After further review

first_img Politicians are criticized all the time for flip-flopping on issues – for changing their position on matters based upon the current public opinion. In the past, I too have chastised such behavior, throwing my support to the kind of guy who sticks by his guns, in good times or bad. I respect the integrity that comes with standing up for what you believe in in the face of criticism. That being said, when taking on this issue of wood vs. nonwood bats in our state’s youth and high school baseball and softball leagues, I have become one of the great flip-floppers of all time. I’ve changed my opinion on the matter with just about every phone call I’ve taken and every e-mail I’ve read. While that certainly points to some kind of personal decision-making liability (I think, well, maybe not, I don’t know), it also underlines the persuasiveness of those on both sides of the argument. Those in favor of the switch to wooden bats in our youth through high school leagues – as outlined in Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan’s bill – point to what they perceive to be a safer game for our youngsters. They have data that shows how the ball exits a nonwood bat at a greater speed than it does off a wood one, thereby lessening reaction time and making it more of a threat to opposing pitchers and third basemen. On the other side of the argument is the bat manufacturers themselves, as well as the heads of the various youth baseball and softball leagues and some high school and college coaches, all of whom point to the production standards that have been put in place over the last 10 years that have effectively leveled the playing field (to a degree) between wood and nonwood bats. Having been to a few hundred Little League and high school baseball and softball games myself, I realize that there is a difference between a ball coming off a nonwood bat and a wooden one, beyond the sound it makes. However, I’m not convinced that the difference is so great that it creates a threat necessitating the outlawing of nonwood bats. There simply is no way to quantify how much safer the game would be without the use of nonwood bats. As a result, I’m left feeling that the safety risks of nonwood bats are not enough to support Diegnan’s legislation. Then I look at how the game itself would change, and I’m right back in favor of the switch. I agree with CBA head coach Marty Kenney, who said that today’s kids are too interested in driving the ball, and that some of the finer points of the game have been lost over the years, such as the bunt, not to mention the fastball, which has given way to a variety of breaking and offspeed pitches that are notorious for damaging previously healthy, yet undeveloped pitching arms. As a baseball purist, I would certainly embrace any change that would bring the game back to its roots a bit. Give me a 2-1 pitcher’s duel over a 13-10 slugfest any day. Then again, I wonder how our young pitchers, having faced nothing but batters with wooden bats throughout their careers, would fare once they reached the collegiate level. Nobody argues that the nonwood bats make better hitters out of everyone, and a New Jersey kid would certainly be at a disadvantage seeing nonwood bats for the first time. How do you tell an 18-year-old kid that he can’t get guys out with a fastball on the inside corner the way he used to? The only thing I feel strongly about regarding this issue is that I agree with the notion that it shouldn’t be left up to the state Legislature to decide if nonwood bats are too dangerous for our Little Leagues and schools. The various leagues have proved themselves to be more than capable of governing themselves when it comes to safety issues. For that reason, I suppose one could argue that I don’t support the bill. However, I’m also not ready to totally dismiss the idea that eliminating nonwood bats would be beneficial to our state’s youth leagues. So you see, after all the research, all the conversations with league reps, coaches and fans, and all the flip-flopping, I’m left exactly where I started. I don’t know how I feel about the merits of Assemblyman Diegnan’s bill. Good thing I don’t have a vote. I think. – Doug McKenzie is the sport coordinator for Greater Media Newspapers Doug McKenzie In the end, I’m right back where I started last_img

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