By Karl Terry
These days, if you’re excited by the crack of the bat on a baseball you probably live too close to a Major League Baseball field. I bet some of you whippersnappers out there have never heard the sound of a wood bat hitting a leather ball.
The thought hit me like a line drive back through the box last Sunday as I was watching a segment on CBS Sunday Morning. It was about a guy who recovered from a stroke after hearing what he said was the “ubiquitous ping” of a ball on a bat at a ballpark near his house. The sound motivated him to get out of the house and rehab from the stroke and become a baseball coach.
I liked the story a lot, but the guy was nearly 20 years younger than me and I realized my memory of baseball had both pings and cracks. Actually my family says my memory has a lot of cracks but that’s another story.
When I started out on the Angels Pee Wee League team every day at practice the coach dumped a bunch of ancient bats and equipment on the ground behind the wire backstop. When it was your turn to come in and bat you put that strange looking noggin guard with the elastic straps on over your cap and went to select a bat.
Some of those bats were pretty darned heavy and usually there was one that was really light and easy to swing. The best batters seemed to use bigger bats, so naturally I had to try those first, but after a few whiffs the coach would put that light bat in your hand and tell you to get closer to the plate.
Aluminum bats came into use in the early ’70s, even though they were originally patented in 1929. I did get the chance to use them before my hardball career was over. They seemed OK but took a little getting used to. Some of those first bats seemed to have a bigger sweet spot on them than wood, but those bats never seemed to last too well. Some of them had no sweet spot at all and would sting like fire when you hit the ball.
Soon enough I got used to that ping noise and I guess the kids today don’t even have to give the whole wood or aluminum thing a thought.
I used aluminum bats exclusively for more than a decade playing softball and I coached Little League kids for at least six years with aluminum bats. I’ve got to say that a light aluminum bat was a lifesaver during a long practice hitting fun goes.
These days the real Louisville Slugger has pretty much gone the way of the wool baseball uniform. Wood bats are confined almost exclusively to Major League Baseball and the sound they make seems foreign.
For you young folks out there I won’t find it strange that “ping” is a sound synonymous with baseball for you if you don’t find me strange when I tell you to “keep the brand up.”
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org