Taking a swing at the wood bat vs. metal debate | PostIndependent.com
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Taking a swing at the wood bat vs. metal debate

Bringing it HomeJoelle MilholmGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

There’s just something special about the crack of a wood bat.It seems more real than the ting of aluminum.Baseball should be played with wood bats. Before the arrival of the aluminum bat in the 1970s, it was about picking up a stick and playing ball. More of a pretend-you-are-Babe-Ruth-swinging-in-your-backyard feeling with a wood bat.Now it’s about the latest technology, who can get the most expensive bat with the lightest weight, biggest sweet spot and most power. At least that’s the case at the high school and college levels. In college, I think it’s nuts that metal bats are used. Obviously if a guy is playing in college, he can hit the ball. Why should they use aluminum?In the 13 games in the NCAA College World Series, leading up to the North Carolina-Oregon State Championship starting today, each game has averaged over 12 runs per game. That’s a lot for baseball. That’s more than the Oakland Raiders averaged in each game in the 2006 NFL season with 10.5 being the Raiders’ norm. But I guess that’s not saying much.You shouldn’t look at the score of a baseball game and wonder if it was a football game, though. While seeing home runs and high averages make for a lot of excitement, so do no-hitters, pitchers’ duels and a squeeze bunts.Aluminum bats may not be fully responsible for the high numbers, but I do think they account for a lot.Aluminum bats, on average, can hit a ball 5-7 miles per hour faster, according to “Physics and Acoustics of Baseball and Softball Bats,” a study written by Dr. Daniel A. Russell at Kettering University in Michigan. They can also make contact with more frequency since it has a larger section that can produce solid hits – aka the sweet spot.Aluminum bats, which have hollow barrels, also produce a so-called “trampoline effect” which means when the ball makes contact with it, it “compresses like a spring,” according to Russell. This means that instead of losing a lot of energy in the ball’s directional change as in the case of wood bats, which are solid all the way through, it’s just a little bit of energy with an aluminum bat.I haven’t taken physics since my junior year in high school, so I am not going to get into more detail than that. But hitting with a spring just doesn’t seem right.That’s why I believe wooden bats should be used. To keep the little details of baseball alive and to make crossing the plate a sacred act.The downfall of wooden bats is they are very breakable. A player could go through 10 wooden bats in a season, and only one aluminum. Everyone has seen a wooden bat break. Watch a Major League Baseball game and there’s a real good chance you’ll see at least one each nine innings.But aluminum bats can break, too, although it is a very rare occurrence. I’ve seen it. In the 2006 Class 3A baseball playoffs, Roaring Fork slugger Jake Kinney snapped an aluminum bat while hitting a ball. He made good contact and who knows how far it would have gone if the bat had not broken, but instead, half the barrel sputtered out to the pitchers mound and the ball died at the shortstops’ hands.Most high school teams wouldn’t have enough money to buy the large number of wood bats that playing with them would require. Unless someone’s dad owns a lumber yard and is a really good wood carver.So things may not change at the high school level, but maybe in college ball they will someday return to the pre-1980s days when aluminum bats were no where in site. And scores weren’t counted by the dozen.Contact Joelle Milholm at 384-9124 or jmilhom@postindependent.com.


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