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Quality of wood bats not to blame for lack of resounding crack sound

The Baltimore Sun

DEAR CAL -- Last summer, my son's team participated in a wood bat tournament. It was the first time he'd hit with a wood bat and the first time outside a major league game I've watched a game played with wood bats in a long time. I was amazed at how dead the sound of the bat hitting the ball was. It wasn't the familiar crack sound I expected. Is the wood that much worse these days, or was it the ball, or am I just imagining this?

Steve Payne, Frederick

DEAR STEVE -- Professional leagues require their players to use wood bats because they are much less lively than aluminum bats. It's done as a safety precaution. That "crack" that you hear when a big league player hits the ball on the sweet spot of the bat is created by the incredible bat speed pro hitters generate. So, the familiar sound that was missing at the tournament your son participated in was more a result of the kids not being able to generate the bat speed that the big league players do rather than an indication of wood quality. If anything, wood bats are made with better materials and are more lively and durable than ever before -- at least at the pro level. While I doubt many of the kids in that tournament were using pro-model wood bats, the dead sound that you heard had very little -- if anything -- to do with the actual bat quality.

DEAR CAL -- I've been coaching my daughter's youth basketball teams for the past four years. It seems every year I have at least one parent who comes up and complains that I'm favoring my kid over theirs when it comes to playing time. When you were playing for your dad, did he ever have to deal with questions of nepotism, and, if so, how did he handle them?

Richard Jacobsen, Deerfield, Ill.

DEAR RICHARD -- If my dad ever had to deal with any types of comments or criticisms regarding my playing time, other than what might have been made public in the media, I never heard much about it. By the time he was actually making the decisions about who was in the everyday lineup for the Orioles, I had already established myself at the pro level, so it really was a non-issue.

If you feel confident that you are not favoring your daughter -- that you have ample evidence to support how much playing time each player gets as well as the role each player has assumed on the team -- that's really all you can worry about. You are never going to please everyone, especially when your child is on the team.

However, one way to avoid this type of confrontation is to hold a parent meeting before the season. You should address your philosophies about winning and losing, playing time and so on. Be clear as to whether you are dividing playing time equally or whether it is going to be based on merit. If your position is clearly defined and you stick to those philosophies throughout, the complaints should be eliminated -- or at least minimized. If an issue does arise, all you have to do is refer to that meeting and present the evidence at hand. As long as you have stayed with the plan you presented, the parent really doesn't have a leg to stand on.

There will almost always be those who think your child is getting preferential treatment. As long as you believe you are following a plan and have the best interest of the team and the players at heart, there's not much more you can do. Explain your position, and if the parent disagrees, he or she always has the option of taking his or her child elsewhere to play.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askripken@baltimoresun.com.

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