A debate on the diamond

By Mitch Smith

Baseball minds have pondered the question for many years — a question regarding what sound should be heard from the bat during a game.

The crack of a wooden bat or the ping of aluminum?

With the College World Series taking place in Omaha, baseball fans are sure to hear the ping of aluminum bats a lot more over the next week, and Iowa head coach Jack Dahm and three other coaches in the state hope it stays that way.

Many of the best coaches across America agree, too.

A recent Associated Press survey of 24 Division-I baseball coaches who have won 1,000 games or more since 1985 found that 17 coaches prefer metal, and five wish the game would be played with wood bats. Two coaches had no opinion or declined to answer.

Changing from aluminum bats to wood bats would be like fixing something that isn’t broken, Dahm said.

“College baseball is at an all-time high right now and I don’t think there’s any reason to change it,” he said. “I’m a big believer that the bat companies have done great things for college baseball.”

Proponents of aluminum frequently bring up the cost and durability issues concerned with using wood bats.

Cost of wood bats range from $30 to $160, significantly cheaper than aluminum bats, but they can break after one swing.

Durability is key for baseball programs at the Division II and III levels because of smaller athletics budgets. Although aluminum bats can cost as much as $380, they are much more durable in the long run.

“I just don’t think that it’s financially feasible for schools to go to wood bats,” said Division III Buena Vista head coach Steve Eddie.

Other coaches, such as Wartburg’s (D-III) Joel Holst, believe teams will be at a disadvantage if wooden bats are implemented.

Colleges with higher budgets will get better, more expensive wood bats, he said, and low-budget squads would be forced to purchase cheaper, lower-quality bats.

Supporters of wood bats, such as Upper Iowa (D-II) head coach Mark Danker and Coe College (D-III) coach Steve Cook, bring up the historical aspects the wood bat represents.

“That’s the way the game was meant to be played,” Cook said. “It has been for a very long time. From the purist side, the game changes with aluminum bats from an offensive standpoint.”

Danker said the switch to wood bats would also give pitchers a little more balance over hitters and speed up the play of games.

The argument that continually goes back and forth is the safety risks that aluminum bats could potentially pose.

But Dahm doesn’t buy into aluminum bats being more dangerous, noting that wood bats can be dangerous as well, because splinters of wood could pose a threat to players when the bat breaks.

“For most kids, aluminum bats are all they know,” Dahm said. “Why do anything to change it? There’s certain things I want to change for the better. Why change something that is very, very good for college baseball right now?”

Read more here: http://www.dailyiowan.com/2010/06/23/Sports/17648.html
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