Baseball Season is Here, New Rules, and How Much Did You Pay For That Bat?

I asked Tristan to bring me his baseball bag so we could check the condition of his equipment and see what needed to be replaced for the upcoming season. After all, tryouts started the next day.

“Parent fail” for waiting until the last minute.

Inspecting the equipment, we found he would need new baseball pants, cleats, batting gloves, and all sorts of other equipment. Not unexpected, as kids tend to outgrow these sort of things from year to year. Surprisingly, however, he’s used the same baseball helmet for years now. Why his melon doesn’t get any bigger is beyond my comprehension.

As we were getting ready to head out the door for a father-son bonding trip to acquire the necessary baseball gear, he asked if he could get a new bat claiming he had outgrown the one he had. The thought had never occurred to me that he may need a new bat this year, and I didn’t necessarily believe that he needed a new one.

Hoping the rules, regulations, and recommendations for bats would settle this dispute by affirming the bat he had was the right size and weight for his age, I suggested we look at our league’s website. Reading the material, I found that the National High School League had adopted new rules for bats starting in 2012. All bats must now have a  USSSA certification stamp on it.  Guess who’s bat didn’t have that certification stamp on it?

A new bat it is, I guess.

As we were going from store to store comparing prices, by talking with store employees as well as other shoppers we found out that apparently it was thought that balls were coming off the bat too quickly, and youth bats had to be re-designed to slow things down for safety.

The newly adopted rules affect players a couple different ways:

  1. Almost every bat purchased prior to 2012 is unusable in league play (very few had USSSA certification stamps prior to this year).
  2. Since players have to supply their own bat, and given #1, almost every player has to buy a new bat this year.
  3. Second hand sports equipment stores will not buy back old bats without the certification stamp, because there’s essentially zero market for them. Not only can I not sell back the current bat, but I have no opportunity to purchase a gently used bat to save money.

Being the day before tryouts started, we found that the bat selection was pretty picked over. Of the bats that remained, there was quite a range in price. We found three bats costing $40, $60, and $80. I let Tristan try out each bat, without telling him the prices, wondering which one he would pick. As I was about to tell him that I was willing to chip in $40 towards a bat, and if he wanted one that cost more than that he would have to put up his own funds, he selected the $40 bat as his first choice.

Score for not having to sound cheap to my teenager in the middle of a crowded store.

When it was all said and done, here’s what we ended up spending to get him ready for this summer’s baseball season:

 

Cleats:                                      $20
Baseball Pants:                          $12
Batting Gloves:                           $ 7
Gatorade Sports Bottle:               $ 2
Bat:                                           $40
————————————————–
Total:                                         $81

 

Decked out in his new gear, and his new, black and red Easton Hammer tucked nicely into his bag, we walked up to the baseball field on the first day of tryouts. As the boys were run through various drills, I was talking with some of the other dad’s about the new bat rules. I found that some of them had paid over $150 for their bat.

$150 for a baseball bat for a 13 year old????

I felt a little better about our unexpected expenditure in relation to how much more it could have been. But then I started to wonder if Tristan’s bat was inferior in quality such that his hitting would suffer in comparison to the other players.  My fears evaporated when I watched him step up to the plate for batting practice, and connect on hard hit line drive into right center field. I know the kids are almost a year older since the last time I’d seen them play, but quite honestly they all seemed to be hitting the ball harder and further than ever. About that same time, I overheard one parent say, “I’m pretty sure I bought the exact same bat last year, minus the little symbol.”

A few weeks ago my fellow TeamEOD blogger Suzanne Cramer published a post discussing youth sports, and whether they were worth the expense.  I’m a supporter of youth sports, as long as the expenses are reasonable and can be kept within our budget.  I can’t help but think about all the bats that had been rendered useless with the new rules, or wonder how much the bats had really changed.

All of a sudden that new USSSA certification symbol seemed to look an awful lot like a dollar sign to me.

 

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6 Responses to “Baseball Season is Here, New Rules, and How Much Did You Pay For That Bat?”

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  1. Hahah LOL at the part about not sounding cheap in the middle of a crowded store. I know what you mean – I’ve had to incessantly yell “No! You can’t have that!” to my little bro and little sis in the middle of crowded stores…always followed by evil eyes from other parents.

    Sports are so expensive. My bro and sis both play in traveling club volleyball teams. The plane tickets alone and hotel accommodations are so expensive!!

    • Travis says:

      Plane tickets for traveling volleyball teams? Wow, Erika that sounds extreme! Tristan could participate in a traveling baseball team, and they travel around Minnesota for tournaments on every weekend for the first 2 months of summer (which would be expensive enough with transportation, food, and lodging), but I can’t even imagine how much it would cost to have to buy plane tickets!

  2. Kris says:

    The American Way at work again – make new bats in the name of safety and force every little leaguer in America to buy a new bat. What a great business model. Seriously, that’s similar to how many other industries already work – cell phones and mattresses come to mind. It’s only money, right?

    • Travis says:

      Exactly, Kris…..I’m sure the supporting reasoning is “it’s a safety issue, and we want to make it safer immediately.” But seriously….how much of a difference do the new bats make (if any). I don’t see any…not one bit. I think a transition period would have been acceptable. I’m sure people who dropped $150 on a bat last year, and then turned around and did it again this year were not happy all about the new rules.

  3. Way to stay within a budget despite the “regulations” making a change…I have to agree that perhaps the mighty dollar came into play here. I recently had to purchase my son a new lacrosse stick as his current one was not “legal” for tournament play–sometimes you gotta wonder…

    • Travis says:

      You got bit by the “you’re equipment isn’t legal” bug too, huh? I’d love to see the statistics behind the difference between a bat that has the certification, and one that doesn’t. My guess is that I’ll never get the opportunity. And it’s not like they weren’t enforcing the new certification either…..one game the umpire checked every bat that came up to the plate. Thanks for your comment, Suzanne!

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