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.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.