Fairly big news here out of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The Little League International Board of Directors Executive Committee, which operates all divisions of Little League Baseball, including the Little League World Series, has issued an immediate and complete moratorium on the use of composite bats.
Composite bats, which sell for upwards of $300, first popped onto the amateur baseball scene in the early 2000s. Made of not only aluminum, but also wrapped in woven graphite, they generate far more power and allow for faster bat speeds via better swing weight management.
Today, Little League decided that the technology was beginning to put youth at risk. When struck well, baseballs will fly off of composite bats at much higher rates of speed than regular old aluminum models.
“[This] decision of the Little League International Board of Directors Executive Committee is based on scientific research data from the University of Massachusetts (Lowell), which was contracted by Little League Baseball,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said in a press release. “There is a process through which manufacturers can submit individual models for a possible waiver if they wish to seek it. Going forward, we will let our leagues know which ones meet the standards for the Little League Baseball (Majors) 12-and-under divisions, if any.”
Little League parents all around the country are surely wondering why this decision wasn’t made before the holiday season, when big-money bats do big business both online and at sporting goods suppliers.
Other youth baseball leagues seem likely to follow suit.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.