In professional baseball, the power numbers of batters have plummeted since Major League Baseball implemented a more stringent performance-enhancing drug testing program. College baseball players have experienced a similar power outage since last year, but the different reasons could not be more stark.
Beginning last season, college baseball players began using aluminum Rawlings baseball bats that meet a new standard known as Batted-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR). These bats are intended to replicate the behavior of wooden bats, which produce batted balls that do not jump off the bat as quickly, thus reducing injury risk.
According to Pennsylvania State University's Dr. Daniel Russell, the introduction of the BBCOR standard in 2011 dropped batting averages to levels not seen since the late 1970s. The effect on home runs proved even more significant, as collegiate players hit the fewest home runs since the introduction of the aluminum bat in college baseball in 1974.
Now, the National Federation of State High School Associations had embraced the BBCOR standards for its players, leaving many high school pitchers salivating at the thought of giving up fewer hits, especially gap shots and home runs.
"[I'm] really excited about that, looking forward to getting bad contact with the smaller sweet spot and getting guys to roll over on balls," junior pitcher Andrew Culp, a student at Washington, D.C.'s Maret School, told NPR. "And, you can pitch with a lot more confidence now … and not be afraid to throw strikes."
Since players break wooden bats so often, aluminum youth baseball bats are also considered to be more affordable. Although they may have higher upfront costs, they will last longer than their wooden counterparts.
With an emphasis shifting to defense to win games, youth athletes playing in the field will need to be more alert, necessitating use of the best Rawlings baseball gloves. Coaches should also train players to understand how balls may respond differently when struck by a BBCOR bat.