New bats change high school baseball
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Area high school baseball teams are using new bats this season. A new national standard reduces a bat's sweet spot to help protect pitchers from balls hit sharply back up the middlde.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald Lake Stevens High School's JT Cox, Anthony Blackie and Dylan Lavelle laugh during a ground-ball drill at practice Tuesday afternoon in Lake Stevens. Photo taken 030111
Not because Snohomish County teams don't have players who can hit for power. The average player's ability to hit the long ball hasn't changed. The bat he uses, however, has.
The National Federation of State High School Associations implemented a new rule this spring that all non-wooden bats must meet the new Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) performance standard.
What all that scientific language means in layman's terms is that the sweet spot of the bat is reduced in size and the ball doesn't jump off the bat as quickly -- theoretically protecting pitchers from comebackers hit at a high rate of speed.
Snohomish coach Kim Hammons said he expects power numbers to go down this season as will the amount of runs scored.
"Guys just have to change," he said. "I think the game is going to change and coaches at the high school level will have to change right along with it."
Instead of multiple-run innings, Hammons said he expects more teams play for one run, putting a higher priority on base stealing and bunting. For teams that haven't relied on power hitting in the past, the change might not be such a bad thing.
"I think the teams that have played small ball will have a leg up on some of the other teams," Hammons said.
Scott Goldsberry, the head coach at Cedarcrest High School, said the new bats won't have a major effect on his team's approach.
"I don't know if it will change how we coach as much," Goldsberry said. "We have always tried to preach hitting the ball the other way.We try to do the small ball as much as possible."
Not lost on the coaches is the reason the rule was implemented in the first place.
"I think it is a good thing, especially when the focus is on kids' safety," Goldsberry said.
Some teams may respond to the change by going back to wood bats. Wood bats are legal in high school, but because of the power and durability of metal bats, few players used them. Now that the technology has changed -- and the new metal bats perform more like wood bats -- it is certainly possible that teams will make the switch.
Hammons said he would like to see that happen.
"I would really like to go to all wood bats," he said. "Let's play the game like the pros."
Mountlake Terrace coach Andrew Watters said the new bats will force players to learn the fundamentals of hitting, and not just get by on strength and athletic ability.
"I do think it's going to have an impact on the game and I think it's going to be a good impact," he said. "Now to get an extra-base hit, hitters are really going to have to square up on the ball."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.