With the baseball season reaching its midpoint this week it's time to weigh in on the biggest change facing high school baseball teams across the state; the implementation of Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) bats.
BBCOR bats were implemented in NCAA baseball for the 2011 season in an attempt to reduce the speed a ball is hit off of an aluminum bat. Starting last season all aluminum bats needed BBCOR approval. Offensive numbers were down considerable in the college baseball world in 2011 as a result and in late 2011 the MIAA ruled that BBCOR bats must be used by all high schools teams starting in the spring of 2012.
Coaches in Cape Ann have already noticed a difference in the bats.
"I think it's a noticeable difference," Rockport manager John Parisi said. "Last year we had four or five home runs at this point in the season, this year we are still looking for our first."
The Gloucester, Rockport, and Manchester Essex baseball teams have had its fair share of success this season compiling records of 7-3, 5-3 and 4-4 respectively, but the new bats have received mixed reviews amongst the Cape Ann baseball skippers.
Garrett likes what he has seen so far from the new bats enjoying that fact that small ball has taken on a more prominent role in his teams games.
"I wish we would use all wooden bats but so far I like the way the game is being played with the new bats," Garrett said. "You have to rely on a lot more bunting and hit and runs because the ball dies in the outfield, you can't just sit back and wait for those extra base hits anymore. The good hitters are still good hitters with these bats but the average hitters are average again, they aren't hitting the ball a mile anymore. It's nice to see the great players rising to the top."
On the contrary, Parisi has not been fond of the impact of the new bats. While he agrees with Garrett that it has not helped the average to below averages hitters, he does not see that as a good thing.
"Baseball is a tough enough sport. It's tough to get a hit and I don't like to see an edge taken out of a kids hands," Parisi said. "If nothing is falling for an average or below average hitter they are going to lose confidence and maybe even interest in the game. The impact is pretty much what I expected but I don't think it's a good thing."
While Garrett and Parisi are on each side of the issue, Gloucester head coach Joe Orlando lies somewhere in the middle, as he hasn't seen much of a difference.
"I don't think there is much difference in the game," Orlando said. "In the games we have won our pitching has been better and in the games we lost their pitching has been better then our hitting. It's tough to compare home runs from year to year because teams change from year to year. We are still seeing some big shots, we have hit some and our opponents have hit some. But if they put the bats in to protect the pitcher I don't think it helps because a ball hit on the sweet spot is going to be hit hard."
While their opinions may differ, all three coaches agree that a good hitter will find success no matter what bat he uses.
"A great hitter is a great hitter it doesn't matter what they have in their hands," Orlando said. "If the ball hits the barrel of the bat it's going places."
Garrett echoed his sentiment.
"A hard line drive is a hard line drive it doesn't matter what you're swinging with," he said. "We are still seeing some big shots and it all comes down to mechanics, if the mechanics are there you will hit the ball fine."