Where’s the Ping?

Okay.  I know this is my second blog post this um… hour… but sometimes a girl just has a lot to say.  I’ll tell you now that a majority of you won’t be even remotely interested in what I have to say here.  A small handful of you, however, might benefit from what I have to say.  I’m talking bats.

Not the cool, hip, under-the-Congress Street Bridge blood-sucking type.  But baseball bats.  Oooh.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Many of my friends (and maybe just a few random blog readers) have boys either going into high school or already there.  If they play baseball (or plan to), you’re going to need to buy a new bat and that is not the simplest thing to do these days.

My son Collin, tried out for his high school’s summer team last night.  We decided to go ahead and bite the bullet, make the purchase, do the deed.  We’d been putting it off for a LONG time.  He’s spent the past year borrowing bats from others.  But we were feeling the deadline and just did it.

If you’re not familiar with the new rules regarding bats in high school, here are the basics in a very rough easy-to-understand style.

Old bat (and by old bat, I mean anything prior to brand new bat) = bad and dangerous.  No longer allowed.  Congratulations.  You get to buy a new one.

The rules aren’t that difficult.  Most composite (or metal) bats are designed to make our kids sluggers at the plate.  We all have tried to buy bats with the best “pop” (ie… speed of the ball as it comes off the bat).  The problem arises when one of these super fast balls hits a kid in the head or in the chest.  It can be a deadly weapon.  It’s also turned the game of baseball into a game of long balls and runs.  For multiple reasons, new rules have been implemented and regulations on bats went into effect this year and will be even more intense beginning on January 1, 2012.  These rules are in effect for high school, NCAA and some youth organizations but it’s sure to become the standard at some point.  The downside is that you have to buy an expensive new bat.  The upside?  Well, it’s safer and is going to turn the game on it’s ears.  Better pitching, better defense, more interesting play.

I could get into the technicalities of BBCOR ratings and the old BESR ratings but in an effort to keep it user-friendly, I’ll spare you the details.  The new bats have to be BBCOR certified at .50.  This basically limits the amount of “pop” the bat can have and the speed at which the ball bounces off of the bat.  All of the major brands are scrambling to create new “legal” bats for the 2012 season so the good news is that you aren’t overwhelmed with choices.  I recently went to Dicks.  They have a lot of bats on sale and many of those are good for 2011 but not for 2012.  There is a small rack with a sign to announce those that will be legal on January 1.  Don’t get fooled into buying the wrong thing now unless you want to buy yet another one next year.  I became really excited to see the bat we had chosen on sale for $225.  It was listed as being “high school approved”.  But that was only for 2011.  Beware.

In my research of new bats, here is a summary of what I found:

It seems there isn’t a lot of difference between the new BBCOR bats in how the ball comes off.  The biggest difference is in the vibration and sting to the hands.  This can be a BIG deal as a bat that doesn’t “sting” allows your child to swing harder and give it more without worrying about it hurting.  This results in more balls hit harder, which will now be a HUGE thing. The general goal seems to be to make composite bats act like wooden bats.  Now why we’re not just all going to inexpensive wooden bats, I have no idea.

The first bat we thought we were going to buy was the Easton Venom.  At $199 that seemed like a deal.  But it only had a mediocre review when it came to vibration.  Easton is considered to be the forerunner in these “new bats”.  The same seemed to be true for the Demarini Vexxum (also $199)

The two that seemed to perform best  for the money were the Easton Surge and the Demarini Voodoo.   Both retail (at least at Dicks) for $299.   There was also a Nike Aero that they just got in on Monday for the same price.  I hadn’t read much about it because it was so new.

The Louisville Slugger TPX Exogrid is supposed to also be great but since it seems that great bats can be found at $299, we saw no need to spend $349 on this one.

The other “rule” of which to be aware is that high school players can only use a -3 length to weight ratio.  This isn’t new but something worth noting.  In one day, Collin went from swinging a 22 oz. bat to swinging a 29 oz. bat.  Big adjustment.

After all of our research we settled on the Easton Surge.  Last night Collin took it out for the first time and it seemed to do well.  He hit several good line drives to the outfield and never had a bit of sting on his hands.  He’s happy so far, which is good.  At $300 he’s stuck with this bat for a long while.

Another thing to note is that these new bats are super sweet on the ears.  No more annoying “PING” when the ball is hit.  They don’t sound exactly like a wood bat, the crack isn’t quite as crisp but it is nicer than the ear-piercing ping.

Good luck.  If you have questions ask.  Just be sure to buy the right thing the first time.  Once you’ve used it to hit, well… it’s yours.

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