Local coaches do not foresee much change
By Kyle LoJacono
The National Federation of State High School Associations has banned composite bats for next school year, but many local coaches do not believe the change will alter the game in Pasco County.
“We knew the ban was coming so we didn’t buy any composites for team to use last year,” said Wesley Chapel High baseball coach Chuck Yingling. “We never used them in practice and I don’t think any of the kids used them in games.”
Pasco High baseball coach Ricky Giles said on the ban, “It’s something the players will just have to get used to, but I don’t think it will do that much.”
Both Giles and Yingling have been teaching the game in high school for more than 15 years.
Composite bats are made from several materials, but usually include carbon, glass and Kevlar fibers within a plastic resin. They are usually lighter than aluminum bats which creates greater bat speed and therefore more powerful swings.
The reason for the ban is data created at the Baseball Research Center showed balls hit with composites travel faster than with wood or aluminum bats. The research was sparked after a California high school pitcher, Gunnar Sandberg, was hit in the head during a game. Sandberg had to have part of his skull temporarily removed because of the swelling.
Those in the federation felt Sandberg might have been able to catch or block the ball if it were moving slower.
Not only are composites lighter, the federation also found many players “roll” bats, which means placing it between to rollers that apply pressure. This breaks down the materials and makes the bat more flexible. When a ball hits a rolled bat it causes it to flex in, which causes a catapult affect with the ball and generates more power. It also creates a bigger “sweet spot,” which is the area of the bat that transfers more power into the swing.
“Rolling the bat gives it a higher performance,” said Elliot Hopkins, the federation’s liaison to the baseball rules committee. “It can significantly increase the performance and that’s huge in our game.”
The federation created a four-page document placing a moratorium on composites until more evidence on the safety of the bats can be better determined. The ban does not apply to bats with composite handles and tapers, only those with such barrels.
The ban will not affect softball bats. Florida High School Athletic Association softball director Jamie Rohrer said the federation felt the composites were not used as much in softball and the rolling process was not being as abused in the sport.
Giles has not seen much difference between how the ball travels off a composite versus aluminum bat.
“It flies off them both,” Giles said. “I’ve been coaching for going into 19 years at Pasco and I’ve never seen something bad happen, thank goodness. If they tell me it’s safer, I’ll believe them.”
Yingling sees possible positives from the ban.
“In the long run, it’ll make the game more competitive in Pasco County because we’ll be using the same equipment,” Yingling said. “Aluminum bats have a smaller sweet spot, so you need to have a better technical swing. We were in a couple wood bat tournaments this summer and use wood a lot in practice to force the kids to have better swings so they don’t get cheap hits.”
While the Wildcats use wood bats to train the players to have better swings, Yingling does not think a move to only wood bats is possible.
“The metal is more of a financial thing now,” Yingling said. “When you buy an aluminum bat you can use it for years. You can break a wood bat a couple times a week and kids can’t afford to keep buying new ones.”
Giles said like most things, it will just be a learning process.
“Those boys who used composites will need to get used to it because we’re all using the same rules,” Giles said. “Can’t argue if the playing field is level.”