I tweeted some of my observations while at the park, but the one thing that struck me most was the sound of the Tiger offense. Instead of the usual PING of the bats hitting the balls, I heard the sweetest sound on earth: the CRACK of a wood bat hitting a baseball.
Yes, the Tigers are using wooden bats for all their practice sessions this Fall.
I'm guessing this has something to do with the new NCAA bat specifications that have a lot of college coaches and players complaining. The new specifications require that the bats perform more like wood bats. The complaint, however, is that the bats are very sluggish, significantly reducing offensive punch.
■ Knock on wood (baseballamerica.com)
• Augie Garrido, UT: "I think every coach kind of goes, 'Whoa.' It is recognizable from the very first batted ball. When you hit it on the sweet spot, it still goes. Whereas we might have hit 15 or 20 balls out in batting practice before, we're now hitting five or six balls out in BP."■ Baseball America's Aaron Fitt, on Twitter:
• Paul Manieri, LSU: "I just hope you don't retard the development of the hitters because now all of a sudden everybody's sacrifice bunting with their 3-hole hitters, taking pro hitters and sacrificing all the time because offense is so sluggish."
[Mississippi State's John] Cohen on the new bats: "Guys are killing balls; they just don't go. Nobody's going to hit balls out of our ballpark—I'm serious."■ Virginia second baseman Keith Werman (American Chronicle):
"You could get away with those bloop singles that get by the infielders and now they don't get by the infielders," Werman said. "I have noticed in the field that grounders are not hit that hard. You really have to barrel the ball up. When the big guys barrel it up, some of the ones that you thought were no-doubters, they barely get out or they don't get out. I have noticed it a lot more with the big guys."Apparently, the reason some teams are using wood bats in fall practice is due to a shortage of the new bats.
■ New bat specifications could change college baseball (rebelgrove.com)
But no matter what Bianco thinks of the new rule, his team is one of the lucky ones. While Easton rushed about a half-dozen demo bats to Oxford, Miss., and other schools with similar bat deals, some colleges won't see the new models until right before the season.On the other hand, Kendall Rogers of Rivals.com had a good point on twitter:
Although the NCAA sent out a memorandum to bat manufacturers Sept. 16, 2008, informing them of the change, the transition hasn't been a timely one.
Louisville -- who, as one would guess, uses Louisville Slugger for its bats -- has only received one bat built to the new specifications. Due to the lack of BBCOR aluminum, the Cardinals are practicing this fall with the old bats and will hit with wood bats this winter.
UL coach Dan McDonnell expects to switch to the new bats when preseason practice begins in February.
"We took batting practice with it one day, but since we only have one, we decided to wait and swing it later," McDonnell said. "I don't blame the Easton schools for using them, since they have them, but we don't have that luxury."
A little Did you know? According to the #NCAA, teams and players can use wooden bats in live competition. Wonder if some will now?Wouldn't that be sweet? Personally, I'd be in favor of the Tigers unilaterally deciding to be a wood-bat team. If the new composite bats suck as much as everyone says they do, it might actually give Mizzou an advantage.