OTL Bat Debate: Pitcher's Input Requested

This is an invitation for all pitchers at all levels to respond with your observations, opinions, thoughts and experiences relating to the ever present elephant in the room, the non-wood bat debate.

Have you resolved in your own mind the risks involved in pitching? Baseball in general is a relatively safe sport and pitchers are rarely struck in the head with a batted ball. However, when it happens, it is often a very tragic and an emotionally charged event.

I’d just like to elicit some feedback on this topic and in the process perhaps prepare pitchers for being present or involved in an incident like the Gunner Sandberg experience:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5276617&categoryid=3286128

I believe that metal bats should definitely be eliminated at all levels of play. I have personally witnessed a pitcher struck in the head by a baseball off a metal bat, and the pitcher had no time to react. I further believe that it should be a rule that all pitchers be required to wear a helmet while pitching. ( Regardless if they face metal or wood bats) We wore them one year in colllege, THE WHOLE TEAM!! Major league coaches are require to wear a helmet ever since a first base coach was killed after being stuck by a batted ball. Will it take such an iincident to require helmets worn by pitchers?

I have not witnessed, nor have I read reports of a wholesale run on emergency wards, because of the use of metal bats.

If I’m not mistaken, in the video attached to Dino’s post, this young man is pitching BP. I could be wrong. If this is the case, he’s tossing BP without the protection of a pitcher’s protective screen. I have witnessed (amateur levels only) such BP sessions and the use of metal and wood alike and no good has ever come of it without a pitcher’s protective screen. In addition, in the video attached to Dino’s post, I see an adult in the background -but, he (adult) strolls off later on. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that he (adult) walked away from that spot because he (adult) didn’t want to get drilled by a batted ball.

Look, wood, metal, or even a flag pole for that matter won’t change the fact that metal bats are here to stay at the amateur level - period. The reasons for this are crystal clear:
(a) they’re cheap to keep
(b) little or no coaching expertise is required to instruct youth in their use
( c ) these metal bats can be used season after season because of their durability
(d) there is greater action off the metal bat, thus a youngster has a greater chance to hit clean
(e) since the majority of youth playing baseball today have neither the time nor the interest in perfecting play with wood
(f) there is no coach in the amateur game today - at any level, including the big name colleges. that has the professional skills necessary to coach using anything but metal
(g) metal gets better play because of (a) through (f), and winning is the name of the this sport and all the accolades that come with it, again, at all amateur levels, no exceptions.

I live in Massachusetts and we have an old institution called the Cape Code League. Every one of those young men that attend have a reality check waiting for them when they step into the box with timber on their shoulders. I particularly enjoy watching the faces of these players as they swing - don’t get the action that they expected off the bat, then have that glazed over look in their eyes with …” what the @!%! ???” It’s a great day/night for pitchers during this time too. Then, I watch their coaches and the learning curve begins. Those that step up and handle it, are destined for the show … you can tell.

Anyway, as a pitching coach I bank on the dependency of metal bats. I get a kick out watching a parents shell out big $$$$ for some fancy, painted up, slick named bat. Then I sit back and watch a young man that I’ve coached for about five or six months, make a fool of the bat and all the slick stuff that this thing was suppose to do for the youngster.

Wonder why the biggest, up and coming population of ball players today are making it to the Majors - they come from Mexico, south. Those young men don’t have the resources to spend on this stuff - metal bats. They play old school, the way this game was meant to be played. So, shop around, spend big bucks, have a great time. There’s a young man south of the boarder that’ll take your place anytime - night or day. I’ve seen it most of my career.

Coach B.

I agree with most of what you say, but unfortunately I don’t agree when it comes to keeping aluminum bats once someone has entered highschool. I myself have broken someones jaw, another mans hand, and knocked numerous pitchers out of games because of hitting them while using an aluminum bat. Now this can happen with wood as well i’m not denying that, but from personal experience they aren’t safe past a certain age. Once you become 14-15 years old I believe THAT is when the learning curve needs to begin, not when the guys play college, or even pro and then learn to use wood. It’s unreasonable to let the larger stronger kids swing these 20 or so ounce bats just to keep more smaller, weaker, or possibly less talented kids in the game to keep the numbers up. Baseball has never been an easy game, next to cricket and a few others it’s right up there as one of the hardest physically and mentally IMHO. So why do we continue to allow grown men, and some young men who are talented enough to hit with wood continue to swing with aluminum?

?

The reasons are in my post (a) through (g), above.

Also, as would be expected, their greatest demand comes from affordability along with gradification of use.

What’s with wood anyway?

Well, think of it this way - the majority of youngsters going through the baseball experience today, north of Mexico, are just “passing through”. Their interest and competitive zeal doesn’t drive the market place to supply or even nurture anything else but something that offers the ease of “use”, along with a glitzy name and splashy colors. It’s what sells. Couple that with the expertise necessary to use the thing, begged by the missing link in the amateur coaching pool, and you have the formula for a marketing dollars that’s just rings at the cash counter.

Now there’s nothing wrong with having a good time using whatever. I honestly beleive that. And I see nothing wrong with swinging metal, nothing wrong at all. But to blame metal bats for any injury on the field is blame that’s misplaced. It really is. If this was not the case, the NCAA and other associated governing bodies would have removed these things from their game, day one. But they haven’t, and they won’t.

Normally, pitchers and fielders can handle the action and play that these metal bats produce. If it was otherwise, we’d see an outcry from all sides - but we don’t.

While I’m on the subject of bats, let me pass on an experience with a bullpen catcher that was with a club I was with. He only stayed with us one season - after that he was gone to the bigs.

I had a catcher once who was a bullpen catcher and he had no less than nine (9) bats - all of which were for his place in the game plan. If he thought he was going to be boxed inside, he’d grab his “pea-shooter” as he like to call it. If he was going to be given a “hit away- hit of yourself” go-ahead, he grab his ball-buster. That last nickname that had multiple meanings. He also had two bats that he’d use if he was to lay down a bunt, either a push bunt or slug bunt. Also, regardless if we were at home or on the road, he’d always “condition” his bat’s by sanding them down after coming out of the bag - regardless of they were used or not. He would also re-wrap the barrel (handle) after every game that the bat(s) were used. Some of the players called him “sticks” as a joke. But when got offered a better life elsewhere, he wasn’t a joke any more.

Anybody on this web site have a question(s) on wooden bats - their quality, balance, composition, size-per-play, or any other question or comment … ask away. Ever wonder why metal is not used in the Majors? Ever wonder why wooden bat manufacturers who supply bats to Major League players keep a template and strict size and balance data per player?

Think of it this way - ever see a tradesman/tradeswoman with sub-standard tools to make a living with? Nope, you won’t. Plumbers, mechanics, and other trades people know the value of “tools of their trade”. People just passing through the trades without any serious intention of going any farther, won’t invest or learn to use the real stuff. Kind of like a youngster just passing through the game … just ot have fun. Metal bats are OK - no big deal … when done, just leave it in the closet, or put a sticker on it for next Sunday’s tag sale.

Coach B.