Baseball is difficult to figure out

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Major league baseball is probably the most difficult of all the professional sports to get a handle on.

In professional football, basketball and hockey, you can pretty well predict who the leading point producers will be before the competition begins and not be too far off.

In baseball, which has always been my favorite sport, even the greatest hitters and run producers go into extended slumps from time to time.

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It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that while football and basketball may take more pure athletic ability, hitting a baseball thrown between 90 and 100 miles per hour from a pitcher standing 60 feet, 6 inches away is the hardest single thing to do in any sport.

You can really not get a true sense of how fast a ball is traveling watching a baseball game on television. It is just a blur coming toward the batter.

Because of the speed of the pitch and the short time you have to react to get the bat on it, the one thing you must have to be successful in baseball is great hand-eye coordination.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, couldn’t master hitting a fast ball. That is why, after stepping away and trying baseball for a couple of years, he came back to basketball.

When I started covering high school baseball in 1970, coach Bobby Trawick’s Bainbridge High School Bearcats and all other high school baseball teams were using wooden bats. Today, however, almost all high school teams use aluminum bats.

The one exception to that rule is the state of New York, where the state high school association has mandated that all of their high school baseball teams use wooden bats.

Personally, I would like to see all high school and college teams go back to wooden bats.

With that possibility looming, Bearcats head baseball coach Scott Miller has taken his team to a summer wooden bat tournament in Atlanta the last several years.

In addition, this summer he hosted a junior varsity wooden bat tournament at Bearcat Field.

If a young man has the potential to possibly some day play baseball professionally, whether at the minor league or major league level, he needs to be using a wooden bat early in his career.

I take Sporting News and Baseball Digest, and I try to read everything baseball scouts have written.

In that reading, I have found that there is one thing that scouts almost unanimously agree on, and it is simply this: Scouting position players and hitters is much more difficult than scouting pitchers.

You can feel, with some certainty, that a young pitcher who throws in excess of 90 miles per hour and has a good curve ball has a good chance to be successful as a professional.

Position players and hitters are another story, however. Since a ball jumps off an aluminum bat much faster than it does off a wooden bat, a high school or college player might be a great hitter with an aluminum bat but is not nearly as good a hitter with a wooden bat .

Being good at baseball is not easy. You have to constantly work on your hand-eye coordination and your batting stroke.