The Premier Baseball League of Ontario will allow BBCOR bats across all age groups, effective for the 2023 season. The bats must be Drop 3 — seen as -3 on bat labels — meaning the bat must be 3 ounces lighter than the length. This decision means that the PBLO will be the first youth league in Ontario to allow metal bats at the elite level.
“There was a strong consensus throughout the league to make the change. I was even surprised that it came from coaches who enjoyed most of their on-field successes as a player on a mound,” stated Don Campbell, Commissioner of the PBLO.
In a meeting with coaches and executives from teams across the league, there was a great amount of support for metal bats across all age divisions from 14U up to 18U. “Many coaches around the league asked why we are playing with wood when we see the ‘next step’ for their kids as a chance to play collegiately,” Campbell said. “And all the teams found that in the U.S. portion of their schedules, very few, if any, of the tournaments were wood bat.”
If most players’ goal is to go to a great baseball program, they will likely be using metal bats after their time in youth baseball. Making the switch to metal after their entire development with wood bats is setting them up to fail. As a league committed to developing players for future success, this change was the next step to reaching that goal.
Continuing the evolution of the players is the rationale behind the change from wood to metal. “I think the change is going to open up the games offensively, especially at our younger age levels,” Campbell stated. “I think we’re going to see the outfielders have to back up significantly and I believe it will put more pressure on both pitchers and fielders.”
There has typically been an adjustment period at the younger levels as that is the first time many of the kids begin using wood bats. As a result, they can have trouble with getting consistent barrels versus the high level of pitching. The fielders are also affected as they play much more shallow than the traditional depth to protect against flares to the outfield, knowing that the odds of a blast over their heads are unlikely.
A metal bat has a larger sweet spot than the traditional wood which should add more consistency to the play on the field. The more chances the better for infielders to field hard-liners at the hot corner, or outfielders reading a ball with their back to the infield. These types of plays should be put into more game situations instead of only practices.
In the initial announcement on social media, the reception was generally positive despite baseball purists being hesitant about substituting the crack of the bat for a metal ‘ding’. However, the players were overwhelmingly supportive of the change. One player who recently graduated from the 18U division said in a jokingly tone, “Of course they allow this the year I go to university.”
As the first league of this caliber in Ontario to implement metal bats, the 2023 season will be one to keep an eye on, even for the casual baseball fan. Don Campbell, as well as other league executives, are confident that the play on the field will be at another level with this simple change: “Things are going to happen more quickly and the ball will play in play a lot more often. It’s going to add excitement to what was already a solid product. And in the end, the players who work hard to improve their swings and their defence will get a lot more out of the game.”