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Holy Composite Material, BAT-MAN!

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There was a simpler time when all baseball bats were made of wood. Then came aluminum and a variety of alloys. In recent years, composite bats made from fiber and resin have shown up in the batter’s box. Today, the material and method used to manufacture a bat can significantly affect the velocity at which the ball comes off the bat. At higher levels, uneven bat performance can lead to statistical confusion.

For those reasons, amateur baseball sanctioning bodies test new bat designs and sometimes restrict the type of bat that can be used in competition. As examples, let’s take a look at how Little League baseball and high-school baseball sanctioning bodies have dealt with recent changes in bat design.

Little League

It wasn’t long after the introduction of composite bats that ballplayers and Little League officials noticed that high-tech composite bats got “hotter” as they were broken in. Repeated contact with the ball softened up the composite material, giving it more of a trampoline effect. The result was harder hit balls — too hard perhaps for the safety of the players in the field. So in 2010, Little League International temporarily banned the use of composite bats in all baseball divisions of Little League.

“The moratorium is not the result of Little League changing its bat standards, nor was it influenced by any relationships with bat manufacturers,” said Little League International. “The decision is based solely on the fact that scientific research showed that composite-barreled bats may exceed the performance standard that is printed on the bats, after the bats have been broken in.”

In January 2011, the organization announced wavers for some composite bats that had passed the performance test and could now be used in the Little League Majors Baseball Division and lower divisions. These bats have the 2 ¼-inch barrels that are required at those levels.

Dunham’s can equip you with a composite bat that has received a waiver and is now legal for Little League play. A Dunham’s sales representative can help you find a bat that’s right for you.

High School and College

In recent years both high school and college baseball have used bats that complied with the Ball Exit Speed Ratio or BESR standard. Some of the bats meeting that standard didn’t perform in quite the same way as the wooden bats used in professional baseball. Baseball pundits and perhaps even major league baseball owners sometimes complained that it was difficult to determine how well a college player would perform in professional baseball, since the collegiate athletes were using a different type of bat.

That may be part of the reason why NCAA college baseball officially adopted a new standard called the Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution or BBCOR. That standard went into effect on January 1 of this year. The NCAA is reported to have said that the change was not done for safety reasons, but in order to get a more wood-like performance from the bats.

For 2012, high school baseball leagues will make the switch to BBCOR bats as well. California schools have already changed to the NCAA collegiate standard, but schools in other states can continue to use BESR bats through the end of 2011.

Dunham’s carries a range of bats that meet the new BBCOR specification. For help in choosing a bat that meets the requirements of the league in which you play, see your Dunham’s sales representative.

I’ve Got It!

A fielder’s facemask can help youngsters play with confidence.

It’s a sharply hit ground ball to the second baseman. The well-schooled fielder gets in position, lowers his glove, and focuses on the ball. But as it approaches the ball takes an odd bounce, and the
young ballplayer’s attention turns from the task at hand to wondering whether the ball might take another bad bounce and bop him in the nose. Distracted, he lifts his glove, and the ball rolls between his legs and into
right field.

Confidence and concentration are essential to the development of young players. Catching a baseball isn’t easy, and youngsters who are afraid of the ball will never develop proper skills. Taking necessary precautions to prevent injury is something that all youngsters should be taught, but fear doesn’t diminish the risks involved in any sport. It’s a distraction that can actually lead to injury.

The increased use of fielder’s face protection by pitchers and infielders in recent years has done much to both prevent injuries and instill confidence. Introduced in the 1990s, masks designed to protect defensive players are now becoming common in amateur baseball. The lightweight masks are engineered in such a way that they don’t restrict vision, yet they offer a substantial level of protection from batted balls. That protection helps defensive players focus on the game, so the benefits afforded by the mask are twofold: The players gain confidence, and their faces are protected.

Dunham’s stocks a number of fielder face protection masks, including Markwort’s Game Face mask, Worth’s First Face mask, and the Rip It mask.

Markwort Sporting Goods, said that the Game Face mask is ultra lightweight and offers extremely strong polycarbonate construction. Because it provides complete facial protection, it promotes player confidence. The mask can be fitted to the individual player’s face by means of pads. Lisa recommends that to ensure a proper fit, the player visit Dunham’s and try on a Game Face.

-Home Run Hitter

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