be used in NCAA college baseball (see Kallas Remarks, 3/25/11, for appropriate definitions of
important terms).

HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

Beginning this season, the National Federation of State High School Associations (“NFHS”) will also
mandate only the use of BBCOR bats across the country in high school baseball games. This will
change high school baseball the way these bats changed college baseball in 2011; that is, a return
to defense and run-manufacturing as important parts of the game. Hitters will have their problems
adjusting (except for those who have played in wood bat leagues or used BBCOR bats in the last year
understanding the change was coming in 2012).

You will probably hear a lot of complaints but the reality is that baseball was, is and always will be the
hardest sport to coach, to play and, frankly, to excel at. The new BBCOR bats simply attempt to bring
the bats back in line with what they once were: safer for all (yes, injuries can and will still occur with
BBCOR or wood bats but not to the extent that we’ve seen in the last decade or so).

While this writer and others, like WFAN’s Rick Wolff, would prefer simply a return to wooden bats and

nothing else, at least the BBCOR bats (as opposed to, for example, the BESR bats of the past) are safer
and lessen the threat of injury while returning the game to the way it was meant to be played.

LITTLE LEAGUE

Little League International, while introducing BBCOR bats (although not exclusively depending on age
division) to the older kids (14 and above), has not made BBCOR bats mandatory for the younger kids (13
and below). Hopefully, this will change sooner rather than later. With the mistake of a few years ago
which allowed older kids to continue to play in the Little League Majors Division (they actually changed
the eligibility age to allow older kids to stay in the Little League 9-12, now 9-13 division), kids today
who are bigger and stronger pose a threat to pitchers who throw from only 46 feet away (and closer, of
course, on the follow-through).

The best advice for Little League parents is to go to littleleague.org and make sure your child’s bat (or
the bat you are about to buy for your child) is approved. There are lists and exceptions and waivers and
composite bat issues and on and on and on.

To say it’s confusing would be an understatement, in this writer’s opinion.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER TRAVEL OR YOUTH BASEBALL LEAGUES?

Unfortunately, the same caveats apply when buying a bat which you hope will comply from league to
league or even tournament to tournament. Specifically, you must review the bat eligibility rules for
each tournament or each league that your child will participate in.

The best advice for bat-buying in a non-high school or NCAA college situation is to seek out an expert
(maybe the head of umpires in a particular league, for example, as they must enforce these rules) who
knows what your particular league/tournament requires. If you are playing on a high-level travel team,
your coach should be well-aware of what is or is not allowed in the leagues/tournaments that you will
be playing in.

It’s hard to give concrete answers to the question as to whether a particular bat is allowed other than
to say a BBCOR metal bat, while reducing offensive production, is generally acceptable (although,
obviously, not in a wood bat league or tournament), if not mandatory (high school, NCAA), in most
leagues/tournaments.

ADVICE TO PARENTS

Tread carefully and keep your receipts when you pay (possibly a small fortune still) for one of these bats.
2011’s high school BESR bat cannot be used in high school in 2012. Maybe they can be used in some
travel team leagues or tournaments. Maybe not. Try and educate yourself as to what bats are legal in
whatever league/tournament your child is expected to play in this season.

Coaches have to be aware as well. Maybe some other team will try to get an “edge” by hoping an
umpire and/or opposing coach is not up on the rules for a particular league or tournament. Yes, this

happens, and more often than you might think. Sneak an illegal BESR (or even a composite in some
situations) bat past an umpire or opposing coach and that team has a huge advantage (and be prepared
for the innocent “I had no idea” excuse when such a coach/player is caught).

It would be great if everything just returned to wood. It would be very good if everything was changed
to BBCOR. But outside of high school and NCAA baseball (where everything is now BBCOR), one has to
be aware and diligent when deciding what bat to buy for one’s child.

My Top Ten Sports Parenting Predictions for 2012…

So much has happened in recent years in the ever-changing world of sports parenting, that I thought I’d finish out 2011 with my Top Ten Predictions for the coming year. Here we go:

10. LL Baseball will follow the NCAA and the Nat’l HS Baseball Federation and allow only BBCOR (and of course wood) bats. No more BESR aluminum bats with their huge sweet spots and dangerous trampoline effects.

Problem is, this new rule, I predict, won’t go into effect until 2013 as the bat manufacturers still want to sell off their large inventory of BESR aluminum bats. As such, LL Baseball mandatory use of BBCOR won’t kick in until 2013.

9. Wood bats will stay remain quite popular with serious young ballplayers.

Let’s face it – any young man who dreams of someday playing pro ball (where only wood is used) will continue to use wood bats during the summer leagues and use BBCOR during HS games.

8. More and more travel teams will try and block their players from playing on their local HS team.

It’s cruel to force HS kids to make a choice between playing for their HS varsity or playing for their travel team, but we’re already seeing this happen with US Soccer Academy forcing soccer players to choose. Sadly, this pattern is only going to continue into the new year.

7. More and more states will enact stronger legislation that will control the over-the-counter sale of high-energy and high-caffeine drinks to kids.

There have already been a number of serious health issues in the news, especially with HS athletes drinking these unregulated sports drinks. Parents need to know that just because these drinks are packaged brightly and sold in stores does not mean that they are safe, or have been scrutinized by the Federal Drug Administration.

In short, too many of these drinks contain seriously dangerous elements link arsenic and lead, and can lead to all sorts of health isssues.

6. Refs, umps, and officials will be given more latitude to end lopsided games and keep sportsmanship in play.

We keep hearing about lopsided scores, and that the coaches don’t mind running up the score. Here’s hoping that if the coaches can’t control themselves, the refs and umps will step in, and once they see a rout is in progress, they allow the clock to run, and if necessary, just stop the game.

Nobody benefits from a lopsided score, and you always run the risk of bitter feelings and fights. So, let’s allow the refs and umps to use their power and do the right thing.

5. In order to help defray the rising cost of HS sports, kids will be charged a fee for trying out.

Hard to believe, but this is already happening in Minnesota, where some public HS’s are already charging varsity hopefuls $50 to try out for the team. This idea may sound outrageous, but it’s the kind of idea that will spread like wildfire.

4. More clarification will be forthcoming regarding boys competing against girls in traditional HS female-oriented sports.

Title IX is a wonderful law, but it was never supposed to be used as a way for 18-year-old boys to compete on the HS girls’ field hockey team, nor allow boys to compete on the HS girls’ swim team. The time has come for the federal govt. to step in and clarify the purpose of the law.

3. More and more coaches will undergo background checks.

In light of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal, more and more youth leagues will insist that all coaches undergo background checks. This is good news, but unfortunately, only those individuals who have ever been convicted of such a crime will be caught. Parents, always use common sense when it comes to your young athletes and their coaches!

2. HS Codes of Conduct need to be bolstered in terms of cyberbullying.

We have discussed this many times on the show, and in 2012, we really need HS administrators, ADs, coaches and school boards to step up and strengthen the Code of Conduct for athletes regarding online behavior.

Kids still don’t understand how powerful the internet can be, or for that matter, how dangerous. And once something that is alarming or libelous is posted, it’s very difficult to take down once it goes viral.

1. Amazingly in 2012….kids will still love playing sports!

After all the tremendous pressure we put on our kids regarding sports – and I’m talking about the pressure that comes from Moms, Dads, coaches, travel teams, try outs, etc – it’s still amazing that our children love playing sports. But they do!

As such, in 2012, make yourself a promise that you will take a deep breath, take a step back, and will just allow your son or daughter to enjoy the moment of playing sports. If we all did that, it would make for a very healthy and happy new year for us all!

Breaking News: LL Pitcher Fortunately Survives Line Drive to His Face

THIS JUST IN……In a Little League World Series game that was played and televised on ESPN yesterday afternoon, spectators and viewers collectively held their breath when, in the 3rd inning, Ryan McCormick of Cumberland, RI, hit a line-drive rocket directly back at the pitcher, Braydon Salzman, of Huntington Beach, CA.

Amazingly, the line shot off the aluminum bat hit the brim of the pitcher’s cap, which fortunately absorbed most of the stunning blow. That being said, Salzman instantly fell over backwards, as though he had been shot. After he was able to recuperate for several minutes, Salzman was actually able — and cleared — to keep pitching.

I urge you to google “Little League baseball pitcher hit by line drive.” There are several shots in slo-mo of Salzman being hit by the ball. You can see for yourself that, if the ball had hit the youngster by just 1/4 inch in either direction, he would have been very seriously injured.

On the slo-mo video, you can even see as he tries in vain to get his glove up to protect his face, but the ball travels too fast for him to do that.

Then, look for the video from ESPN in real-time speed. You’ll see Salzman deliver the pitch and then the ball explode off the barrel and right into his face. He had no time to react.

The bottom line? Braydon Salzman is one very, very lucky kid. So is Little League Baseball.  I’ll be curious to find out what kind of bat Ryan McCormick was using– but it sure didn’t look like it was a wooden one.

 

Huh? Little League Claims that Kids Can Throw Curves Without Any Fear of Injury?

What?? Throwing curves and sliders won’t hurt your kid’s arm?

This proclamation — which was announced by Steve Keener, the CEO of Little League Baseball — was made last week, and it has sent shock waves through the world of youth sports.

Why in the world would LL make this announcement? I’m inclined to think that maybe it’s because I directly asked Keener on my radio show a few years ago why they allowed kids to throw curves when every physician over the last 60 years has said it’s very, very dangerous to allow this.

Keener said that he didn’t know how to stop kids from throwing curves – that you can’t tell when the ball just naturally curves out of a kid’s hand or when he’s actually throwing a curve.

Huh?? Every LL umpire behind the plate can immediately detect if a kid is trying to throw a curve ball. So how can Keener claim that it’s too hard to tell?

In any event, I plan on discussing this bizarre proclamation with Dr. Timothy Kremchek on this coming Sunday’s show on WFAN. Dr. Kremcheck is the team orthopedic surgeon for the Cincinnati Reds, and is totally against kids under the age of 14 from throwing curves.

In the meantime, just understand the immediate impact of this “finding” by LL Baseball. This now means that a kid can throw 100 curves in a row, if he wants to, or his coach wants him to. After all, LL Baseball says that there’s no risk of injury! Remember, LL Baseball says that it’s top priority is safety…that’s why they now say kids can throw endless curves, and that’s why they still allow dangerous BESR aluminum bats to be used. Something doesn’t add up here.

Kallas: Alas, even BBCOR bats are being tampered with…

Steve Kallas was kind enough to sub for me on my show this weekend, and his guests included former major league pitcher Ron Darling and former minor league catcher Dan Gray who now runs a couple of very successful baseball and softball instructional clinics (Pro Swing in Mt Kisco, NY and also in Port Chester, NY).

Both Darling and Gray would much prefer that baseball continue to be played at all levels with traditional wood bats, but they both told Steve that at least BBCOR bats have deadened the trampoline effect substantially, and that baseball averages, which had been stratospheric in recent years, had now fallen back to earth. That is, college hitters, for example, who had hit .400 or .450 two years ago hit around .300 this year. The difference is not in the pitching – it’s because of the use of BBCOR bats thqt their averages have dropped.

Steve also explained that while this year in NCAA ball, all bats have to be BBCOR, only in certain states were BBCOR mandated this year. But next year, in 2012, all HS games will have to use BBCOR or wood.

Meanwhile, Little League baseball still hasn’t mandated the move yet to either BBCOR or wood. We’ll see what happens this August when the LL starts its playoffs.

Then in the second half of the hour, Kallas unloaded a bombshell that there are articles online that explain how BBCOR bats can be taken apart and manipulated to eliminate their dead zone. That is, Steve explained that some players (and presumably coaches) have learned to remove the endcap on the BBCORs, and then remove an inner ring inside the bat. These inner rings are the items that provide the deadening effect, so when they are taken out, the bats spring back to life.

Problem is, no one (especially the umpire) can tell that the bat has been doctored. And that causes real issues.

So what’s the cure? Easy. Just go back to wood bats. All of these issues about trampoline effects, ball exit speed, and so on are all non-issues with wood. It’s still worth thinking about.

How BBCOR Bats are Affecting the Game of Baseball

The reports are coming in from all over…because of BBCOR bats, baseball coaches everywhere this season are seeing a lot fewer HRs than in recent seasons, fewer runs are being scored, and in general, the game is quickly returning to its roots.

In short, the game is beginning to resemble the game how it used to be played – -i.e. with wood bats.

But bear in mind that nowhere will you see the bat manufacturers say this. All they will talk about is that BBCOR bats are superb innovations that make the game safer.

In short, we’re finally going back in the direction of wood bats. And it’s about time.

Smart coaches are now looking to build teams based upon defense, speed, and good pitching. Looking for sluggers who can power HR’s has quickly become a thing of the past. Skills like bunting and the hit-and-run have come back into vogue. Waiting for a three-run homer has become passe.

In short, it’s getting back to being baseball again.

What Baseball Bat Should You Use in 2011 in Little League, High School or College?

By Steve Kallas 

Much has changed in the landscape of baseball bats for the 2011 season. If you are buying one of these bats, be very careful, especially if the bat is a BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) bat. Rules have changed for this year and will change for the 2012 year as well. After telling us (incorrectly) for years that the BESR bats are virtually “the same” as wood (an absurd conclusion), the times, they are a changin’. Most important, BEWARE THE BAT SALES. Right now, every day in the Northeast, one can see commercials for baseball bats at half-price, etc. We will discuss those below.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN DEFINITIONS/ABBREVIATIONS?

Some definitions: BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio): The BESR bat has long been a standard for bats, especially in Little League. For years, people like Rick Wolff of WFAN’s “The Sports Edge” radio show (Sunday mornings at 8 on WFAN) and this writer have pointed out at length the obvious differences between wooden bats (where all levels of baseball should return to) and the clear dangers of metal bats (just watch or pitch batting practice to a group of kids using both metal and wood bats – the difference is obvious). The BESR, a wholly inadequate standard (now recognized as such, however subtly, by virtually everyone), simply measures the exit speed of a ball off a bat.

BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution): This is the new standard in NCAA college baseball for 2011 and for high schools in 2012. Without being too technical, the BBCOR standard measures the “trampoline” effect of a ball off a bat. By virtually all accounts, the BBCOR bats are much “deader” than the BESR bats and are much closer to wood in terms of “pop” off the bat.

ABI (Accelerated Break-In): This is in response to the increased use, in recent years, of composite bats (composite bats are even better than aluminum bats, from a “pop” standpoint, as they have a woven graphite wall and actually get stronger as they are “broken in” (whether legally, with use, or illegally, with “bat-rolling” techniques)). A bat must stay within the ABI standard over time to be legal.

BPF (Bat Performance Factor): Still used by Little League’s “Majors” Division (13 and under), a non-wood bat must have a BPF of 1.15 or less (and will be labeled as such). It is a measurement that is supposed to show that a non-wood bat has similar qualities of “pop” (for lack of a better term) when compared with a wooden bat. In this writer’s opinion (and the opinion of many others), clearly the non-wood bat with a BPF of 1.15 has much more power and/or ability to swing it faster, etc. than a wood bat. It simply hits the ball harder with a much bigger sweet spot than the traditional wood bat.

Finally, when ”composite bats” are discussed, the term refers to composite-barreled bats, not bats with composite handles.

LITTLE LEAGUE BATS

A bit confusing, but go to Littleleague.org and ask either someone you trust and/or a knowledgeable Little League official BEFORE purchasing a bat. In the latter part of 2010, Little League placed a moratorium on composite bats. BUT, there is now a growing list of, to quote the website, “specific models of composite-barreled baseball bats [that] have received a waiver of the moratorium after a testing/approval process.”

While the “normal” (for lack of a better term) bats are still usable in Little League, the composite bat cannot be used unless Little League has granted that particular type of bat a waiver. Again, it is important to go to littleleague.org to see which bats are “usable.” Beware also, that Little League now has a number of caveats attached to their lists, including the most important (confusing?): “These lists do NOT depict all the bats that could be used in games and practices. Such lists would be impossible to compile.”

Little League does tell you that your bat should comply with Little League Rule 1.10 (for the Majors division, that means not more than 33 inches in length nor more than 2-1/4 inch diameter and a BPF of 1.15 or less) and NOT be a banned composite bat. In 2012, in all divisions of Little League above Majors (that is, Junior, Senior and Big League Baseball — ages 13 and over) will go to a BBCOR standard.

HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL

Inexplicably (or maybe to protect bat inventories in stores?), the National Federation of State High School Associations (“NFHS”) has set forth rules where the BBCOR standard will not go into effect until 2012. There is at least one exception in California, where the BBCOR standard is in effect for the 2011 season. However, in 2011 in high school baseball, a composite bat can be used IF it already meets the tougher BBCOR standard that will become mandatory in 2012.

See the loophole here: In 2011, in high school baseball (other than in California), one can still use a bat with the much looser BESR standard (under NFHS 2011 Baseball Rule Changes at page 2: “Through December 31, 2011, each aluminum bat shall meet the Ball Exit-Speed Ratio (BESR) performance standard.”)

Uh-oh. That means, in this writer’s opinion, that high school baseball in 2011 (everywhere but in California) will be more dangerous than it will be in 2012.

Why wait to make the obvious change?

Be sure to check www.nfhs.org if you (or, if you are the parent, your child) are playing high school baseball this season.

NCAA COLLEGE BASEBALL

The BBCOR rules are in effect for 2011 for any college baseball division that is under the auspices of the NCAA or follows NCAA rules in general. That means that any bat, even a composite bat, that meets the BBCOR standard, can be used in NCAA baseball in 2011. There is also an ABI (Accelerated Break-In) standard that must be met (again, in the past, people have been “rolling” composite bats as such bats get better with use) in order to be a legal bat in 2011. To find out more information, google “NCAA Baseball Bat Standards.” This also means that power numbers will be down in the college game in 2011.

BEWARE THE BAT “SALES”

As noted at the beginning of this article, be very careful in buying a bat this year, especially for high school players. The “sales” you are seeing are, most often, FOR BATS THAT YOUR CHILD MAY NOT BE ABLE TO USE IN 2012. For example, if you buy a BESR bat in 2011 (and, in the northeast, the top-of-the-line of those bats can go for up to $350 or $400), YOUR CHILD CANNOT USE THAT BAT IN HIGH SCHOOL IN 2012.

Proceed with caution.

CHECK YOUR LOCAL LEAGUE’S WEBSITE

Obviously, the above does not cover everything. Travel teams in the summer, often now a much higher level of baseball than high school or Little League (and where serious players will often play with wood bats), go from league to league and tournament to tournament with different rules on virtually a weekly basis.

There are obviously many other leagues. While it appears that American Legion ball has placed a moratorium on composite bats for 2011, BESR bats are still allowed in 2011 and the BBCOR standard will be in effect in 2012 (see www.legion.org). In Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken, it appears that there will be no composite bats allowed in the older divisions (13-15 and 16-18) but in the younger Cal Ripken divisions, composite bats will be allowed in 2011. Other leagues (like Pony Baseball and Dixie Youth Baseball) will not ban composites for the 2011 season.

Softball is beyond the scope of this article but, for example, Little League has not banned composite bats in their softball division. Again, check your local league or state high school federation’s website for more information.

BE CAREFUL

You have to be proactive when buying a baseball bat this year for virtually any baseball player. Speak to a knowledgeable league official but, more important, check the website of your local league or high school federation. Remember, if you buy an expensive BESR bat this season, that bat may be banned next season. If you take advantage of those “sales,” it’s probably a one-year deal.

The rules are pretty confusing. But it’s up to you, the parent (as usual), to do what’s best for your child.

Baseball Bat Alphabet Soup: BESR, BBCOR, etc…

I truly feel sorry for any well-intended Mom or Dad who attempts to purchase their son a new baseball bat for this coming spring. That’s because -thanks to the aluminum and composite bat manufacturers and fueled by the dopey support of LL Baseball that there’s no difference between a ball coming off a wood bat or a non-wood bat —  there’s now more confusion than ever in the history of baseball as to what kinds of bats are legal to use in amateur ball in 2011.

And here’s the irony. All of these new bats with new rules are being constructed with one purpose in mind – to come close to simulate the effect of a wood bat hitting a pitched ball.

Huh?

I can hear you asking. “Well, if that’s the purpose, why not just get rid of aluminum and composite bats, and simply go back to just using wood bats.”

And that’s exactly my point. Starting this spring, and then carrying over into 2012, pretty much every baseball bat will have to carry a BBCOR certification…which means that the bat will have the same kind of very restrictive trampoline effect that all wood bats have. The only advantage, from what I can tell, is that non-wood bats won’t break. Aluminum bats and composite bats won’t drive a ball any further; they’ll just be difficult to break.

So the question is: why would you spend $300 or more to buy a composite or aluminum bat when a really good maple bat only runs $125? True, a maple can break, but even that extra maple bat still costs you less than the $300 composite.

As Steve Kallas pointed out on the show this AM, this is just madness. Plus all of these BBCOR/BESR certifications now puts an extra burden on umpires working the game to review all the bats before the game. Umps will need a long list of which bats are legal, and which ones aren’t.

What’s the simple solution? Just outlaw aluminum and composite, and pass a rule that only wood bats – just like they use in pro ball – are allowed. Not only does it make for a better game, but it’s the way the game was invented.

I just don’t see any reason why this can’t be done. It’s just common sense, plain and simple.