Wood vs. aluminum baseball bats
An age-old topic in baseball has long been the debate over wood bats versus aluminum bats – why do the youth leagues on up to college leagues use aluminum, yet the professionals use wood? The obvious answer is safety – a ball hit by a Major League Baseball player will travel faster and farther than one hit by a T-Ball player.
John Dressman, Cincinnati Western Baseball Conference secretary, St. Jude School baseball coordinator and assistant varsity baseball coach at Elder High School, said safety is at the forefront. “At the youth level, I think aluminum bats are fine, as long as certain guidelines are followed,” said Dressman. “Bat testing has evolved over the years with accepted certifications. Bats must have a 1.15 BPF (Bat Performance Factor) stamp on them to be used at the youth levels.”
Dressman also alluded to pros and cons of wood bats versus the aluminum variety. “I suppose wood bats are cheaper than aluminum bats, but there are durability issues with wood bats,” Dressman said. “Aluminum bats, in general, seem to have more forgiveness when not contacted on the sweet spot. In our organization (Cincinnati Western Baseball Conference), players are allowed to use either kind, but must be certified as BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) or have the 1.15 BPF stamp on them.”
As the game of baseball changes, even ever so slightly, so has the equipment i.e. catcher’s masks, batting helmets and body armor players wear at the plate. Dressman said bats have also evolved and that aluminum bats seem to have the edge over their wood counterparts. “I think different kinds of wood have been used over the years to make the bats perform better, but beyond that, I do not know,” said Dressman. “Different alloys, thinner walls and bigger barrels have made aluminum bats outperform wood by a wide margin over the years.
The new testing and standards on how fast the ball can leave the bat has made aluminum bats come closer to wood performance recently.” With so much debate, will the norm ever change? Can one type of bat be mandated across all levels of youth baseball, even high school, college and MLB? “Wood bats will always be used by MLB,” Dressman said. “I’m not sure where youth and college go with wood, but with the new standards in place, I believe aluminum bats will be preferred.”