The wood bat game is certainly different, starting with the obvious point - the bat is different. This one single differential has a ripple effect which is undeniable. For starters, batters step into the box with a new tool. Thanks to legendary Yankee, Yogi Berra, we all know that "baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." Based on this assumption, we can assume that the new tool has a big effect on the player's mental approach to the at bat. He already knows the bat is heavier, he can feel it. But that nagging thought can start to work its way into the hitter's mind with every step leading up the the plate. He may be thinking he won't have the pop he is used to with his cherished DeMarini or that he isn't as good of a hitter without the latest and greatest bat shared across Instagram feeds of 12 year old boys everywhere. Then comes the physical reality. Wielding the heavier bat makes the at bat fundamentally more challenging. Can he maintain control of the bat all the way through the swing? How can he deliver the same bat speed to get around on that fast ball in time to pull it down the line?
Now take a step back from the batter. The use of the wood bat changes the game overall - including the defensive aspect of the game. Generally speaking, wood bat league games are lower scoring games overall and move faster than their metal counterpart. Speed wise, the faster moving game is usually viewed as an equal advantage. Players are more alert with less downtime between innings and pitchers maintain their rhythm. As a result of lower scoring games, teams used to a large run cushion, compliments of exceptional displays of power hitting, must rely more heavily on their defensive skills to maintain a competitive advantage in a tight game. Coaches and managers are more apt to apply small ball strategies in tight games, requiring fielders to literally be on their toes with every pitch, adjusting field position to the situation and working cohesively as a unit to defend bunts, suicide squeezes, as well as hit and run situations.
The debate regarding the return to wood bat baseball across all levels will most likely carry on endlessly to no avail. Age group and league administrators will continue updating, revising, and rethinking their position on the use of metal vs. composite vs. wood bats. Ultimately, players will need to adjust the same as they adjust between turf, skin infields, backstop depths, grass infields, and mound size. Our CT Edge players on the 11 & 12U wood bat teams this Summer were fortunate for their opportunity to play grass roots baseball for three glorious weeks. Not only did they challenge their skills and knowledge as baseball players, they were able to extend their season of baseball just a little bit further into the Summer before taking the August break. See you all back this Fall!