November 6, 2002

Batting Around the Ordinance

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I’d like to thank the state of Massachusetts for a few things. First, thanks for getting rid of Drew Bledsoe. Sure, kudos to you for the win this weekend, but the Bills are still ahead in the standings. I’d also like to thank them for getting rid of other key players like Roger Clemens and Rodney Rogers. Finally, I’d like to give a big old thank you for making Little League a little safer.

No, there was no drastic move to make everyone wear a helmet or wrap all of the players in bubble wrap. Instead, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to ban aluminum baseball bats from its spring state tournaments.

Think this ruling seems insignificant and petty? It isn’t to Bill Hughto. Pitching a game for his Boston area team, the youngster was struck in the temple off of a line drive last year. He sustained serious injuries and had to undergo surgery.

“So what? Big deal”, you might be thinking, “how is wood going to fix this?”

When a ball contacts a wooden baseball bat, it is the ball that compresses. The bat absorbs the energy and very little is returned — about 20%. When a ball contacts an aluminum bat, it is the bat that compresses. Though more energy is actually lost in this transaction, the compression of the metal creates a trampoline effect. This returns energy to the ball, causing it to have a faster velocity.

Did you fail Physics too?

I’ll sum it up: balls hit with metal bats hurt more.

Even the NCAA agrees. While they haven’t fully banned aluminum bats at the collegiate level, they have upped the standards. Any metal bats used now must comply with the lower compression ratings.

Aluminum bats became popular over the last two decades due to their perceived cost benefit. While this may be true for the untrained and un-coached, a team and school district can actually save money by switching to wooden baseball bats.

Wooden bats are cheaper to begin with, and the argument against them is that they break. The reason they break, however, is because people swing incorrectly at the ball. When a pitch comes in contact with the neck of the bat, it puts a great amount of pressure on a relatively weak area. High-school athletes who correct their swing will not only break less bats, but will also drive in more runs.

Studies have shown that proper technique causes greater energy transfer and farther drives. As for those of you who think that aluminum holds the definitive advantage, I offer this fact. Bill Hughto’s team reached the state championships the year after his accident. They did so by using wooden bats — the team they beat used aluminum.

Personally, I feel there is one more argument for why wood is better — the cracking sound. Nothing sounds better than the crack of a bat as it knocks another run out of the park. Massachusetts actually made an educated athletic decision by putting kids first.

Archived article by Matt Janiga