The Real Test is in the Wood
Posted June 23, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — Winning is the goal of the Coastal Plains baseball league's six teams, but most of the guys playing use the summer league as a change to get acquainted with wooden bats.
The sound is not the only difference between the aluminum bat and a wooden bat. The stats players put up using aluminum versus wood is just as striking.
"The average college hitter coming into one of these leagues averages .340 during the school year," says Davidson College coach Chris Pollard. "When he gets to the summer, that same average drops about 100 points."
Summer leagues, like the Coastal Plains, employ wooden bats. The college players have to adjust. Hitters are most affected, but pitchers are too-- in a positive way that is.
"You have the confidence that if you put the ball in a decent spot, regardless of whether it's 2-0 or not, that you're going to beat them," explains George Mason pitcher Shawn Stiffler. "With the aluminum bat, 2-0, you're trembling because they're sitting dead red. With the new aluminum bats, they can really hurt you."
That leads to inflated averages, more homers and a higher number of runs scored, something the guys aren't seeing in Coastal League play.
"With a wooden bat, you don't get cheated," says Duke catcher J.D. Alleva. "You've got to hit ball solid for it to go out of the park or in the gap."
There's talk of bringing wood back to the college game, but for now, the only way to measure a player's pro potential is watching him perform during the summer.