Thursday, June 17, 2010

College Coaches Want to See Aluminum Bats Stay

A few weeks ago, I posted a ramble about the case being made in California against using aluminum bats in amateur baseball.

To me, the premise is still pretty simple. We can't allow emotions to take over in a case where science seems to disagree with our emotional findings.

Despite the perceived safety concerns, coaches of elite NCAA baseball programs seem to support the idea of keeping aluminum bats in the sport.

According to an Associated Press survey of 24 coaches whose programs have won 1,000 or more games since 1985, 17 said they preferred aluminum and that there was no need to study the possibility of going to wood bats.

"I just don't see the aluminum bat hindering our game in any way," Mississippi State's John Cohen said. "In an ideal world, wood would be cheap, very cost efficient and it would be totally equitable. That can never happen."

Five coaches said they like wood better, but all acknowledged that aluminum probably is here to stay. Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said he had no opinion on the question and Arizona State coach Tim Esmay declined to participate in the survey as both teams prepared for the College World Series, which begins Saturday with TCU, Florida St., UCLA, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Clemson also in the field.

Proponents of metal argue that all 301 Division I programs play with the same thing and there's no risk of having top programs playing with better wooden bats, potentially skewing the results. They also like the scoring boost and say a $300 aluminum bat can last an entire 56-game season, while $100 wooden bats can break at any time.

Obviously, no poll is totally scientific, but these are some respected names in college baseball. Their support of aluminum is somewhat telling, since most have been around the sport for a long time, have produced players who have gone on to play high-level professional baseball.

The possible move to wood bats in Division II has increased the talk about using them in Division I. Safety concerns aside, there is so much offense in big-time college baseball that using wooden bats would at least potentially shorten games.

However, this might already happen without the wood. The standards for aluminum bats have changed, and by 2011 they will be even closer to behaving like wooden bats. As technology advances and the chasm between the two types of bat decreases, the need for using the more expensive wooden bats in college baseball will lessen dramatically.

It's a case of emotions unnecessarily stepping in the way of science and technology. No one wants to see another 21-14 game in the College World Series, but it appears we've moved far enough away from that.

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