PREP BEAT

MIKE NIETO: Bats in the belfry

2012-07-19T20:00:00Z MIKE NIETO: Bats in the belfryBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
July 19, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

When I first heard this, I could only thing of the George Brett pine tar incident in 1983 and the Albert Belle and Sammy Sosa corked bat episodes.

Only this is about non-wood bats.

The rules committee at the National Federation of State High School Associations, which is based in Indianapolis, recently made four rules changes, one of which deals with players attempting to alter non-wood bats. In a news release, it states a new note in Rule 1-3-2: "The NFHS has been advised that certain manufacturers consider alteration, modification and 'doctoring' of their bats to be unlawful and subject to civil and, under certain circumstances, criminal action."

"Not only is it a violation of NFHS baseball rules to alter a non-wood bat, this new language emphasizes that an individual could be subjected to a civil or criminal lawsuit for tampering with a bat,” Elliot Hopkins, NFHS director of sports and educational services and staff liaison to the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee, said in a news release.

I called the NFHS office on Wednesday to talk with Hopkins, but he is out of the office and could not respond.

I don't know what you can do to alter an aluminum bat, but I think the NFHS is going a little too far. Crete-Monee baseball coach Gene Cahan brought up a good point.

"We will now be entering an entirely different arena when we threaten lawsuits for a violation of a baseball rule," Cahan said. "I understand the rationale behind it, but who will it fall back on to verify an athlete has not altered his bat?

"Is (the coach) supposed to inspect each bat and what do you look for? There are a few ways to alter the bat, but will the umpires or the parents be responsible."

He is right. Also, who would face the charge? The player, parent(s), the coach or the school? They say baseball is America's pastime, but lawsuits in a litigious society are becoming as much of our pastime as the grand old game.

Cahan said it is opening Pandora's Box and it may just do that if a lot of complaints are made.

The NFHS is concerned about safety and when it made a different bat rule before the 2012 season, that was a good idea. But if it concerned with safety, why are baseline coaches not required to wear batting helmets in the coach's box?

"We are the only level that it is not required," Cahan said. "Is the NFHS saying they are not concerned with coaches' safety?"

Cahan admits he does not wear a helmet when he coaches third base.

While you can't doctor a bat, has anyone wondered, does anyone still throw a spitter?

I guess that would be opening another Pandora's Box.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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