Every high school team is using new aluminum bats designed to make the game safer, because the ball leaves the bat 5 percent slower than with older ones. The new bats simply don’t have the pop the old ones had.
The bat’s weight-length ratio remains the same with a minus-3 ratio. If you use a 33-inch bat, it must weigh 30 ounces. A 34-inch bat must weight 31 ounces, and so on.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) instituted the rule with the intent to have new bats more comparable to wood bats. The result should produce lower-scoring, more closely contested games.
Through the first four games this season, Trenton High players Blake Wojtala and Jordan Conti say the game has changed significantly. But they remain uncertain whether they like it.
“I like the new bats as a pitcher,” Wojtala said. “Not so much as a hitter. Playing shortstop, it’s easier in a sense. You have more reaction time. As a pitcher, if they get a good piece of it, it’ll still travel far. It’s pretty much the same game. As a hitter, I haven’t changed my approach. There are a lot of hits you get that will go to an outfielder, when (in the past) it would have gone over their heads. You just have to go up there and swing the bat.”
Conti, a first baseman and pitcher, changed his approach. He moved closer to the plate in an attempt to increase his power. He’s also worked on increasing his bat speed through the strike zone.
“As a pitcher, a guy hit a fly ball off me and I thought it would be a home run or a double,” Conti said. “It just floated to the right fielder. It’s definitely closer to the way baseball should be played, but I think they should have gone all the way to wood and not use the BBCOR.”
BBCOR, the acronym for the new bats, stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution.
In a random survey, most area coaches favor the change, contending more games will feature fewer runs and home runs with a greater emphasis placed upon teaching fundamentals.
Coaches do agree that in the past that when their team trailed by three or four runs, they could wait for the big inning with the livelier bats. With the rule change, coaches are forced to use more strategy, i.e., small ball, such as when to hit-and-run or when to instruct batters to hit to the right side to move baserunners along.
Todd Szalka, a former player at Trenton, is in his fifth season as head coach at his alma mater.
He’s not in favor of the change.
“I’m all for having a big inning,” he said. “But I teach small ball. I think you can have both. (But) we knew this was coming.
“Last season, we started to stress bunting to increase our efficiency. Right now, it’s all about putting the ball in play.”