Rule changes crack down on bat speed

Requirements bring game more in line with colleges

High Schools


March 23, 2001|By Kevin Van Valkenburg and Stan Rappaport | Kevin Van Valkenburg and Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

If baseball teams in the county this year don't quite post the Ruthian offensive stats they have in the previous years, don't blame the hitters. Blame the bats.

Or, if you're a baseball purist, thank the bats.

Rule changes already implemented at the college level take effect this year for high school, requiring that all bats have a maximum diameter of 2 5/8 inches and a differential of no more than three between length and weight. (For example, a 34-inch bat could weigh no less than 31 ounces.) The previous differential was five, and as any layman with even a vague understanding of physics can attest, lighter bats allow for more bat speed, resulting in more power.

"It was really getting out of hand," said Mike Lerner, a baseball coach at Howard. "The bats were so light and had such thin walls that you'd have 14-year-old kids weighing 150 pounds swinging with 90 mph bat speeds."

The change won't have an enormous effect, as metal bat technology is still profoundly different from that of wooden bats, but it might slow down the all-out assault on some of the state records posted last season. Hammond made an assault onthe record books, as junior Brian Brewer tied the state public school record for most home runs in a season with 13, and Bears catcher Jason Maxey set a state public school record for RBIs in a season with 48.

"You can already see a big difference just in batting practice with the new rules," said Long Reach coach Tim O'Brien. "I think it will be a great leveling of the game, which had really gotten out of wack recently. Pitchers had no room for mistakes. It was like kids were up there swinging with tennis rackets."

It wasn't simply the titanic offensive numbers that helped force the changes, but safety concerns. "Even now, the ball is still flying off these super juiced bats," Lerner said. "Somebody's going to get killed. I wish we could go all wooden, but it will never happen."

O'Brien agrees: "In all my years, I've only seen one kid get hit in the face with a line drive, but it was really frightening. It was more than enough to convince me."

All of it should help the wear and tear on pitchers, says Oakland Mills coach Rick Ewert, which will improve the overall quality of the game.

"If numbers don't go down, it will be a real testament to how good the hitters are this year," Ewert said.

Satterwhite to step down

Carol Satterwhite, who has served as athletic director at Wilde Lake since 1972, will leave the position at the end of the school year. She will continue to teach physical education for one more year, her 31st.

Satterwhite, who coached Wildecats teams to county titles in girls basketball, golf, girls track and softball, said she has many memories, "most of them good. There were trying times, but overall it's been very challenging, rewarding and I've met some great people. The kids have been fun."

Satterwhite said Mike Harrison, a 1982 graduate of Wilde Lake, will become the new athletic director. Harrison is an assistant football coach and girls varsity lacrosse coach at Wilde Lake. Since athletic directors can coach only one sport, Harrison has decided that this will be his last season coaching lacrosse.

In 1997, Satterwhite was among the first class inducted into Howard County's Women's Athletics Hall of Fame.

Glenelg Country wins opener

Molly Walker had four goals and two assists, Anne Shippen had three goals and one assist and Christine Corkran added one goal and six assists to pace Glenelg Country over Chapelgate, 14-2, in the season-opening Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference lacrosse game yesterday at Glenelg Country.

"I think the girls communicated very well and worked the ball up the field very well," said Glenelg Country coach Paige Walton.

Meghan Kelin had both goals for Chapelgate.

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