MORGANTOWN — It may seem like just a piece of equipment to fans watching the game, but there is a big difference between a metal and a wooden bat, especially when it comes to playing at the next level.
Aluminum bats are banned at the professional level because — plain and simple — it’s easier to hit with them. They’re lighter, so they’re easier to swing, and in most instances, the barrel is bigger than on a wooden bat.
With an aluminum bat, there is a “trampoline effect” that causes the ball to leap off the bat faster and harder, and travel farther.
The biggest difference — aside, perhaps, from the “crack” versus “ping” sound the bats make hitting a ball — is that metal bats don’t break. If a hitter is jammed in the pros, his bat could shatter and cause an easy out. In leagues where metal bats are legal, from Little League and through college, there are no repercussions for swinging at an inside pitch.
It’s why most professional scouts have come to trust wooden bat tournaments as a way to see which players could be the best hitters based on the way they handle a wooden bat.
This weekend, Morgantown Post 2 will host the WAJR Wood Bat Classic, at Mylan Park, where all teams must use All League Baseball approved wooden bats.
“The kids like it because it’s a break from the norm,” Post 2 manager Tyler Barnette said. “It makes the game more challenging because hitting with a wooden bat is just more difficult. One of our biggest focuses is to challenge our players, and a big focus is to get them ready for the next level any way we can.”
Pennsylvania’a American Legion programs already adopted a wooden bat policy, requiring teams to use them all the time. While it’s far more expensive with the costs of replacing broken bats, the rule can make games more competitive.
“Wooden bats put a bigger emphasis on pitching, small-ball and situational hitting,” Barnette said. “This weekend, you’ll see a more competitive atmosphere and not the typical 15-12 or 18-15 American Legion games you’re used to seeing, because guys can’t luck into gap shots or run into a home run that barely gets over the fence like they can with an aluminum bat.”
Barnette said there are subtle differences in the way both bats are made, but one of the biggest is that aluminum bats can be manufactured to have the “sweet spot” where you’d like it, where wooden bats are standard throughout.
The Wood Bat Classic is in its second year and grew from four teams last season to seven this year. Barnette, who organizes it, hopes to continue to expand the field to show what Morgantown has to offer as a baseball town.
“We have a lot of people here who genuinely love the game, and we want to show others what Morgantown has to offer,” he said. “We want this thing to grow, so we can not only show what our team can do but what the community has to offer. We’re Morgantown’s team, and we take a lot of pride in that, so we want to bring people here to show them a good time and a good atmosphere.”
WAJR Wood Bat Classic schedule
2:30 p.m. — Uniontown, Pa., at Morgantown; Cumberland, Md., vs. Bridgeport
5 p.m. — Uniontown, Pa., vs. Bridgeport; Steubenville, Ohio, vs. Elkins
7:30 p.m. — Romney at Morgantown; Cumberland, Md., vs. Elkins
1 p.m. — Elkins vs. Uniontown, Pa.; Romney vs. Bridgeport
3:30 p.m. — Elkins at Morgantown; Steubenville, Ohio, vs. Romney
6 p.m. — Steubenville, Ohio, at Morgantown; Cumberland, Md., vs. Uniontown, Pa.
1 p.m. — Cumberland, Md., at Morgantown; Steubenville, Ohio, vs. Bridgeport
3:30 p.m. — Cumberland, Md., vs Steubenville, Ohio; Romney vs. Elkins
6 p.m. — Uniontown, Pa., vs. Romney