NCAA and NFHS Rules on Compliant Baseball Bats for 2011

As a service to readers who have visited DirtDog Baseball in order to learn more about the current NCAA and NFHS bat requirements for the upcoming baseball season, here is a helpful searchable link that will give you the latest updated information. Please check back often on this as the information is sure to change.

NEW NCAA BBCOR BAT LABEL RULE FOR 2011

To begin with, in May of 2009 the NCAA adopted a new Batted-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard for testing baseball bat performance. This standard is effective January 1, 2011 as an addendum to NCAA rules, and states that bats not constructed of one-piece solid wood  must be certified and labeled by the manufacturer to meet the new BBCOR standard in order to be approved for NCAA competition play. The BBCOR standard supercedes the previous Ball Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) standard which measured the “exit speed” of the ball off the bat and certified that BESR-compliant non-wood bats do not drive balls significantly faster than wood bats of comparable weight and length.

The new BBCOR standard regulates the flexibility of non-wood bats in their construction along with the resultant “trampoline effect” of balls springing off the striking surface of the barrel. This will be accomplished by making barrel walls thicker and less flexible, or by installing barrel inserts behind the “sweet spot” to block flexing. It also requires that the length/weight differential of bats be no greater than 3.0 (or -3) units without the grip. Additionally, the bats must display a new, permanent BBCOR  certification label on the barrel end of the bat.  Bats without this mark will NOT be allowed for NCAA play effective January 1, 2011 regardless of whether the identical make/model of bat was used during the previous season. There is no grandfathering provision in the rules, so players will be obligated to purchase new “compliant” bats for the upcoming season that have the correct certification label. Bats will not be available with the new compliant labeling until August, 2010 at the earliest.

NEW NFHS BBCOR BAT LABEL RULE FOR 2012

As of this writing, the NFSH has also adopted the same BBCOR standard to be effective January 1, 2012. This will aid High School players by making them accustomed to play using compliant bats prior to their introduction to NCAA-level play. Affiliated Middle School programs can also expect to follow compliance according to this schedule, especially since talented Middle School players often “play up” onto High School JV squads.

IMPACT ON PLAY

With the adoption of the new BBCOR standard, non-wood bats will closely compare to their wood counterparts more than ever before. This will improve safety for pitchers and also return the game to a point where skilled hitting is essential for success. It will also minimize the changes that high-level players need to go through in adjusting to play with wood bats, while providing the benefits of wood bat characteristics in the form of more durable non-wood products.

UMASS LOWELL BASEBALL RESEARCH CENTER

To help keep track of what bats qualify for play (a constant moving target), a searchable bat model link has been made available by the University of Massachusetts – Lowell Baseball Research Center (UMLBRC). The UMLBRC link summarizes bats that have been submitted for and passed the Ball-Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) and Batted-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) certification tests for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The certifications are intended to limit bat performance at or near the maximum performance limits of a wood bat, thereby minimizing additional risks and promoting the sound traditions of the sport.

The UMLBRC does not test bats specifically for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Their results, however, provide an opportunity for interested parties to check if a particular bat is compliant with NFHS high school playing rules. Additionally, the UMLBRC has performed testing work for Little League Baseball which has resulted in another set of regulations for that organization which substantially impacts youth baseball going forward.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF HIGH SCHOOLS JOINS NCAA BAN IN 2012

The NFHS has banned hollow composite bats unless they remain BESR-compliant after undergoing the Accelerated Break-In (ABI) protocol. The ABI is intended to confirm that as such bats break-in, their performance does not improve beyond the BESR ball exit speed limit. For the 2010-2011 academic school year, and through December 31, 2011, the following types of bats are legal:

  1. Any aluminum BESR bat (listed as category A on the UMLBRC site),
  2. Any aluminum barrel BESR bat (listed as category A on the UMLBRC site),
  3. Any non-hollow (filled core) composite BESR bat (listed as category D on the UMLBRC site),
  4. Certain approved hollow composite BESR baseball bats (found on the NFHS website at http://www.nfhs.org/content.aspx?id=4155),
  5. Any solid (one piece) wood or wood laminate bat (listed as category B on the UMLBRC site),
  6. Any aluminum or composite BBCOR bat (anticipated delivery date to retail stores and online outlets late fall/early winter).

SEARCHABLE BAT MODEL LINK

The UMLBRC list is located at http://m-5.eng.uml.edu/umlbrc/ncaa_certified_bats.asp. For bats that meet NFHS high school playing rules until December 31, 2011, go to the “League Approval” drop-down list (located at the bottom of the page) and select “NCAA 2010 Season”. For bats that meet NFHS high school playing rules on and after January 1, 2012, go to the “League Approval” drop-down list and select “NCAA 2011+ Seasons”. The UMLBRC is responsible for updating and maintaining the list. Other leagues or rules organizations may not require the ABI process or adopt the NFHS position on banning hollow composite bats.

If you have any questions, please contact the NFHS by email at baseballbatlist@nfhs.org.

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