New bat rule affects little leagues near and far

By Michele Townsend

Little League Headquarters enacted a new rule that has some people scrambling. As of Jan. 1, all previous baseball bats that have been allowed to be used in Little League, for Jr divisions, and below, will now be illegal. USA Baseball, the governing board for the sport of baseball, stated “Testing and evaluating of youth baseball bats has evolved into a science. So much so that the standard has also evolved to where USA Baseball, is adopting a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats that will go into effect on January 1, 2018. The new USA Baseball bat standard (USABat), was developed by a USA Baseball committee of scientific experts. Effective on January 1, 2018, Little League Baseball® will adhere to the new USABat standard. No bats previously approved for use in Little League Play (Junior League Baseball and below) will be permitted to be used in any Little League game or practice, or other Little League function, event, or activity.” This rule is for the game of baseball only. It will not affect little league softball.
The science of bat development has developed as a strategic part of the game. There used to be only wood bats, although the length, weight and diameter were different. As the game has evolved, so has the development of the bat. Aluminum alloy bats began being used for their light weight, and integrity. The fact that these bats would not split or break, like a wood bat can do, was welcomed. A few years ago, the composite bat was introduced. Composite bats incorporate a reinforced carbon fiber polymer, or composite, into the bat’s construction. The composite material can make up all or part of the bat. But it’s not just the material of the bat that is important. The length, the weight, and the diameter of the barrel, all play into the science of the bat. In addition, there are oval or round handles, and those handles can be wrapped in different materials. Each bat has what is known as the “Bat Performance Factor (BPF)”.
The bat performance factor plays a role in what kind of hit the player can get from that bat, in short, it determines how fast the ball comes off of the bat. The new USA bats that are required will eliminate discrepancies with different length bats and allow a more universal performance factor. These bats will provide a wood-like standard for youth organizations, and is described by USA Baseball, as providing the long term integrity of the game.
Having new bat rules is not new to the little league organization. Every year Little League National releases a list of bats that are illegal and it is the responsibility of the umpire to know and check the teams’ equipment prior to each game.
Joey Tignor, Umpire in Chief of District 6 (District 6 includes: Antelope, Foothill Farms, Fulton El Camino, Grant, North Natomas, Rio Linda and West Sacramento) said, “We’ve known that this was coming for a couple of years, so we’re (the umpires) are ready for it.” He also stated “I think that it’s a good thing. It will make it more uniform for all of the kids. With some previously allowed bats, the ball just came off of the bat too fast.” PJ Schneider, Umpire in Chief of District 5 (District 5 includes: Arden, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, College Glen, Eastern, Fair Oaks, Rancho Cordova, Rosemont, Sunrise, Whitney and Northridge), “This shouldn’t come as a surprise to people. We’ve been telling leagues and parents for a couple of years, so they should be ready.” He went on to say, “This is a leveling factor, and will give all of the kids the same opportunity based on their own performance. It’s also a safety issue. It should keep some of the smaller kids in the infield from getting hurt”. Alan McCullough, Umpire in Chief for District 7 (District 7 includes: Airport, East Sacramento, Florin, Land Park, Oak Park, Parkway, Pocket and Tahoe Tallac), was unavailable for comment. If a game is scheduled, and a team does not have the appropriate equipment, it will be the umpire’s call to arrange for the teams to share the bats, or to reschedule that game. The games will NOT be played with illegal equipment.
Manufacturers and retailers have been preparing for the change.
According to Troy Bedal, Manager of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sacramento, ”Dick’s is stocked up and ready to go” for the rush of bat sales. They sent all of the illegal bats back to the manufacturer at the end of last year. “We’ve already got sales running.” He continued with “Dick’s is very active with community sports leagues. We know that some leagues are struggling and we have many sponsorship opportunities available.”
There is a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville.
Little League Seniors Division, High School Baseball and College Baseball will continue to use BBCOR standards baseball bats, and Softball will continue to follow ASA regulations.

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