FORT WORTH, Texas – Twenty years of coaching experience made Grand Prairie head baseball coach Jon Rustenhaven more than qualified to speak on successful practice techniques at the Texas High School Coaches Association Coaching School Tuesday.
However, no baseball coach in attendance had experienced the kind of full philosophy change the new BBCOR bats will bring on the high school game this upcoming season.
UIL has adopted the new BBCOR bat standard that the NCAA set for the 2011 season, using bats that reduce the velocity of the ball after it leaves the bat. The main concern in going to these new bats is the safety of the pitcher who might not have enough time to react to an oncoming line drive off the old bats.
“It’s going to be a major adjustment period for high school coaches and high school players. They’re used to hitting the ball off the fist and getting a base hit and now it’s going to be a weak pop fly.”
These new bats, with a smaller sweet spot than the old models, reduce a high school team’s ability to use the long ball, which could force coaches to recreate an offensive game plan.
“You have to analyze your team and figure out what’s going to work for you,” Rustenhaven said. “Are you going to continue to try and play for the three-run homer or are you going to make that adjustment to the small ball – bunts hit, hit and runs, steals all sorts of trick plays to score runs because you’re not going to be able to sit back and hit that three-run homer anymore.”
Rustenhaven said more attention will need to be spent in practice on squaring the ball up in the sweet spot of the bat, as the new bats allow less of a margin for error.
“That’s going to be more emphasized with our kids this year,” Rustenhaven said. They’ve got to hit the sweet spot if the ball is going to go.”