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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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New baseball rules enough to drive you batty

Aaron Patella, owner of the Davis Sports Shop and a former pitcher at UC Davis, holds a lower-flight bat, a designation that is now required in Little League and high school baseball. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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April 6, 2011 | Leave Comment

It’s enough to drive you batty …

When Little League and the governing body of prep baseball changed the rules for what kind of bats could be used this year and beyond, it started a scramble for proper equipment. Not only are lower-flight bats mandatory in Little League and in high school — all-composite bats are outlawed in Little League.

This left players and coaches with a small window of opportunity to buy new bats, while manufacturers and their outlets were in a panic to provide the sticks.

The California Interscholastic Federation — which oversees high school sports — followed its national umbrella agency in demanding new standards to “limit the potential strength of a bat.”

CIF’s emergency edict, asking coaches to adhere to new Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCR) rules, was a knee-jerk reaction to Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and his proposed legislation to remove metal bats altogether from high school baseball. Huffman, in his efforts, pointed to a severe head injury suffered last year by a 16-year-old Marin County pitcher who was hit by a batted ball.

Little League and CIF were quick to come up with the new guidelines in December.

“In addition to addressing safety issues raised by our legislators, our approach is intended to minimize the fiscal impact on schools and families, who could otherwise have been required to purchase expensive bats twice — for both the 2011 and 2012 seasons,” said CIF Executive Director Marie M. Ishida.

An effort made out of concern, but it left manufacturers and their outlets little time to adjust.

“This has definitely hurt in the beginning,” said Davis Sport Shop owner Aaron Patella. “Little League kept changing its mind. Every week, it seemed like. They’d approve one bat, pull another off the list …”

Patella said it was frustrating and eventually he pulled all his metal bats from display. Finally, his diamond-legal stock has been replenished, but Patella cautions kids and their parents to look for bats with BBCR or Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) approval seals.

“We didn’t want to sell one, then have somebody come back and complain if the rules changed again,” said the former UC Davis pitcher.

On Wednesday, there was a crowd around the bat carousel at Davis Sport Shop. Two visiting teens from Sens, France, were impressed by American gear. The Sens Dodgers are visiting Davis on a goodwill baseball exchange.

While the French kids compared notes, a couple of local youngsters approached and a dialog started about “which bat is best.”

Patella smiled while he thought about what the new bat standards would mean to the game. Will it bring back Old School baseball?

“Yeah. I think they’re lowering scores (in high school) … bringing the pitchers back into the game. Batters aren’t getting the cheap hit like they used to,” Patella continued. “It’s going back to the way pros play. Back to where it was by taking the technology out of it and evening the playing field.”

So, what’s up with all those “illegal” bats?

Patella said he, and other stores, were trying to get them to outlets with Dixie or Stan Musial leagues — or some sort of youth competition that doesn’t have bat limitations.

“We’re going on eBay and the Internet,” Patella added. “Or maybe the French kids will want them.”

Notes: Patella said he wished these lower-flight rules were in place when he pitched two decades ago. … Metal bats at Davis Sport Shop range from $40 to $399. … Little League has published a list of more than 400 approved bats. Go to http://www.littleleague.org/team/equipment/approvedcompbatssmall.htm for the OK’d models.

Bruce Gallaudet

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