Strong case for wood baseball bats

by Mark Weber Special to The Review

Editor's note: Mark Weber is the head baseball coach at Howards Grove High School and the Wisconsin
Baseball Coaches Association's District 7 co-representative for summer ball.
On a typical warm summer baseball night in 2005, Scott Geary, pitcher for Howards Grove High School,
took a line drive to the face off a BESR metal bat and suddenly nothing was typical.
As Scott went into spasms and blood ran from his mouth, my thoughts were that he could die right here. As
I drove Scott's dad to the hospital, I promised him I would learn more about these metal bats which seemed
to be 'livelier' and becoming downright dangerous.
The more I learned, the more convinced I became that these metal bats are lethal. Scott survived and then in
2007, Gunner Sandburg of Oakland, Calif., got hit by a similar line drive and he too survived but his case
changed everything.
Over time, our Central Lakeshore Conference, and now the WIAA, NFHS (National Federation of High
Schools) and the NCAA all agreed. Wood is safer. The BBCCOR standard is a 'wood' standard.
We, of the CLC, feel we are leading the way in promoting the game the way it was designed. It's safer,
easier on budgets, and a better all-around game. The settlement in the Gunner Sandberg case has brought
sanity back to the game.
However, I still wonder why coaches want to pay $400 for a bat that cannot perform any better than wood
retailing at $40 to $160. (composite). Is it because metal has more 'bling' or more dynamic graphics, or that
chicks dig metal, or could it be that coaches simply are not educated about wood? Follow the money.
Obviously, the bat companies promote metal based on sales and profits compared to wood. Their interests
are not ours.
I've used wood in high school, college and semi-pro and I've used metal. I've concluded that the one
remaining difference is that with wood you have more 'mass' or weight in the barrel or sweet spot area.
Metal has kept the weight in the middle or handle area.
In other words the metal 'bat-head' is lighter. Now, the results in hitting the baseball with either bat are
similar. The way you swing the bat, however, is quite different.
After using the BBCCOR for the 2011 season, many college players said they prefer wood over metal.
College coaches seem to be split on which they prefer. However, in recent articles and blogs, the
controversy is diminishing.
Heading into the 2011 College World Series opener, USC had one more sacrifice hit (59) than last season
and seven more (33) sacrifice flies. The effect on pitching has been remarkable as well. Gamecock hurlers
allowed 61 homers in 2010. In 2011 that number has fallen like a roller-coaster to 26 – a 57.4 percent drop.
Power numbers are down but no one was complaining, especially pro scouts. Speaking of the pros, did you
ever wonder why they won't use metal? Answer: owners won't risk losing their investment on one pitch.
Think about that for a while.
Over-engineering equipment to benefit the offense over defense never made much sense to me. Originally,
metal was designed to last longer, thus cut cost. Currently, the life of a good metal or wood bat is maximum
about two years – no difference.
Unfortunately, the move to metal for players has evolved into a nightmare of injuries and even deaths. Bat
company profits evolved into a billion dollar industry. OK, coaches loved the run production as high school
players' averages evolved to obnoxious levels of .500-.600 but the game became distorted and its quality
But now it has been righted by BBCCOR. Hopefully, it stays honest because there are already reports of
'cheating' by cutting metal shavings from the inside of BBCOR metal bat barrels to get that trampoline
effect that has been lost in the new rules.
Good grief! When is the last time anyone in high school dared to cork a wood bat? Penalties need to be
very severe for any tampering!
There is another aspect about wood that almost no one talks about: 'sound.' Yes, sound. A good defensive
player can get 'a jump' on a ball just based on sound. The loss of that 'sound' can now be rightfully returned
to the game.
After all, who doesn't prefer 'the crack of the bat' to a 'ping,' or 'thud?' Ted Williams used to say he could
smell a well-hit ball off wood. I'm not sure what he'd say about metal.
The war is over. Wood wins on safety, cost and quality.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, baseball is better because of Gunner Sandberg and Scott
Geary. Its a shame that both Scott and Gunner came close to losing their lives over it.
Thanks again to the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association for a platform to help coaches better
understand the benefits of wood. Hey, how bout this slogan: "Wood, its what's for baseball."

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