By LINDSAY CAREY
The Southington West Little League will be switching from aluminum bats to wood bats for the upcoming season for safety purposes and also to add more challenge to the game. The board of Southington West Little League voted 10 to 5 in support of the change.
Skip Griffin, President of Southington West Little League, said that there were some safety concerns from parents and coaches last year.
“We’ve seen players and coaches getting hit at games,” he said. “Coaches pitching at batting practices have been hit in the ribs, ankles, legs and feet.”
Although they may still be hit, switching to wood bats would provide a safer alternative for players and coaches.
“We haven’t really seen an increase in injuries, but we’re trying to be more proactive and hopefully prevent an injury,” said Griffin.
He also pointed out that in little league you can have a 10-year-old pitcher facing a 12-year-old batter, so taking the high powered bat out of the hands almost levels the playing field.
In recent years, the board has noticed exceedingly high scores. According to Griffin, another Little League in Southington had 90 home runs last season.
“The kids are generally bigger, stronger, and faster than they were years ago, because many of them are doing baseball year round in other leagues or indoor,” said Griffin.
Using aluminum bats makes the game a little less challenging for them.
“Little League has been sensationalized with the Little League World Series being covered by ESPN, but one of the things people forget about with little league is that it’s for the learning and development of baseball,” said Griffin. “Although making home runs is nice that’s really not what it’s about. It’s not supposed to be a home run competition.”
Southington West Little League will be seeding each team with five to six wood bats and once the children get used to it, Griffin said they are welcomed to purchase their own if they so desire.
“A wood bat is about a third of the cost of a good aluminum bat,” said the president of Southington West Little League. According to him, a wood bat costs around $100, while an aluminum bat could cost anywhere from $350 to $400. “We’re hoping it will actually be a cost savings for parents.”
For the most part, Griffin said that he has received positive feedback from parent. Only a few are concerned that it will actually stunt their child’s development in the sport.
“Before high school they’ll have two years to go back to aluminum bats and will be practicing on the big diamond,” said Griffin who believes that wood bats force the children to concentrate more on their form than power.
In addition to the wood bats, Griffin said the league is looking into offering the pitchers more protective gear.
Two of the items the league is considering is a heart guard, which is a t-shirt with a built in pad to protect the chest because a hit to the chest could potentially cause the heart to stop.
“The little league actually said there is a higher risk of injuries to the chest for pitchers, who can easily be hit by line drives,” said Griffin.
The other item is a hat insert that will absorb some of the blow if a child is hit by a ball in the head.
Ira Fritz, a Director at ESPN and parent of child on Southington West Little League said that he is in support of switching to the wood bats as a safety precaution.
“There was a lot of debate on it, because aluminum bats make the balls go further,” said Fritz.
Fritz said that only one other league in the state has made the switch to wood bats.
“We don’t want to be the league where something tragic happens,” said Fritz. “We’re hoping it doesn’t just end with us.”