Monday, September 1, 2008

Wood Bats for Local Softball Leagues

Discussions about wood bats for the ITL have popped up over the last few years. Here are some articles about local softball leagues that have made the switch. Some ITL players are quoted.

Wooden Bats a way of Life for Rockport Softball
By Dom Nicastro


The arrival of wooden bats in the Rockport men's softball league in 2004 meant different things for different players.

For Everett Jylkka, now 67, it meant no more back-peddling after he threw a pitch to get a head-start on a potential laser shot off an aluminum bat.

For Bill Budrow, a 19-year player in the league, it meant the chance to play in a decisive championship game with the final score of 1-0.

And for Jeff D'Antonio, 30, wooden bats meant the end of his home run trot.

The league switched from aluminum to wood because players and managers complained about exorbitant scores and the potential for serious injury with grown men hitting with metal 40-plus feet away from fielders.

"It was mostly because of the danger and the games just getting ridiculous," said Lenny Brousseau, the league commissioner both then and now. "There was at least one game a week where a team got 15-run ruled (where a game is called if a team leads by 15 in the fifth), and it wasn't fun. Now, everyone's a part of the game, and it's a little safer out there."

Gloucester could be next in line.

Gloucester city officials banned the use of metal bats in the Cape Ann Industrial Softball League at their main venue, Burnham's Field, where balls sail through residents' windows almost as often as they do over the fences in the downtown neighborhood.

The league could keep aluminum bats and move to another venue, such as Fuller School, but it seems all but likely it will go to wood at Burnham's.

Rockport players and coaches -- after five years with wood -- say go for it. The use of wooden bats makes the game more competitive and comparable to baseball, where pitching and defense usually supersede the power game.

Brock Currier, who manages and plays for J&D Transportation, admitted he was one of the coaches vehemently opposed to wooden bats when the discussion began around 2002, But since then, he's grown to love them, citing more league parity and the fact that only real home run hitters hit the ball out of the park now.

"My prediction is the same thing will happen in Gloucester that happened in Rockport -- the league will get better, and at the same time the guys that could not hit a softball without a juiced up aluminum bat will find another league to play in," Currier said. "It can't be fun, even for a team like (Gloucester's) Hampden Hill that wins, to have barely any competition."

Currier's brother, Brent, was one of the leaders in home runs in both leagues this year. Currier said he'd rather play in a wooden bat league.

"It's a better game," Currier said. "Just like in baseball, wooden bats puts more emphasis on defense and fundamentals, rather than just hitting home run after home run with the metal bats. Instead of games being 24-20 in Gloucester they are going to be looking at 5-3 games, just like it is in Rockport."

Those lopsided games, common in the Gloucester league, are just not fun,” Budrow said.

"The games were too long, and every guy who flies out now could hit it out," said Budrow, 37, who plays for Doyles in Rockport. "Now with wooden bats, a home run means a lot more, and pitching and defense usually wins. It took a while for players to come around, but the game is a lot more fun and intense."

D'Antonio, still looking for his first out-of-the-park homer post-wood for J&D Transportation, said he would hit a few per year with aluminum bats. His five-season drought is OK so long as the league is competitive, he said.

"Why would you go out and buy a $500 ridiculous aluminum bat?" he asked. "So a 135-pound kid can hit a missile into the woods (for a home run to left field)? That same kid with a $30 to $60 wood bat will hit a ground ball."

As for softball down Burnham's Field in Gloucester, houses will always be a target for softballs in the thick, residential area. The goal, residents say, is to lighten the load and take the home run away from the players who probably can't hit one without an aluminum bat.

Some Gloucester softball officials said in a new wooden bat league at Mattos Field off Webster Street, many players with regular home run pop with their aluminum bats haven't come close to a home run yet.

"There was a lot of resistance at first, but now even if I beg the guys, they wouldn't go back to aluminum," Brousseau, the Rockport commissioner, said. "You see double-, triple-plays in this league. Last week in the playoffs, we had a series of one-run games. That's good ball. That's what it's all about."

Article 2

Aluminum Foiled

by Jason Brisbois