The metallic “pings” and “clanks” of ball on bat are some of the most identifiable sounds attached to college baseball. But this year, those sounds will disappear because of new NCAA regulations on baseball bats that went into effect on Jan. 1.
NCAA officials changed the regulations on composite aluminum bats to a new technology that will make bats behave more like their wooden counterparts.
The aim of the changes is to provide a quicker game, increase safety for spectators and reduce the number of home runs. Division I teams have averaged seven home runs per game for the last two seasons, the highest since 1989 when the NCAA began to heavily regulate bats.
Belmont head baseball coach Dave Jarvis is excited about the new bats.
“My biggest excitement about the changes is the increased safety,” said Jarvis. “I am hopeful that the NCAA will continue to keep a close watch on the restrictions.”
Replacing the old method of measuring ball speed with the new standard of measuring ball liveliness once it leaves the bat is one of the biggest changes in the new regulations. This new method is called the Bat Ball Coefficient of Restitution – the “BBCOR” standard.
With the new bats comes a smaller “sweet spot,” shrinking from 5-6 inches to approximately 3 inches for solid contact.
“The change allows pitchers a more realistic expectation when on the mound, with less cheap hits being made on well-placed pitches,” Jarvis said.
Fans and coaches alike are grumbling about a drop in offense because of the change.
“Lots of naysayers feel if you take the offense out of the game you lose interest. I’m 180 degrees in the opposite direction,” Jarvis said. “The shorter game duration is more fan-friendly. Plus, the increased defense places a higher value on each run scored whether it be from a sacrifice bunt or a lone jack over the fence.”
Jarvis, like the rest of the NCAA coaches, had to make changes to the Bruins game plan to accommodate the new regulations. A more strategic outlook on defense and “small ball” offense is now the operating standard for Belmont.
“The changes positively affect defensive positions. It evens out the playing field, allowing for games to be more like old times,” he said. “Also, a new higher value has been placed on defense and speed instead of on the big power hitters.”
College baseball is not the only area of the game seeing the transition. During the next few years, composite bats will be phased out of high schools and youth leagues.