With three statewide American Legion baseball programs mandating wood bats and several others evaluating a switch, we could see a nationwide shift in the country’s major youth baseball program toward traditional baseball.
Rhode Island, Connecticut and Florida Legion programs now mandate wood bats, and several other state programs are evaluating a switch. If enough states switch to wood bats, the change could be implemented nationwide. The national Legion program has already switched to less-severe metal bat that match the new NCAA specs instituted this season, which shifted power in the game from batters to pitchers.
The debate over metal bats versus wood bats is a continuous one: metal bats cost more upfront but will last for years, while wood bats cost less and break more easily. Metal-bat advocates say they’re safer than wood bats because there’s no danger of a metal bat shattering. When we talk with players at the summer-collegiate level, though, most are pretty happy with the switch to wood bats: after all, the pros use wood bats.
If Legion programs mandate wood bats, one can foresee a scenario where high-school programs follow suit. And if that happens, college programs will be under more pressure to switch to wood bats. Most baseball fans have never gotten used to the ping of metal bats on the college level, where the NCAA has withstood calls to switch to wood. The politics of NCAA baseball would make such a switch difficult, thanks to the liberal spending by metal-bat vendors among coaches, programs and big events like the College World Series. But at some point the economics will be such that reliable wood bats are close to par with metal bats — and that’s when you’ll see real change.
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