The “ping” sound reverberating around Williamsport, Pennsylvania, each August is a sure sign the Little League World Series has come again.
Things may sound a little different this year as new bat regulations have taken effect for a majority of youth baseball leagues around the country, including Little League Baseball. The new regulations, developed by USA Baseball, are designed to produce bats that are still made of metal, but perform more like a wood bat
The regulations were first developed two years ago, and took effect in January. But research goes back even further than that. It took five-to-six-years of research and testing to develop a standardized bat that performs as much like a wood bat as possible.
So, the question you may ask yourself is, “If the goal is to have a bat that performs like wood, why not just use wood bats?” There was a time in the 1990s, when there was no standard for metal bats, where the trend was going toward all wood bats. But now that standard has been established, and metal bats seem here to stay.
But for elite-level youth players who go on to make the pros (where wood bats are the norm), shouldn’t they start with wood earlier?
What’s your take?
Take 1: Metal Makes Sense
Metal is the best choice for youth baseball for a variety of practical reasons. Metal bats may cost more up front, but they don’t break like wood bats and that’s essential for families trying to afford the sport. And with the advanced technology of today’s bats, the metal feel can be very similar to wood.
Wood bats can actually be detrimental to a child’s swing development. Unlike a metal bat, wooden bats are top-heavy, putting most of the weight towards the barrel. For younger children who haven’t fully developed their swing, this can encourage bad habits. A metal bat is not only better balanced, its sweet spot is larger, allowing a kid to develop good mechanics, which then can be refined after switching over to wood.
Take 2: Start Swinging Wood Early
Players should get comfortable with wood bats as soon as possible. It doesn’t do any good to perfect a swing with a metal bat and then have to, in essence, “re-learn” to swing a wood bat. It doesn’t make sense for all players, but those that have the ability to reach higher levels should start acquainting themselves with wooden bats.
There is no drop-off in performance, either. A wooden bat swung properly will produce just as good of results as a metal bat. Players need the proper coaching in learning to swing a wood bat, but it is worth the effort.
What’s your take? Are metal bats just fine for player development? Or should players switch over to wood when they can? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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