Aug. 19, 1999
INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA, hoping to make metal baseball bats perform more like wood, will conduct further tests before adopting bat specifications for next year.
The association's executive committee last week received a report from a research panel appointed in March to review non-wood bats and baseballs. The committee, however, has decided not to implement the panel's recommendations for at least a month.
"This has been a frustrating experience for the executive committee and the membership," said Charles Wethington, Kentucky president and NCAA executive committee chairman. "But we have a good testing machine in place now, we have good recommendations from an independent group of scientists, and we very soon will have a protocol in place."
Many college teams last season went to smaller aluminum bats, one of the recommendations by the panel, to increase safety and to reverse a trend of much higher scoring than with wood bats, which broke easily.
"We haven't brought closure to this issue in the manner the membership wants. But we are too close now to rush a decision about an implementation date," Wethington said. "This delay until mid-September will give us adequate time to conduct additional testing to set the right input speeds and establish the right standard."
Early bats were heavy and only the strongest players could generate much speed in their swing. But in recent years, manufacturers have refined their products to make them lighter and capable of producing power from a larger area of the bat. A well-hit ball off an aluminum bat can reach speeds of more than 100 mph.
A record 62 home runs were hit in last year's College World Series and the tournament ended with Southern Cal's 21-14 victory over Arizona State. In this year's 14-game College World Series, with the smaller bats in use, the number of homers dropped to 35, and the 164 total runs were the fewest since 1994. In the title game, Miami beat Florida State 6-5, with each team hitting just one home run.
The NCAA panel endorsed specifications recommended last year by the association's Baseball Rules Committee, including the reduction in maximum diameter from 2 3/4 inches to 2 5/8 inches and in the difference between the length of a bat and its weight from five units to three units. That is, a 34-inch bat could weigh no less than 31 ounces, not including the grip.
The panel wants college bats to simulate the velocity of a batted ball using a "Major League Baseball quality, 34-inch, solid wood bat."
The panel also recommended testing speeds for baseballs and bat swings be increased from 70 mph to 80 mph to better approximate game conditions, additional testing to determine if a standard should be developed on how tight a regulation NCAA baseball should be wound, and testing on whether a bat begins to perform better the more it is used.
By STEVE HERMAN
AP Sports Writer