Bat inventor hopes to take 'ping' out of baseball7:20 PM Tue, Aug 26, 2008 | Permalink
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It's the unbreakable wooden bat, at least one that is guaranteed for a year.
Ward Dill unveiled his Radial Bat on Tuesday, promising the revolutionary stick would prevent injuries caused by the shattering of conventional wooden bats while providing a safer alternative to metal bats used in youth leagues and through college.
"We want this to be true to the game of baseball," Dill said. "We don't want our bat to suddenly change the parameters of the game. We want to fit comfortably in those parameters and I think we will."
An MIT graduate with decades of woodworking experience, Dill made his first radial bat in March 2006, about two weeks after making a rosewood vase.
The vase was made by combining wedges into a single form. Dill was astounded by its strength, and it made him think of baseball, a sport he played until Mike Flanagan of UMass, who would go on to star with the Baltimore Orioles, threw him pitches he had never seen before.
"I accepted I was not Major League caliber at that point," the 55-year-old said.
It is made from 12 wedges that are combined with adhesive and clamping pressure. The result is that the outside of each wedge has a tight grain surface, guaranteeing the best hitting surface at every spot on the bat.
"The result is that it is very strong, and as a result of it being strong it is very safe," Dill said. "It is impossible for this maple bat to shatter in the way the maple bats shatter in the major leagues today. You will never have a barrel separating from the handle. The worst thing that can happen is a crack. There is a never a catastrophic break."
There is also no trampoline effect, Dill said. The ball does not jump off the bat.
"The difference between a catastrophic injury and a bruise is a just little movement," Dill said.
To prove his point, Dill had youngster at the news conference at Yogi Berra Stadium take batting practice. No one broke a bat.
"I liked it, it felt great," said Ed Koeffling of Pennsville, a Montclair State University outfielder. "I liked the handle. Usually bats like that break easy. This felt pretty durable."
Koeffling said the bat has less jump than an aluminum bat, but more than a conventional wooden bat.
"All the normal things that happen with bats will happen with this bat," Dill said. "If you hit a ball on the sweet spot of this bat and the sweet spot of a traditional bat, the ball will go equally far."
The cost of a maple Radial Bat for an adult is $150, $20 more expensive than an ash model. The youth models run $120 and $100, with the maple again being more expensive.
If a bat cracks within the first year it will be replaced or fixed, Dill said.
Cost could be an issue for some towns. Let's say there is an eight-team league and each team has four of the least expensive Radial bats. That would be $3,200 for bats.
"I can't put a price on the safety of the children," said Montclair Councilman Rick Murnick, who attended news conference with his son. "I don't know the particulars of what it costs. If it works, we'll find a way to make it work in Montclair."
Standing next to the batting cage, longtime New York sports writer Phil Pepe said he loved the sound of the bat against the ball.
"It sounds like it is supposed to -- any wood bat is better to me than the ping of the aluminum bat," he said. "You watch the College World Series and hear that ping and to me, it is not baseball."
Dill, whose company was formed last year, said his bats are currently being sold in six independent sporting good stores in New Jersey and New York.
Major League Baseball would have to test the bats and approve them before they could be used in big league games.
Pepe proposed his own test.
"So many bats are broken every game, especially when Mariano Rivera is pitching," Pepe said of the New York Yankees great reliever. "That would be the true test. Let him pitch and try to break that bat."