OUR VIEW: Wood bats good for baseball in South DakotaThe “ping” of baseball season has been replaced this year with a sound that may seem unfamiliar to those born after, say, 1965.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
The “ping” of baseball season has been replaced this year with a sound that may seem unfamiliar to those born after, say, 1965.
Within the upper levels in South Dakota, aluminum baseball bats are gone. With them will go the odd sound that occurs when a baseball strikes metal. That off-key note will be replaced by the more traditional sound of a wood bat striking a pitched ball, which is heard at all professional-level parks but is a noise that had faded here on South Dakota’s fields.
We expect the traditionally high scores found in most amateur baseball games to dramatically decrease.
And so will much of the danger faced by pitchers and infielders.
Injuries are a part of baseball, but we have grown weary of hearing about kids injured playing in games where aluminum bats are used. A gory mishap happened last year at Mitchell’s Drake Field, highlighting exactly how fast a baseball comes off a metal bat.
The problem is that bat-makers have spent so much time trying to outdo each other. The technology that goes into a metal bat is actually the industry’s undoing.
Metal bats today aren’t like the standard-issue aluminum sticks that were used in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, each team had two or three bats that were used by most everyone on the team. They were bland and basic. As they aged throughout a season, they lost some of their recoil, and therefore weren’t as potent as they were when they first came off the rack.
Today’s metal bats are built lighter and stronger than ever, allowing for better power generation. In many cases, players are purchasing their own bats to better fit their personal preferences, and often, they are replacing the bats after just one season of use.
Too, kids are specializing in sports more than they used to. Not only do many players practice year-round, but many kids today stay engaged in weight-lifting programs.
The result: Players are bigger and stronger than ever, and they’re swinging space-age metal bats that are lighter and less-used than bats of a decade ago.
This spring, high school teams in South Dakota used wood — or wood composite — bats for the first time. Even South Dakota amateur players are now required to use wood bats.
Youth teams are still allowed to use metal, but as players grow older and stronger, they will be switching to wood and wood-composite bats.
We wonder if this change will result in an increase in participation. Some children may be shying away from the sport because metal bats have created a game that’s played at a faster — and therefore more dangerous — pace.
Home run numbers will decrease. Perhaps administrators of South Dakota’s larger parks will consider moving in the fences as a way to compensate for this historic change. Players and fans still love the long ball, after all.
Either way, we figure the decrease in fireworks is a good trade if it means fewer broken noses, missing teeth and shattered eye sockets.