The Rhode Island teams in the American Legion Baseball league, the oldest nationwide youth program, is switching it’s players back from aluminum bats to wood.
“But Rhode Island is once again playing with wood, one of at least three states nationwide where the American Legion has mandated a switch from metal bats to the type used in Major League Baseball, in part to return the game to its purer origins.”
“…’There’s a lot of nostalgia using all wood,” said Jim Quinlan, national program coordinator for the American Legion league, which was founded in 1925 and counts the likes of Yogi Berra, Tom Brokaw and Dick Cheney as alumni. “Baseball people are hard-core traditionalists. The old-time coaches love that old wooden bat. They say it teaches the kids to be a better hitter.’
“…The debate over wood versus metal is long running. Metal bats are lighter weight and cost more – some run several hundred dollars, while wood ones are usually $100 or less – but they last considerably longer. They also tend to be more powerful than wood, as hitting goes. Balls pop off a metal bat, and fast.”
“But that has raised a safety issue, particularly after several serious injuries to high school and college players in recent years. The new type of metal bat being used in the NCAA is designed to dull the exit speed of the ball, giving players more time to react to hits that could potentially be dangerous, particularly for pitchers.”
“Still, proponents of metal bats say there is no conclusive research showing that wood bats, traditionally made of ash and, more recently, maple, are safer. They can splinter, sending shards of wood catapulting through the air, putting players and even fans at risk. Major League Baseball, after experiencing a high number of broken-bat incidents in 2008, began studying them – with the help of the U.S. Forest Service – to identify which kind of bats break most often and why. The league set new maple-bat standards and says they helped cut the shard rate.”
What is your youth league using? Do you have a preference for the kids between metal and wood? Do you think it matters to their training or to the play of the game? Should all youth leagues switch back to wood?