As of January 1, 2018 Little League® implemented a new baseball bat standard policy. Here is the statement from Little League® “As of January 1, 2018, the new USA Baseball Bat Standard was implemented. USABat Standard bats must be used in the Little League Major Baseball Division and below. Either USABat Standard bats or BBCOR bats must be used at the Intermediate (50/70) Baseball and Junior League Baseball Divisions. At the Senior League Baseball Division, all bats must be meet the BBCOR standard. Little League-approved baseball bats that were approved for use for the 2017 season will no longer be acceptable for use in any Little League game or activity as of January 1, 2018. For more information on the USABat standard and a complete list of bats approved through the USABat Standard, visit usabat.com.”
For more information on the rationale, research, and other information from USA Baseball, please go to www.usabaseball.com/bats. There is a list of approved bats, a video with research team about their reasons for this new bat standard, and their answers to frequently asked questions.
So, what were the results on the baseball field in 2018? How did these new USA Baseball bats, which are more like wooden bats than the traditional aluminum bats, function in the field of play? Were the games better? Were the players safer? Did the players have a letdown in their enthusiasm for the game? How did the parents react? I recently posed this to my Facebook fans on The RIBBE page – The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. Here are some of the comments:
“From what I have heard and seen it’s hurt. Many complaints from parents and players.”
“Only thing it did was make money for bat companies. Not that I think it was the idea, but I’ve got 5 bats sitting in my garage that my boys(6/8) can’t use. Now i like nice bats, but at my kids age they should be learning proper mechanics and that will make up for any advantage and beyond what a bat will give. Any blaming the bat can be countered with teaching. Most young kids care about how cool the bat looks than it’s pop.”
“Our biggest problem was the quality of the bat. We ordered the Louisville Slugger Solo 718 bat and I believe, because they were trying to make them so quickly they quality was very poor. After 2 1/2 months of using the bat it was beat up. The barrel was dented, there is a plastic ring around the top of the bat that was torn away from the bat and when a ball was hit it sounded like it had a dead spot. We filed a complaint under the warranty and we were given a voucher for a new bat.
It was a money maker for the bat companies and the kids didn’t hit as well with the USA bats. These were 10, 11, and 12 year olds playing who would hit home runs, but with the USA bat, very few home runs or triples. Kids get hurt more by being hit by a pitch than a ball being hit in to the field.”
“The new bats returned defense to the game. Infielders could now get to and make plays on more ground balls. Outfielders could cover gaps.”
“At first, kids did have a hard time with the new bats. My son being on the smaller side, had a very hard time adjusting to a heavier bat. Eventually, everyone got used to it. Less Home runs with the older kids. Overall, I say, it is helping the kids improve their swing.”
“I personally think if there was going to be a bat change in Little League that they should have went to WOOD … the new USA bats are horrible .. weak pop ups .. weak ground balls . my son Squish is switched to WOOD right after testing the Solo / Axe Origin /Axe Element / Ghost …. He had much more pop all season .. thru the 10 year All Star session . Why make aluminum bats play like wood ? Just play wood . Plus the sound of impact is AWESOME with wood. It was definitely a money grab.”
“As a coach in the majors I noticed a HUGE difference from last year to this year. Much fewer hard hit balls, almost no home runs. Made for a lot more pitchers duels! Personally, I didn’t see many (if any) positives from changing the bats. I saw numerous instances of kids putting good swings on the ball, getting their barrel on it, and the baseball just dying off the bat for a weak ground ball or pop up. I think it was a negative change for Little League.”
In addition to this poll, I have interviewed a number of coaches, parents, and players on this subject throughout the 2018 spring, tournament, and now fall baseball seasons. For most part, the reaction was similar to the Facebook comments. Most players complained that the ball is “just not traveling into gaps or over the fence”, as it had in years passed. Most coaches I spoke to were frustrated with the USABat’s performance and some even switched to wood bats partly through their seasons. Parents have commented that the new bats were a “money grab” and “pathetic” in their performance. Despite the drop in hitting moonshots and gappers and mammoth home runs, all of the participants I interviewed stated that the bats have made the game safer. Most applauded the efforts of USA Baseball to make the game safer for our youth baseball players.
Now that the bat standard is a year old, I am interested to see how leagues and coaches will adjust for 2019. Will defense and defensive skills come to the forefront of league’s philosophies? Will leagues look into local and national wooden bat companies for answers? Perhaps offensive skills like bunting and driving the ball the other way will become more prevalent in practices and games.
I will finish by stating this fact. The frustration of these new USA Baseball bats for Little League® was palpable in my Facebook poll as well as my interviews.