Time for some low-tech

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not that I watched any of it with non-stop basketball games and tournaments throughout the last couple weeks, but I saw through media sources covering the critical issues of our time that technology took one more big leap forward recently via Jeopardy.

Technology for game shows and charity is great. At first glance, technology put to use in sports should also be equal parts exciting and harmless.

Who wouldn’t want that new sledgehammer-sized, featherweight titanium driver? Seven more yards? That’s certainly worth $400. Even with the 30-yard slice into the woods, it’s easier than trying to fix three-putts.

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The highest-tech baseball bats, now generations beyond the dull-looking gray Easton aluminum (not graphite, titanium, tungsten, plutonium and/or kryptonite) bats of only a generation ago, have outpaced the sport to the point of being verifiably dangerous.

The NCAA banned the latest, greatest, hardest composite-metal bats starting last season. High school associations around the country are following suit either this spring or in 2012. The Virginia High School League is putting the NCAA-level rule in effect this season.

Boiled down, the ban has to do with the maximum speed a batted ball can leave the bat. The “best” new composite barrels can take a 95-mile-an-hour pitch and actually add velocity to a perfectly struck ball, boosting it to more than 105 mph.

College baseball games are among the most competitive, passionate, testosterone-driven sporting events a fan can witness, which means that any competitive advantage, even with a slight chance of endangering opponents, teammates or oneself, will be taken.

If I don’t, my opponent will. Maybe worse yet, the backup freshman behind me might. He’ll hit a couple bombs, then I’ll be the backup.

High school baseball players strive to be college baseball players. So a limitation to save competitors from themselves (see head-to-head NFL hits a few months back) is necessary.

Even at the high school level of athletics, such an issue somewhat comes down to money.

A weekly newsletter on the VHSL’s Web site includes a bulletin to all baseball players and coaches as the preseason gets under way.

Even during practice, using a now-illegal bat “could affect catastrophic insurance in case of injury and also pose other liability risks to member schools.”

A financial concern here, though, isn’t the least bit cynical, since the hypothetical cost would come only after a very serious head, chest or neck injury — or worse.

“It’s going to be strictly enforced, because it was a safety issue,” said VHSL Assistant Director Tom Dolan in a story in The Mechanicsville Local.

“It was implemented as a change for safety reasons, and we don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of waiver room from our standpoint on something that’s changed because of a safety issue,” Dolan said.