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2016 ASA Equipment Committee Review

By Dick Gulmon, 12/11/16, 6:00PM CST


Latest update from the Equipment Committee and the WSU Lab

This past year the Equipment Committee, Dr. Lloyd Smith and the WSU Lab have spent time on bat & ball compliance, as well as working with manufacturers in advance to make sure new designs and products meet our basic requirements of Rule 3 Section 1A.   We have worked extensively this past year to develop a process to identify and define Non-Linear bats and continue to work with manufacturers who seek an exemption to the barrel compression passing criterion.  Our goal is to be in a position to require a compression number mark on the bat to allow for an easier and more efficient process to test bats on the field. We have also worked with manufacturers to remove bats from the approved list as necessary.  We continue to monitor the progress of the ball companies to produce the 52/300-11” ball for the 2017 season as it replaces the 44/375-11” ball product.  After several years of lab and field studies, the development of the 52/300 ball in both the 12” and 11” game has been a great success.  The 52/300 ball is less affected by extreme temperatures or humidity and will provide more consistent playability.  Additionally, and more importantly, a significant reduction in the Impact Severity Index will reduce injuries.  The impact force in the 52/300- 12” ball is approximately 1000 lbs. less when the ball strikes a player and the 11” ball impact is estimated to be reduced an additional 20% more than the 12” ball.  The Equipment Committee and the lab continue to study the technology of the 52/300-12” ball for fast pitch.  Ball weight, diameter and seam height will also be important factors to consider if a future change is considered for the fast pitch game.

Trackman technology continues to be used for field studies which have been made possible through a partnership with ASA/USA Softball, WSU Lab, NCAA and the NFHS.   The Trackman technology has proven to be essential to the decision-making process in monitoring game conditions, equipment standards and research.  By increasing our understanding of how equipment performs and impacts our game, we will be able to better quantify how rule changes affect play. This will also allow us to make decisions about softballs, bats, and the effects of temperature on equipment.

Some of the projects worked on by Dr. Smith and the WSU Lab include the continuation of a field study regarding Reaction Time at the Border Battle this past year.  The reaction time study is a long-term project. Information from this study will be valuable in making equipment decisions in the future.  Reaction Time goals include measuring acceptable risk; player perception of a batted ball; formulation of response time; and the determination of an average acceptable reaction time.   

The lab is also in the process of studying rolled bats and the possibility of building a non-destructive device to better identify bats that have been rolled.  Dr. Smith and his staff continue to update and improve the equipment used to certify bats and make results more repeatable in the process.  The lab has also constructed a device to study helmet impact protection.  While the station is capable of performing standard linear impacts, it is also designed to accommodate oblique impacts.  Recent studies have shown brain injury is sensitive to rotation which increases with oblique impacts.   Dr. Smith has also initiated a project to study wood bat performance and durability.  The goal is to identify wood properties leading to enhanced performance and understand how sensors attached to a wood bat affect its performance and impact resistance.

This past year we shared a very positive Long Range Planning survey taken at the 2015 Council meeting regarding equipment changes implemented the past few years.  We continue to discuss issues surrounding bat tampering and efforts to curb and or eliminate this illegal activity that damages the game.  It is also extremely important that we continue to work with our manufacturing partners, as we collectively search for new ideas to improve equipment opportunities for the game of softball.

The Equipment Committee’s 2017 plans will be to continue studying reaction time, improve the process to detect rolled bats, bat and ball compliance, and continue lab and field studies of the 52/300 FP and SP ball.

We appreciate the work of Dr. Smith and his WSU lab, members of the Equipment Committee as well as Craig Cress, Rich Cress, Kevin Ryan and the ASA/USA Softball staff for all the work that was done this past year.  As in the past, it is the duty of the Equipment Committee to make the very best decisions possible for the game of softball.  We continue to base those decisions regarding bat and ball combinations and other related equipment, on the scientific data we collect in an effort to uphold the integrity of the game of softball.

Respectfully submitted,

Dick Gulmon
Chairman, Equipment Testing and Certification Committee

Photo courtesy WSU Sports Science Laboratory