Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Softball Bats

Softball in Cincinnati is a pretty big deal in terms of a summer pastime. Lots of people from all over the city play ball from mid-April through mid-October. Guys compete to relive the glory days, people get dirty sliding into bases, tempers flare and people argue. By and large, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been a part of this scene for a few years now, and there are a lot of things that I’ve learned in all terms of the game. But the one aspect that I just can’t get my mind around and that always brings up controversy is the use of various bats.

If you have ever played, seen, or heard of baseball or softball, you know that bats are a critical part of the game. They are less of an issue in pro baseball because short of corking one. Other than that, it’s an issue of length vs. weight.

Softball is an entirely different animal. For those who don’t know, there are a number of different leagues and corresponding rules for those leagues. The most commonly played in Cincinnati are ASA and USSSA. The 2 major differences are the pitching and the bats. The pitching is another posting in and of itself. So putting that asides, I want to touch on the bats.

Under the rules governing ASA softball bats, the bat may not be powerful enough to send the ball off the barrel at anymore than 98-mph. This is not the case in USSSA. There are still bats that are illegal, but the list is far, far shorter. If you go to and look at the bats they have for sale, they will say clearly with each bat “not approved for ASA play” which means exactly what it says. I’m not sure what the stipulations are to make a bat illegal for USSSA play, but bats used in those leagues are significantly hotter.

Last night, one of my teammates got up to hit, and ripped a ball foul down the third base line. The pitcher on the opposing team threw a temper tantrum right there on the spot raising three kinds of hell that the bat had to be illegal. He told the umpire to inspect the bat…no issues. He went and got the manager of the ballpark for another inspection…again, no issues. The bat was totally legal. This guy was just pissed that his team got hammered by 16 runs inside of 4 innings.

As usual, I digress…

The fact of the matter is that guys spend tons of money to take an illegal bat and have it painted, branded, and stamped as legal. On the average, this will probably cost you about $400. To put a slightly finer point on it, you’re paying $400 to cheat. Finer point still? How about $400 to cheat at a game where people have to throw a big ball underhand, that won’t pay the bills, that won’t bring you years and years of glory… and a level of cheating that can literally kill someone. Sound a little mellow dramatic? Maybe. But even a legal bat that can compel a ball to move 98-mph could deliver a fatal blow it someone was hit in the head, throat, or chest. So what would a ball going 110+ do? I might be a little more sensitive to the situation than most considering I play third base a lot, and as such stand closer to the plate than anyone but the pitcher. For the record if you get caught using an illegal bat say, in a tournament, you’re probably going to be handed a 3-5 year ban from participating in that tournament again, and you WILL be catching an ass-whoopin’ in the parking lot from the opposing team lead by the pitcher and third baseman.

Sammy Sosa is the slugger than most recently comes to mind when talking about using a corked bat in MLB. There is regular debate about the advantages of a corked bat. Yes, you can swing fast, but the quality of the power distribution from a weaker instrument almost makes it a wash. An illegal softball bat, however, will add bat speed and not sacrifice the power transfer. In either case, the question remains; Why do it at all? Sosa could hit homers with a shovel. The guys I know who will spend $400 on a bogus bat could send a ball over a 300’ fence with a limb they just pulled off a tree. Why risk the repercussions? Why risk the injury? Why do it at all?


Blogger Abby said...

Amen!!! You don't have to cheat to be a good player.
The opposing team also has to know that my brother will hit the ball hard with a stick, so they better be ready.
I'm not bias or anything.

5:52 PM  

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