Skip to content

Baseball begins minus composite bats

March 21, 2011

by TG Branfalt Jr.

Top- 2 piece composite bat. Bottom- Solid aluminum bat (TG Branfalt Jr.)

In an effort to protect players this baseball season Albany High School, Central Babe Ruth and National Little League will be subject to a new nationwide ban on many popular composite bats.

Following an in-house equipment certification test the NCAA banned the use of composite bats in August 2009. The test had determined that composite bats gave an advantage to the batter. The NCAA test followed a 2008 study by the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Both studies found that balls hit with the lighter, stronger, composite bats, made from either graphite-fibers or an aluminum core with graphite lining, increased the velocity of the ball off of the bat. Harder hit balls lead to more runs scored. The National Federation of High Schools issued a moratorium on composite bats, in August of 2010, but not only because of the advantage. The Federation claimed that the increased speed of the ball off the bat could lead to an increase in traumatic head injuries.

The Babe Ruth League follows the equipment rules of the Federation, and Little League International issued its ban in January of this year.

National Little League and Babe Ruth each play their first games this season on  April 25. Practice for the  Albany High Falcons began last Monday.

During his 20-year career as a player, Falcons Head Coach David Preston has seen only two injuries related to a baseball coming off of a bat. He was involved in both incidents.

The first happened while playing Little League; a line drive off of his bat struck a shortstop. The fielder walked it off. The second occurred when a foul tip ricocheted off of home plate, hit him in the face, and bruised his orbital bone. Now, the high school coach has reservations about increasing injuries.

“It’s harder to square up in a game than it is in those studies,” he said referring to a human’s ability to line up the sweet spot of a bat with a ball compared to two adjusted machines used in the Baseball Institute study.

“It’s a way for parents to feel like their kids are safer,” he said, “but the use of composite bats does not increase injury risk.”

Not all composite bats are affected by the ban, but the popular Stealth Speed by Easton has been taken out of sporting goods stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall. Composite bats retail between $250-$600. Stealth Speed bats are listed in the clearance section of the Easton Baseball website, The bats can still be used in ‘beer-leagues,’ which are not subject to Federation or NCAA rules.

Warning label on composite bats (TG Branfalt Jr.)

“We no longer carry any banned composite bats,” said Justin Pilcher, an associate at Dick’s at Crossgates Mall. “The Stealth Speed was our best selling bat. Pretty sure it prompted the ban. [All of] our composite bats have warning labels now… It’s a corporate policy.”

The orange warning label fixed to the bats warns, ‘this high performance bat is capable of producing batted ball speeds that present a risk of serious injury or death to players, coaches and spectators.’

Not everyone agrees that composite bats will increase injury risk.

Dr. Hamish Kerr, a pediatric and adult Sports Medicine physician at Albany Medical Center, and the team doctor for Siena baseball, does not agree that using composite bats is a health risk and thinks the Baseball Research Center study “doesn’t prove anything.”

“The injuries are caused by the ball, not the bat,” Dr. Kerr said, “Traumatic injures in baseball are rare.” He said characterized the idea that composite bats leads to more injuries as a “stretch.”

Preston also mentioned an incident in May 2010 at St. Regis Falls High School,  reported by theWatertown Daily Times, where Brady Lee Frazier, 13, died while pitching, after being struck by a line drive hit with a composite bat. Coach Preston described the incident as “negligence.”

Preston realizes the risk in the pitcher position; it was his primary position in high school and college. He doesn’t blame the death on the use of composite bats.

“An eighth grade kid should not be pitching against the twelfth grade varsity team,” Preston said. “It was preventable and negligent on the part of the coaches.”

He said it would be up to athletic directors, league officials and coaches to enforce the ban.

Dr. Kerr believes these new policies are based on “opinion,” and said the lighter bats could possibly decrease the number of traumatic injuries from “rogue equipment,” referring to thrown bats, balls and helmets.

Preston agreed in this possibility, albeit for different reasons, “I’ve seen more injuries from kids hitting things with bats, throwing equipment. A composite bat can cost $550. You think twice about hitting something with a $550 bat.”

As young boys and girls gear up for the upcoming baseball season at Albany High, at Sid Bloom field, and at National, they may be doing so without the $550 bat they used last season. -30-


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: