The sound was unusual even for high school baseball in 2012.
It wasn’t a ping or a pang. It definitely was not the sweet spot.
It was almost indescribable, but it was pretty clear that Joey Curletta had a broken bat in his hand as he jogged down to first base.
“It’s a two-day-old bat,” Curletta said, shaking his head. “I hit it on the end of the bat and the cap (at the end of the bat) came off. It was kind of weird.”
It served as insight to the early going for Curletta this season with the introduction of the new BBCOR bat regulations, supplanting the composite metal bats.
Some have likened it to wood bats in that you have to hit the sweet spot instead of just making solid contact.
This rule change is based on research done by the direction of the NCAA, which implemented the new bats last season. The research found that composite barrel bats, over time, fell out of compliance with the BESR standard. BESR measures the ball exit speed. Specifically, over time, the composite barrel bats were shown to have increased ball exit speed of 10 to 15 mph faster than what is allowed when broken in.
It has changed the game for the better in the mind of some, and not just for safety reasons.
Eric Kibler is an Arizona high school baseball icon as the head coach of the Horizon program since 1981.
He has seen the changes in the game and didn’t like where it headed after technology put weapons in the hands of high school players.
“I remember the Green Easton and the Black Magic bats in the 1980s, and that was a big sweet spot,” Kibler said. “It didn’t have the trampoline effect (like the more recent bats), but that’s when the game began to change. All of a sudden technology took over and it was like golf — you could hit the ball 300 yards and not be very good.”
Pride coach Brandon Buck has enjoyed the first couple of weeks as well. It challenges him to be more creative as a manager instead of waiting back for a three-run home run, and it forces his players to be more complete.
“I like it cause it takes (the cheap hits out of it) and now there are one or two guys you have to be careful with,” Buck said. “If you can hit ’em, you can still get it. You are going to see a lot more action with stealing, running and hitting, bunting. It’s more of a strategy thing and I’ve enjoyed it.”
All of the coaches have talked to their players about it. They are telling the hitters not to let it get in their heads because they are not watching their well-struck balls fly over the fence, and at the same time they are telling their pitchers that they can come inside more often and not worry about a 340-foot fly ball off the handle of the No. 8 hitter.
“I am going after hitters more because it is not coming off the bat like it did,” Mountain Pointe right-hander Kyle Detwiler said. “It was frustrating (in years past) because you’d make a good pitch and still get beat, but now it is a more true game.”
The hitters have to keep in mind that they won’t be rounding the bases like a turnstile at an amusement park anymore. It is going to take a good swing instead of just a hard swing.
“You definitely have to play small ball,” Pride senior Scott Kingery said. “You kind of wish you had the old bats and get the home run sometimes because I like to hit for power, but now you have to hit the ball on a line and take the extra base when you can.”
Kibler said the biggest difference might not have anything to do with home runs, but a groundball hit sharply in the infield.
“If you are not very strong and hit that ball it doesn’t go like it did before,” Kibler said. “If you hit it on the sweet spot it is still going. I like it because it teaches the kids how to hit instead of swing so there are no cheapies.
“Balls stay in the air more when they are not hit well and just hang there because they don’t have the trampoline effect. With the (old bats) the ball traveled faster in the first 90 to 100 feet so a lot of balls got through the infield before, and now that ball gets eaten up. It rewards you for a good swing.”
Unless, of course, the bat breaks in the process.
“I’ve hit the fence a couple of times that probably should have been home runs,” said Curletta, who began the week with no home runs through five games after hitting 21 last year. “I have to barrel the ball up better and get my timing down.”
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