Cody’s Legion baseball coach was sanctioned for failing to remove a decertified bat from play during the state tournament in early August, even though no formal announcement was made about the bat.
The Wyoming State Legion Baseball Board of Directors announced Wednesday afternoon it had completed its investigation concerning the use of a decertified bat by the Cody Legion baseball team during the 2020 regular season and postseason.
Unspecified sanctions have been imposed on Cody coach Bart Grenz. The board said neither it nor the Cody Legion Board will make any further comment.
“I acknowledge that early in the season, I became aware that this bat was decertified for NCAA play for the 2020 season,” Grenz said in a statement. “I should have taken steps to discuss this issue with Commissioner Cody Beers and the Wyoming Legion Board to determine if they were aware of the NCAA decision regarding this bat. I should have not allowed its use until hearing back from them. Had I done this, the decertified bat would not have been used in a game. I did not take those steps and for that I am sorry.
“I take full responsibility and apologize for my lack of action before our team used this bat and all of the confusion it has caused. I accept any sanctions handed down by the Wyoming Legion Board.”
Grenz declined to elaborate on his prepared statement when reached by phone.
Rules and tests
Wyoming State Legion Baseball state chairman Cody Beers said although American Legion instructs its coaches to follow its own and Major League Baseball rules, coaches are also expected to refer to the NCAA rules to see which bats are decertified each season. The NCAA decertified the Louisville Slugger Meta 33-inch, 30-ounce BBCOR bat on Feb. 21.
“It’s the coaches responsibility to put certified and safe equipment on the baseball field,” Beers said.
But removal of the bat did not fall under the American Legion rule of the 2020 rule book, because the bat had not been modified, and it did contain the BBCOR certification stamp.
The possibility for a discrepancy like this always exists because when a company first puts a bat on the market, BBCOR tests are first performed by an independent lab, not the NCAA. In the case of the Louisville Meta bat, the bat passed with an independent tester, but then failed an NCAA test that came later, a scenario that occurred with another bat in early 2017.
During the Cody-Douglas State A Tournament game in Powell in early August, Douglas coach Zack Andrews informally protested the Cubs were using an illegal bat.
Beers then removed the bat from the Cubs due to safety concerns, and from further competition in the A state tournament.
“I decided to remove it from play just because there were so many unknowns,” Beers said.
The Cubs went on to win the championship two games later.
In a Facebook post made Aug. 4, Beers said two different times the bat was not illegal. In a phone interview Friday he said he was going off the limited information available at the time and has since learned much more about the situation. He also clarified the bat was not considered illegal only because it was not altered like a corked bat or a bat with pine tar, but is still considered decertified.
Since the tournament ended, additional information was received and gathered by the Wyoming Department of American Legion Baseball, and the State Baseball Board met with state American Legion officials to investigate.
“It’s not been a process any of us enjoyed,” Beers said. “It’s our goal to run a good baseball organization. That’s the key. One of integrity and that does things the right way.”
During 2020, National American Legion baseball operations shut down its role in the baseball program, including closing its website in March, but said individual states could play.
Only six states carried on with their baseball seasons including Wyoming’s baseball program. It was administered solely by the Wyoming State Baseball Board this year, with support of Wyoming American Legion administrators and Wyoming Legion Posts.
Because the national organization had shut down, its information flow stopped to the Wyoming Baseball Board administration, which would have likely included bat decertification information. State board members said they were unaware of the issues surrounding the bat.
Beers said his son Brady Beers, who coaches the Riverton Legion team, did inquire about the Meta bat during the regular season when one of his players started using it. Cody Beers said they weren’t sure if it was illegal or not at the time, so Brady Beers erred on the side of caution and instructed his player not to use it.
“He did it right and they did not use it anymore,” Cody Beers said.
No formal action or announcement about the bat came forth from Cody Beers or the Wyoming American Legion thereafter.
“I was busy and didn’t think about it,” he said.
He also said he received a few questions about a smaller version of the same bat that had not been decertified during the B state tournament, which was prior to the A tournament where the bat was removed.
“It is what it is,” Beers said. “We had a great baseball season with not one COVID-19 case. It was a great summer.”
Cody Beers has been the Legion chairman since June 2019. It is an unpaid, volunteer responsibility.
He said the state board members “will do our best” to post info about bats the NCAA decertifies moving forward, but does not find it the board’s responsibility to educate coaches on the matter.
According to Louisville Slugger’s website, those who have purchased the $550-$650 bat can mail it back to the company and receive a gift card with an equal value credit on it that can be used with their brand or any Wilson products.
Bat rules changed for safety reasons
Since 2011, NCAA has been testing new and old bats for certification using a machine that shoots balls at a stationary placed bat at speeds of at least 150 MPH. The testing calculates the bat-ball coefficient of restitution for a particular bat, which is essentially the power it possesses.
The testing came about in response to a rise in home runs and runs scored in collegiate, high school and youth leagues through the late 1990s and 2000s. The BBCOR test is engaged for player safety, and to ensure non-wood bats still perform like wood bats, free of the trampoline-like effect that occurs when a ball strikes a decertified bat.
Since 2012, American Legion has been adhering to the BBCOR standard set by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations. The NFSHA determined the bat was not eligible for play on March 2.
In a conversation with Montana American Legion Baseball Commissioner Chairman Ron Edwards, he said the bat was not allowed in the state all season long, but this information wasn’t well-known and the bat still showed up a few times during play.
“There wasn’t much written about it or fanfare,” he said.
He said it was removed in one regular season game, but no runs were taken away from the team that used it. It was also removed during batting practice of a district playoff game. No punishments were issued in either instance.