Originally created 05/30/99

Switch made in minors

ATLANTA -- There's a perfectly sound reason why Atlanta Braves pitcher Kevin Millwood hates aluminum bats.

Several years ago, while pitching in the Australian Winter League, a ball rocketed off a metal bat and struck him on the chin, reason enough for any pitcher to develop an instant dislike for a bat of the non-wood variety.

"For high school players, it's fine," Millwood said. "But once you gets to a level where the guys are bigger, there's no place for it. Guys at this level swinging aluminum bats would kill someone."

Aluminum bats have been around long enough for most of the Braves to have swung one or pitched against hitters swinging them in high school or college. For the hitters, shifting from aluminum to wood wasn't difficult. For the pitchers, not having to face hitters swinging metal bats made life much easier when they began playing in the minor leagues.

"Our high school coach had us swing wood bats one day a week and I think that's a good idea," first baseman Ryan Klesko said. "When I signed with the Braves I started hitting with a wood bat right away, but that wasn't surprising to me because I was used to hitting with one."

Said second baseman Bret Boone, "I've seen some people have a tough time with making the change. At first it takes a lot of getting used to. You're used to the sweet spot being so big, but after a month of hitting with a wood bat I didn't really notice it anymore."

Bring up the subject of aluminum bats to a pitcher and you'll receive a dark expression in reply. No one is in more danger from a hitter swinging an aluminum bat than the pitcher, so it's understandable they take a dim view of anyone approaching the plate waving a metal bat.

"It's hard to jam anyone swinging an aluminum bat and the ball travels a lot further," pitcher Tom Glavine said. "When I started in pro ball I saw the difference right away. Hitters with wood bats weren't generating as much power and the ball didn't come off the bat as hard. If they ever went to aluminum here, I'd quit."

Bill Zack, who covers the Braves for The Augusta Chronicle, is based in Atlanta and can be reached at bzack30143@aol.com


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