12 Investigates: Baseball bat safety

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Home run kings may be harder to crown on the baseball fields this spring.

That's because America's favorite pastime has changed the type of bats players can swing.

This is the biggest change in baseball since aluminum bats were introduced 40 years ago.

The aluminums are gone now — this time replaced with a bat that's considered softer.

Experts say the move will increase safety.

The National Federation of State High School Associations switched to a new bat standard made of composite materials rather than pure aluminum. With a woven graphite inner wall.

The ball travels about 6 mph slower.

"Balls aren't launching the way they used to," said Coach Pete Schumacher. "I think there's definitely a difference. You've got to hit it."

James River Rapids Coach Pete Schumacher said his players have to take a new approach to the game this year.

This is a much smaller sweet spot. So, you've got to make sure you're squared up when you hit it. As far as how you go about the preparation of the game. Moving your eyes over and doing all the little things."

High school baseball officials say these new bats are comparable to the old wood bats and they reduce the risk of serious injuries.

Fly balls... won't travel as far. Home run hitters will be harder to come by.

"But as a pitcher I love them," said Tyler Carrico.

To pitchers like the Rapid's Carrico — these new bats are his best friend.

"It definitely makes the game smaller. It takes the game back to the more basics of baseball... that we're back in, I guess you could say the olden days. It's more of a mental game. You've got to work on small ball bunts."

Both high school and college baseball teams have made the switch to these bats.

And they are no cheaper than before either. They retail from anywhere between $199–$399.

NCAA research showed that the old bats increased ball exit speeds by 10–15 mph.

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