The great bat debacle
Posted by DW on June 2, 2021, 3:23 pm, in reply to "John Daniels"
Unfortunately John Daniels left after the Great bat Debacle of 2009... |
This is from my 2009 Major World Series tournament report:
The Great Bat Debacle!
(The accounts, descriptions, and opinions expressed in this article are soley the thoughts of Dale Weiser and are NOT representative of the USSSA or SoftballKingdom.com.)
What began as a well played and entertaining tournament was marred in the winner's bracket semi-final game Friday night between Long Haul and Dan Smith when what appeared to be a bat protest by the Dan Smith team turned into a 17 minute debacle in front of the largest crowd in recent softball memory. The end result appears to be the suspension of Long Haul's star shortstop Brett McCollum who argued after the game with USSSA officials who said his bat compression test was too low. To set the stage for this scene, you have to realize that USSSA has been compression testing bats all year long. At the World Series the testing was being administered right on the field behind home plate so that it could be done as quickly as possible. In the managers meeting teams and players were warned that bats that tested too low could lead to ejection for unsportsmanlike conduct and runs could even be removed from the score.
The game of mens slowpitch softball is rarely played in front of actual fans all year. A few diehard fans in each city might come out to check out the Conference tournaments, but for the most part there are no fans. This is not a spectator sport, it is an amateur participation sport. With that being said, the one night when the fans come out to check out the Major World Series is on Friday night of the tournament when the winner's bracket semi-finals are played just before and just after the Home Run Derby. The crowd numbered more than a thousand and they came and watched the biggest debacle in recent Major softball history unfold before them.
Long Haul trailed Dan Smith 20-15 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. After homeruns by McCollum and Blackburn narrowed the lead to 3, their bats were tested as all homerun bats were. Neither bat passed the test. This prompted a bat protest by the Dan Smith management. Long Haul players yelled that the bats should be cut open on the spot. Everyone knows that the bats would be cut open at a later date to determine if the bats had been altered in any way. A bat that is shaved or rolled is considered to be a "doctored" bat and would lead to a one year suspension. A bat that tests low on the compression machine but is NOT doctored is considered to be "hot". It is not illegal to use a "hot" bat and there had been no precedent set to suspend a player for using a "hot" bat.
The umpires gathered and no suspensions were given, the homeruns were counted and play resumed.
After the ridiculous delay in front of a large crowd, Long Haul's bats were tested before they went to the plate and all tested fine. Geno Buck homered, Matt King doubled, JD Genter was intentionally walked, and Jeremy Isenhower (in fine JC Phelps boowooping mode) hit a no doubter walk off homer.
After the game McCollum and a USSSA official had words and the result was a one year suspension of McCollum.
Long Haul took a team vote (9-4 in favor of) and decided to forfeit the remainder of their games to protest the McCollum suspension.
It is my OPINION that players were grabbing what they deemed their best bat for those at bats at the end of the games that meant the most, knowing those bats would probably be confiscated. Most of the teams were playing this game within a game. McCollum had had 3 bats confiscated in this way, much like a number of other players. This in itself is not a reason for suspension under the current rules and no players were suspended for this. In talking to McCollum, he says he was just grabbing the next bat in his bag and one he didn't even think was that great.
USSSA has gone to great lengths to test bats in Conference tournaments which is exactly what we in the softball community have been crying for. Has the testing had some bumps in the road…YES! Is it getting better…YES! They set up the testing machine RIGHT ON THE FIELD OF PLAY. Cudos to USSSA for doing this. When players began using their "hottest" (but still legal) bats in the most important situations, USSSA stepped in and made it so that in those final 3 games of the World Series the bats were tested BEFORE the games and kept out where everyone and the game officials could see them. In my estimation those last 3 games were most likely the cleanest games in upper level ball in a long time.
As a result of the bat controversy, bats were kept outside the dugout under the watchful eye of USSSA officials
Here is my take:
Can I understand Dan Smith's frustration with all of the Long Haul bats failing tests? Yes I can.
Can I understand a player using his best stick in the most crucial situation, when there is no penalty to do so? Yes I can.
Can I understand Long Haul's need to protest their player's suspension by sitting out the rest of the tournament? Yes I can.
1) USSSA was wrong because the new "managers meeting" bat testing rules were not in writing. By not putting them in writing it left a huge grey area for controversy and conspiracy theorists and gave the umpires no authority to uphold them.
2) Most of the Dan Smith team decided not to shake hands after their loss to Long Haul. This was wrong, a knee jerk reaction to a frustrating situation, but wrong nonetheless. Note, Kendrick and Brown did shake hands, cudos to them. Until I hear a reasonable explanation, I will not understand why you would do this, ever?
3) Long Haul was dead wrong to forfeit these games. These players give up a seasons worth of time with their family's to play for this World Series Championship. I also heard one fan in the food line at Champions Stadium that said he paid $13 to bring his kid to see the Resmondo vs Long Haul game and he was none to happy that Long Haul was forfeiting.
4) I just wrote that all of these people were wrong in the 3 points above. But we all need to realize they are people, and people are human, and humans make bad decisions when making decisions in the heat of the moment.