If you go to a college baseball game this year, you will immediately be able to tell a difference from years past. There will be no ping sound when a ball hits a bat and there will most likely be a lot less hits, particularly home runs.
That is because the NCAA has implemented the Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR), a system which regulates the speed of a baseball coming off a bat. The BBCOR will force college teams to use a new type of aluminum bat that reduces the speed of which the ball reflects off of it. The new bats will still look like the previous ones, but will act more like wood instead of metal.
College baseball's popularity has never been higher, and a large part of that is due to the high scores that occur in the college level that don't happen very often in professional baseball, where full wooden bats are used. The key behind the offensive numbers are the the aluminum bats which let the ball travel farther than it would from a wooden bat.
So the idea that the NCAA would want to reduce one of the main selling points of college baseball is somewhat surprising. Baseball, for some reason, has never attracted a large audience at the college level like football and basketball have. In fact, the only time college baseball is usually featured on ESPN is when the College World Series is taking place and even that gets low ratings.
College baseball coaches have already seen dramatic differences in the new bats. Balls that used to be hit out of the stadium are now fly outs and grounders that would have easily made it into the outfield are routine ground outs.
However, the reasons against keeping aluminum bats outweighs the advantages of staying with them. First and foremost, the bats were a danger hazard. Baseballs were getting rocketed off bats at a speed where they could kill someone if the ball hit that person in the head. A fan without a glove that was sitting down either baseline was in jeopardy of a potential life threatening injury.
Second, college baseball statistics were becoming very skewed. For example, there is no way that East Carolina should have been able to score 30 runs when they played N.C. Central last March. The most telling stat was that 63 Division 1 players hit .400, a mark that was once considered the ultimate milestone for a hitter.
FIU infielder Garret Wittles would most likely have not gotten a hit in all 56 of his games last year if it were not for the aluminum bats. Wittles is currently being accused of rape and it is unknown whether he will even play for FIU this season.
The NCAA is certainly not making the popular choice by making all college baseball programs use the new bats, but it is the right one. Fans who want to see games where both teams score in double digits might be out of luck but in the end, college baseball games will hopefully be much more competitive and realistic.