I have written about my love for the Little League World Series on several occasions. Just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy the Little League game more, USA Baseball adopted new standards for bats that will improve safety and preserve the integrity of the game. These new bats will also force young hitters to either adjust their hitting mechanics or they will fail at the plate. The new bat standards have set the game back decades, but that’s a good thing!
Manufacturers will now develop bats with “wood-like” performance. Without getting too technical, the new bats will still be constructed using lightweight materials, but the new design will reduce the amount of “trampoline effect”, resulting in lower bat exit speeds. Here is a link to the new Little League bat standards.
Most people probably think that I’m against the new bat standards because I’m a hitting coach. They would be wrong. I have been one of the biggest critics of the arms race by bat manufacturers to continually improve the explosiveness of youth bats. I always cringe when a young hitter with a terrible swing hits the ball over the fence. I have been frustrated for years that bat technology has been responsible for more long home runs than good hitting mechanics.
When I was a Little League hitter, I had no choice but to learn good hitting mechanics. Otherwise, my hits would be weak and my wooden bats would sting my fingers until they went numb. The hitting keys I teach and describe in my book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters will now be mandatory if young hitters want to be successful at the plate.
In the 2018 Little League World Series, the impact of the new bat standards has been obvious. Home runs are down approximately 65% compared to last year and scoring is also anemic. But, it’s been fun for me to see an increase in the number of hitters in this year’s tournament who look like my hitters. In past years, only a handful of hitters employed the “old school” hitting mechanics I teach that result in high bat speeds, big power, and consistency. The hitters this year who have adjusted their swings are the ones hitting doubles in the gaps and home runs over the 225 foot fences in Williamsport.
Some of the feedback on social media about this year’s Little League World Series is the games are not as exciting to watch due to the lower scores and the dominant pitching. The short and awkward swings are no longer fluke home runs. They now result in pop flies, weak ground balls, and easy outs. It will take some time for young hitters to adapt to the new bat standards by changing their hitting mechanics. I’m confident they will.
My advice to all the players, parents, and coaches is to look to the past for the new keys to hitting success. Watch videos of the greatest hitters in baseball history. You will see hitters who knew how to use their bodies in the right swing sequence to generate power.
When I was growing up, the way I learned to hit was by copying the swings of my favorite players like “Sweet Swinging” Billy Williams and Roberto Clemente. For these hitters, it didn’t matter if they were using the finest piece of wood or a wet newspaper. Their hitting mechanics were the reason for their success, not their bats.
Unfortunately, I fear some young hitters may become discouraged and quit baseball due to their lack of success if they use the same poor hitting mechanics with the new bats. High-tech bats will no longer mask bad hitting form.
However, I’m confident the new bat standards will give birth to a new generation of hitters who learn the right way to hit a baseball by employing old school hitting keys. There is nothing better in any sport than hitting a home run using a fluid and powerful swing.
I want to salute USA Baseball and Little League Baseball for their courage and foresight to make this bold move. This is one hitting coach who believes the future of youth baseball has never been brighter by going back to the future.
Congratulations to the team from Honolulu, Hawaii for winning the 2018 Little League World Series and to the team from South Korea for making it to the championship game.
Keep swinging for the fences in life, boys!