The new ball

new ballIn response to the BBCOR bat, TD Ameritrade Park and lower offensive outputs across the country, the DI baseball committee’s unanimous 2013 vote to change the ball to a flatter-seam version was put in play. Beginning this past fall, college baseball implemented the new ball and Inside Pitch asked coaches to chime in on their overall observations, any changes that they intend to make with coaching philosophies for their hitters or pitchers, and whether the new ball will change their recruiting mindset:

HITTING

“We are a team that likes to lengthen and shorten the field- we like to make the field real big, and we like to make the field real small- and these balls play into that. They’re going to level off the playing field, and a five-run deficit is not insurmountable anymore. It won’t be as prevalent as it was 5-7 years ago, but it is going to give hitters a fighting chance when they’re dealing with adverse conditions like wind or a bigger ballpark. I really like the new baseball, I think it’s going to add some more excitement to the game, and it might put us just about where we want to be.”

Matt Deggs, head coach, Sam Houston State
Helped UL-Lafayette to a banner 2014 season where they finished the top 10 in the nation in 14 offensive categories and had an OPS of .902

“I think you’re definitely going to see more home runs, but it’s not going to go back to ‘gorilla ball’ or anything like that. As far as coaching goes, I still like power in the middle of the lineup and speed at the top and the bottom, so we aren’t going to approach it a whole lot differently.”

Cliff Godwin, head coach, East Carolina University
His hitters ranked first in the SEC in batting average and second in home runs and runs scored in 2014

“It’s a little tough for me because I’m in a new park with new hitters, too. I think the feedback from the kids was that the ball traveled farther, which is what everyone was looking for. Hopefully it’ll balance the game back out a little bit more, adding the home run as an element for most teams. Recruiting-wise, we’ve always liked to have a nice blend of power and speed, so I don’t know that it’s going to change much. Maybe the bigger corner infielder or outfielder becomes important again, which the game has kind of gotten away from the past few years.”

Chris Lemonis, head coach, Indiana University
Former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisville helped the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances and back-to-back 50-win seasons in 2013 and 2014

“The ball has made a difference. I believe it may give the hitter 20’ more in carry.”

David Pierce, head coach, Tulane University
Led Sam Houston State Bearkats to NCAA Regionals in each of his first three seasons as head coach (2012-14), winning two Southland Conference titles along the way

“It’s definitely brought some offense back. I don’t know that we’re back to the point we were at in 2010 or even to the point to where I think everybody would like to see it, but it’s definitely an improvement. There’s a difference with batting practice and from what I can tell from intrasquads this past fall, the ball is flying a little bit better.”

Todd Whitting, head coach, University of Houston
Guided the Cougars to a program-record-tying 48-win season, an NCAA Regional Championship, the nation’s No. 1 RPI ranking during the regular season and No. 11 national ranking at season’s end

PITCHING

“There have been no negative reports from the pitchers concerning the new ball. In all actuality all the pitchers love it! We have not made any particular adjustments but I have noticed that pitchers with movement and sink are getting more out of this than with the old ball. I have noticed that hitters are driving balls a lot better as we have seen more doubles and home runs than previous falls. I think the new ball will affect the game with some more rewarding offense which the fans should enjoy.”

Scott Brown, pitching coach, Vanderbilt University
2014 National Champion Vanderbilt went 54-12 with 24 saves and a team ERA of 2.76 in his first season with the Commodores

“I think the ball flew a little farther if you struck it well, I don’t think it mattered much if you didn’t. If you got it, you got it. I think it’ll play differently with the warmer winds blowing in the spring than it did with the colder winds here that you get in the fall.”

Karl Kuhn, pitching coach, University of Virginia
Since 2005, his pitchers have the lowest cumulative ERA (3.04) in the country

“I think our pitchers like the baseball, they like throwing it and how it feels in their hand. You can still throw breaking ball and the hard slider, and the changeup is being used more. If I saw anything, I saw development with the changeup for our guys. I did not see a spike in velocity. We’re more into strength and conditioning in the fall than we are to priming the arm. We’re sinker ball-mentality with our pitching staff, and I think the new ball is going to play into that and be good for us.”

Butch Thompson, associate head coach, Mississippi State University
In 21 Seasons as a college baseball coach, his teams have enjoyed 13 Regionals, 9 Conference Championships, 8 Nationally-Ranked Recruiting Classes, 7 College World Series, a 2013 National Championship Runner-Up finish (Mississippi State) and a 2001 NAIA National Championship (Birmingham-Southern)

“I definitely think the ball travels better when it’s barreled. We didn’t necessarily see more home runs, but the ball seemed to carry to the gaps better than it has the last couple years. To me, pitching is still pitching; if you make quality pitches it doesn’t matter what the bat is, it doesn’t matter what the ball is. With that said, I do think the ball is carrying better than it has before. I can’t say that I’ve seen a big difference with velocity and break on pitches. Maybe there was a little life on the fastball, but that really remains to be seen.”

Roger Williams, associate head coach, University of Louisville
Has helped lead the Cardinals to three College World Series appearances, seven NCAA Championship appearances, five regular-season conference titles and two conference tournament championships