In the first baseball game of the year for the Cody Legion team, both Jared Grenz and Tristan Blatt hit two-run shots to right.
That game was just a taste of what was to come from the duo as they have currently hit 23 home runs between them, Blatt 12 and Grenz 11.
“Jared and I have had a great time pushing each other in every at bat,” Blatt said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to hit 23 home runs, so that makes it pretty special.
“Jared is one of my best friends and although it has been a friendly competition, we support and encourage each other knowing our efforts are helping the team, regardless of who hits the long ball.”
The duo’s tally is the most home runs the Cubs have had in a season since new bats were implemented for the high school game in 2012, a change made to make the game safer.
The old standard for bats was the Ball Exit Speed Ratio, or BESR standard. It measured the speed of the ball as it came off the bat.
“We have an old BESR bat and it has so much more spring when you hit with it,” coach Bart Grenz said.
The standard used now is the Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution, or BBCOR. It measures the energy lost as the ball comes off the bat. This is also known as “trampoline effect.” The greater the trampoline effect, the faster the ball comes off the bat.
“When the bats went to BBCOR the ball doesn’t come off the bat as hard,” coach Grenz said.
The effect of the standard is to deaden aluminum bats, making them perform more like traditional wood bats.
In general, BBCOR bats diminish offense. Players need better hitting fundamentals and must swing faster and more accurately to get the same results as with a BESR bat. They also need improved strength and coordination, as the bat is weaker.
Coach Grenz said both Jared and Blatt do all of the above well.
“Both had more than 300 at-bats coming into the season,” he said. “They consistently hit the ball hard and have the bat speed. They’re also very strong for their size.”
Blatt currently boasts a .503 batting average and Grenz is hitting .406.
“We have a solid program with great coaches that continue to work with us on improving our game,” Blatt said. “It’s always my goal to improve in every sport I play.”
The two have hit home runs in the same game three times, including once going back-to-back against Green River. They have four grand slams (three for Grenz, one for Blatt) and had a streak of eight straight doubleheaders with at least one home run July 7-23 (Grenz five and Blatt seven). Two of their home runs also came using wood bats.
“It’s always fun to have a teammate hitting home runs,” Grenz said. “It helps the team win and gets everyone excited.”
The two also lead the team in triples (Grenz 13 and Blatt seven) and doubles (16 each). And both also nearly hit for the cycle this season, Grenz against Riverton and Blatt against Powell. The run they both needed? A single.
“My approach at the plate is always the same, hit the ball as hard as I can,” Blatt said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about hitting that single, but I was still trying to swing for the fence.”
Grenz has always been a solid home run hitter for the Cubs, but this is the first time he’s reached double digits.
“I’m stronger than I was before and am squaring more balls up consistently,” he said.
He and his father, coach Grenz, agree his best home run in Legion came in 2016 against Sheridan.
“It cleared the fence and some maintenance buildings behind the field,” coach Grenz said. “It was an enormous shot. There was a rain delay and some Sheridan players came over to talk to him about how he demolished that ball.”
The one that stands out in Grenz’s mind this season was his home run in the first game against Laurel.
“I hit it to the opposite field,” he said.
Grenz doesn’t try to hit it out of the park on every pitch, he just tries to hit is as hard as he can.
“I’m just thinking about putting the ball in play to score more runs,” he said. “You know when you hit the ball hard. You can feel that and I usually know (it’s gone) before I’m out of the box.”
Blatt had just three home runs last season and has exploded on offense this year.
“There’s no doubt a lot of it is strength and technique, but it’s also a lot of practice and really being able to find the pitch you’re looking for,” he said.
One that stands out the most for him this season came against the 406 Flyers.
“My most memorable home run was definitely the three-run walk off against Billings,” he said. “It was just fun because I knew it was a walk-off when I hit it and it’s always a cool thing to do.”
However, the one he considers his best home run of the year came against Sheridan.
“It was probably my longest shot and it felt so good off the bat I just knew it was over,” he said.
With the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Cody on Aug. 9-13, the pair still has a chance to add to their tally.
“Although I don’t approach the plate with a home-run-only intent, I really believe Jared and I could both see some balls flying as we expect to see some faster pitching, which actually helps energize the ball of the bat,” Blatt said.
Homers with BBCOR bats
The record for home runs for the Cody Legion baseball program came in 2006 when the team had 50 using the old BESR standard. The Cubs also had 32 in the 2010 season and 24 in 2011.
Home runs hit by the Cubs since the change to Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution standard:
• 2012 – 10
• 2013 – 10
• 2014 – 7
• 2015 – 10
• 2016 – 8
• 2017 – 16
• 2018 – 14