Baseball is constantly changing

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Last week I talked about my opposition to the winner of the Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, which is just an exhibition game, determining whether the American League or National League champion would get home field advantage in the World Series.

Today I would like to share with you some more thoughts about the state of baseball, which has always been my favorite sport, at all levels.

Baseball has probably seen more significant changes in recent years than any other sport.

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As a youngster growing up in my dear late father’s home town of Keyport, N.J., which is just 35 miles from New York City, I had the pleasure of watching five players who I consider among the greatest of all time at their positions.

I’m talking about Cairo native and third baseman Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers, center fielder Willie Mays of the New York Giants, center fielder Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees, center fielder Duke Snyder of the Brooklyn Dodgers and catcher Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees.

Back then, and I’m talking about the 1950s, there were no million dollar contracts like today and many players had to have off season jobs to make ends meet.

Players in that era also seemed to be less injury prone than players today.

With the big salaries, and players no longer having to hold down other jobs in the off season, they spend a lot of time conditioning and working out with weights.

If you’ve seen any old films of the late great New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth, as I have, your first thought was probably how fat he looked.

While his body was not finely tuned like players in major league baseball and other sports today, Ruth had great hand-eye coordination, an element that is very vital to hitting a baseball being thrown to you at speeds of between 95 and 100 miles an hour by a pitcher standing just 60 feet, 6 inches away.

With their weight training and their bodies being so finely tuned, it seems players have a lot more pulled muscles today than back in Ruth’s era. I guess the bottom line is that it’s hard to pull fat.

I commend my native state of New Jersey for mandating that wooden bats be used at all high school baseball games in the state. My hope is that eventually all high school and college teams will use wooden bats like professional minor league and major league teams do.

Several tournaments that Bainbridge High School Bearcats head baseball coach Scott Miller’s summer varsity and junior varsity teams have participated in or hosted this year have been wooden bat tournaments.

I know high school baseball programs don’t have the financial resources that college baseball programs do, but I see no reason why college teams cannot use wooden bats.

It’s a safety issue; a ball hit with the aluminum bat travels so much faster than one hit with a wooden bat, requiring pitchers and infielders to react much faster when the ball is lined toward them.