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NEW BATS, SAME RISKS

Safety concerns lead to change, but will it help?

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POSTED March 15, 2011 12:04 a.m.
Just grabbing a bat and going up to the dish to take your hacks is a thing of the past.

Now, going to the plate begins with making sure that your particular tool for the trade is approved by the newly-appointed Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution standards.

The BBCOR standards reflect how fast a ball can come off a bat, and the approved list was supplied by the University of Massachusetts and accepted as the CIF’s bible when it comes to legal bats. The 200-plus bats on the list range from bats manufactured by Easton and DeMarini all the way to Worth.

The transition into this new phase of hitting was brought about by the horrific incident suffered by Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg, who was struck in the head by a line drive during a practice game last March.

Sandberg is currently a member of the Marin Catholic squad and has been released to participate with the squad this season. Sandberg has debuted a pitching helmet made to protect his head from the line drive he suffered, seemingly the logical play after the tragedy.

Each team under the California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section’s umbrella have had to make the adjustments, some players have had to gain confidence in new bats and some players have been able to find a perfect replacement that is BBCOR-ready.

“The bat I used last year is illegal now because of the way it comes of the bat,” reigning Valley Oak League Offensive Player of the Year. “Ever since they began talking about changing the rules for the bats I was looking on the internet for the updated list of the legal bats.

“I didn’t buy a bat this year, I was able to just use a bat from one of our teammates.”

Burrows, also a standout pitcher, is fully acclimated with Sandberg’s situation. Toeing the rubber is as intense an aspect of baseball as there is. Pitchers all across the world cringed at the thought of being dealt Sandberg’s fate, but taking the mound in high school baseball makes that wicked vision a realistic reality.

“That is something that is always on my mind,” Burrows said of being struck by a line drive. “No matter if it’s a BBCOR bat or one of the other ones, if it hits you in the head it is simply going to hurt.

“No matter what bat it is, it’s just baseball. If it happens, it happens, I’d just have to deal with it; it’s the way of life.”

Nobody knows if the new BBCOR bats will make the unthinkable impossible, yet the reality is the chances are still there. Any hitter that has taken a live batting practice session has been taught to hit the ball back up the middle.

Pitchers throw batting practices behind protective L-screens, because batters are trying to hit the pitch, “right back where it came”. Every great swing a batter puts on a pitch has the potential to strike the pitcher who delivered it.

Only now, the blame will have to fall upon the ball.
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