Now that the baseball has officially started–with a few fits and starts as well as a false spring heat wave–you might notice a few things different from last season. Sure, sure, there are new players; that happens every year, more or less. No. Look at what they’re playing WITH…new bats. Not just new, as in “We bought these this year,” but NEW, as in “These meet the BBCOR regs.” What’s up? The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS) has up-dated its equipment standards to be congruent with those of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), following a research study by the NCAA concerning player safety. First, it was wooden bats, next, the move was to aluminum and then to composite bats. They got lighter, the kids got more powerful, the hits were longer…and anybody that got hit by a batted ball was, most likely, in a world of hurt, especially pitchers. This was because the composite bats had a higher BESR–ball exit speed ratio–the material of the bat itself caused the hit ball to go like the Olympic motto : Citius, Altius, Fortius–Faster, Higher, Stronger. It was a bonanza for hitters; for pitchers and fielders, not so much. Scores in the College world Series reached unheard-of totals. Injuries rose. What to do? Enter the new bats with a lower BBCOR–bat ball coefficient of restitution. The material of the bat will not produce the “boost” that was giving sluggers the upper hand. The “sweet spot” will be smaller; the balance will be different. Starting in 2012, all non-wood bats must meet the BBCOR standard set in NFSH regulation 1.3.2 in order to “minimize risk, improve play and increase teaching opportunities.” That’s the point made by Garfield’s Coach Norton. Play will be safer; practice will shift to more fundamentals and emphasis on defense, more practice on bunting and placement. There will still be home runs but they’ll be big deals, not ho-hum non-events. There’ll be more emphasis on RBI’s (runs batted in); no more cheap base hits. These things don’t come cheap, of course. The new bats will be priced in the $200-$300 range, for the most part, with bargains here and there and gold-plated ones for the elites. One of the things that got the kibosh put on the earlier composite bats was the fact that they could snap when hit just right (Or wrong, depending on how you look at it). Another was that over time, with use, the bats would slip out of compliance and exit speeds (BESR) would increase by as much as 10-15mph–DANGER! DANGER! Listen for the new sound too. Play Ball!