Why not wood bats?

Written by Blaine Clemmens on .

Was out watching some HS winter league ball at Marin Catholic HS on Sunday (1/10/09) and the discussion of wood bats came up between me, MCHS coach Mike Firenzi and even the umpire... and by the way, that umpire (Anthony Braggs of Umpires 24/7) was GREAT.  My position on wood bats vs metal bats is strong and on the surface would appear to be quite valid.  The most commonly made points in this topic are safety, cost, and quality of play.  Clearly baseball played with wood bats is safer for the players (and for that matter the fans in the stands). 

The old argument that metal bats are more cost effective really only holds water at the NCAA D1 level where many programs have contracts with bat companies and get free bats.  As for the quality of play part of the discussion, who would argue that pitchers are not more aggressive to the strike zone when facing wood bats?  Only an insane person. Many JC conferences West of the Mississippi swing wood bats (ACCAC, Scenic West, NWACC, Region IX) and most college players swing wood bats all summer (not to mention HS players too).  The JC programs in Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana all for the most part, if not entirely, swing wood bats. 

California, the state that produces more professional players than any state?  Metal bats.  Why?  There aren't any big bat contracts for the Commission on Athletics, which is the governing body of CA JC sports.  Not to my knowledge. JC players and JC programs do not have much money, for the most part, relative to their NCAA counterparts. 

From what I know, a new Nike Stealth bat is around $300+.  A new Louisville 2010 TPX Air Exogrid is $399.  Wow.  The walls in the metal bats these days are EXTREMELY thin.  JC players hit the weight room and take tons of BP.  They wear out those bats QUICKLY and have to buy another $350 bat (NCAA D1 guys get free replacements under warranties and contracts).  Do you know how long a composite wood bat, such as the Baum Bat lasts?  A LONG time and they cost a LOT less than a metal bat. If metal bats are more dangerous, more expensive, less durable and tend to cause a lower quality of play (with unaggressive pitching and its byproduct of worse INF play due to the rockets being hit at infielders), tell me again why are metal bats being used at the JC/HS level?

New York state high school baseball has legislated that only wood bats can be used and that is a GREAT thing.  California is a leader in so many GOOD things like a ban on smoking in restaurants, etc, and it would be wonderful to see the CIF become a leader in the fight to eliminate metal bats from high school baseball.  To suggest that the NCAA wise up and eliminate metal bats would be foolish because there is too much money involved for them and member schools from the bat makers to ever consider it and we know how much the NCAA loves money. 

It is sad that it will probably take a player getting seriously injured (and probably worse) on national TV in the college world series because of a metal bat before anyone does something about metal bats at that level.   To read in the newspaper about a player getting hurt or killed a couple thousand miles away does not sink home like seeing it happen on live TV will.  Obviously I hope and pray that NEVER happens. However, the COA and the CIF certainly do not have the financial stake the NCAA does and can do something big.  Save your players some money, create a higher quality of play, make the game safer and help train better ballplayers by getting rid of metal bats. 

There is one JC conference in the Bay Area that has at least a couple of coaches talking about making their conference a wood bat conference.  I sure hope that happens.  Maybe there will be a NCS or CCS conference (the WCAL or EBAL would be a great place to start) that will take on the challenge and be a leader.  Thoughts?