Today’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE featured an article from the perspective of Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco regarding the new BBCOR bats that are being mandated by the NCAA.It’d be an understatement to say the change has not been a popular one, and Bianco said as much HERE.
Yesterday I was able to catch up with Delta State coach Mike Kinnison to get a different perspective of the new bats and, in short, he echoed what Bianco had said days earlier.
“I thought we had reached a point where the bats were in line,” said Kinnison, who is set to begin his 14th season at DSU. “I’m not a big proponent of continuing to hone these bats down personally. I do know over the years and the last several years — I’ll say, if you go back five years ago or so — there was a problem. The bats were too hot and there was a safety factor. I thought they did the right thing of bringing those bats gradually by making changes. I think most coaches that I converse with thought that the bats that we’ve had the last few years were about where they needed to be.There was a compromise. We still had some offense, for the college hitter, but at the same time there wasn’t that high-risk factor of injury.
“I like the bats we had and did not think it was necessary to take another step to hone them down even more.”
COMPLETE SURPRISE: Like Bianco, Kinnison was not informed by the NCAA immediately of the change. Instead, he found out via an e-mail from from his bat rep “well after the fact.”
“I did not get any notification from the NCAA,” he said. “I heard it from a non-NCAA person and I wasn’t real happy with the fact that the whole thing went through and was done and not many people had knowledge of it or influence on it.”
Asked if that’s typical of the NCAA, of if the governing body usually does a better job of keeping coaches in the loop, Kinnison replied: “I think they’re a little too secretive about some things.”
Once he was made aware of the change, actually getting new bats was not automatic.
“We did not get them very quick had to wait until after fall practice started,” Kinnison said. “I think at the higher level the bat production numbers were really challenged because this all happened so quickly. I’m not sure the bat suppliers were sold 100 percent on what was certifiable on what they could use and what they couldn’t use, so we had to wait until well on the other end of that cycle to get the bats from the manufacturers.”
FINANCIAL HIT: Bianco pondered aloud during our interview that lower level programs would really feel the change from a financial standpoint and apparently he was right.
“Regardless of what happens with the bats, the prices don’t go down — I’ll assure you that,” Kinnison said. “From an economy standpoint, it’s been the same game for us in that the bats are very expensive. Being a D2 coach myself, I think it’s a bit more significant to me than those D1 programs because our sponsorship probably don’t entail what the Division 1 sponsorships do.”
Kinnison explained the way his team’s bat deal works is the program will by, for example, two or three bats and get one for free.
“The financial part of it for us is pretty scary sometimes,” he said.
COMING AROUND, SOME: While Kinnison is still by no means a fan of the new bats, he admitted he has come around a bit.
“I think I have found that the bats do open up a little bit after a while. We were very negative about them in the fall, but I feel better about them now,” he said. “I think there has been a little improvement after that break-in period. I guess the biggest thing that I have observed is they are not very forgiving at all. If you don’t really square it up, and really don’t meet the sweet spot, it’s very unproductive and very routine.
“There’s a lot of routine outs and a lot of soft outs I think that come from not being perfectly centered on the sweet spot.”
LOOKING TO (AD)VANCE: Area baseball fans may recognize one name on Delta State’s roster, former Water Valley Blue Devil Jeffrey Vance.
After posting a 1-1 record with a 3.63 ERA in 13 appearances as a junior last year, Kinnison is hoping Vance can have an even better senior season.
“He’s a senior pitcher for us, a bullpen guy,” Kinnison said. “Jeffrey had a pretty good year for us last year. We’re looking for a better year this year. He works very hard and is a great guy. He’s kind of a situational right-hander for us. He has what we would call a low 3-quarter slot. He’s a big part of our plans and plays an important role on the team.” (February 2, 2011)