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Wooden bat league carving out a niche with local baseball players
Saturday, July 30, 2022

Wooden bat league carving out a niche with local baseball players

Jeff Bartlett - The Times-Mail

Times Mail Article

BEDFORD −Give a boy a ball and he's going to throw it. Give him a bat, any variety, and he's going to swing it.

So it is with the High School Fall Baseball League (HSFL) Wooden Bat League, which is removing the metal from the game, but further bestowing the basic fundamentals and handing area players more opportunities to hit, throw and run this fall in Bloomington and Bedford.

Callahan encourages league
Bedford North Lawrence head coach Jeff Callahan is a big backer and proponent of the league, recommending it highly to his players. The league in this area is based at Bloomington South, with spillover games at BNL. It is a low-cost and low-time-commitment scenario for players, who register for teams and then play games on Sundays for six weeks starting in the last week of August. There are no practices, just games, so it does not conflict with any fall sports in which the players may be participating.

BNL coach Jeff Callahan is hoping some of his players participate in the High School Fall Baseball League starting in late August.

"The biggest thing is you get more reps hitting and fielding, and if you're a pitcher you get to throw some more innings," Callahan said. "And it's all done on Sundays so that it doesn't interfere with fall sports, and kids can still play tennis, football or soccer at their schools.

"It's designed for them to have some fun and get to play some more baseball, and I think kids like playing in a wooden bat league. It kind of started as a fun change by using the wooden bats, but now kids play in a lot more wood bat tournaments, so they can do this and get a little used to using the different bat."

HSFBL offers opportunities
According to the organization's press release, the High School Fall Baseball League (HSFBL) is a network of 30-plus High School Fall Wood Bat Leagues hosted across Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Each League plays up to a 6-week season on Sundays, including league tournament play.

HSFBL leagues are open to incoming high school players (2023-2026 grads) and coach-recommended 8th-graders (2027 grads). Players register individually online and can request to play with teammates. High school and travel teams wanting to enter the league can fill out a request to roster players on the same team together.

Players compete in the High School Fall Baseball League, which plays only games and only on Sundays starting in late August.
Players receive an HD maple bat from Phoenix Bats, a team jersey top, and college ID profile with registration. Top players in each league are chosen to play in the ‘HSFBL All-Star Exposure Games’ in partnership with the Crossroads Baseball Series. Players are promoted to a network of RSVP’d college coaches across the US.

“Our goal from the beginning was to provide a fall baseball experience without the huge commitment of time, traveling, and money” said Eric Blakeley, former Seattle Mariners prospect and HSFBL Director of Operations. “By incorporating a strong blend of competition, college game days, seeded tourney, and All-Star Exposure Games, the HSFBL has proudly given individual players a great opportunity for fun, competitive baseball in the fall.”

Remaining registration deadlines and fees are $379 by August 1, and $399 after August 1 (late registrations are accepted until rosters are full). Players register at

Callahan hopes to see Stars
Coach Callahan has seen many of his players participate in the HSFBL in previous years, and he's hoping some local kids take advantage of the opportunity.

"We have in the past had several players play in the wood bat league, and I put it out there for our guys now," he said. "I'm not sure how many have signed up (players register individually), but I hope there are a few. My boys, Brandt and Whitt, played in it a few years back and they really enjoyed it.

The 2022 BNL baseball team poses for a picture prior to the Strike Out Cancer game. The Stars used wood bats during that game, and coach Jeff Callahan hopes some of the players play in the HSFBL wood bat league starting in late August.
(Photo: Courtesy photo / BNL baseball)

"I know Jeff Hartman used to run it up in Bloomington and always did a great job, so it's a good, fun league. The plan, like last year, is for games to be played at Bloomington South and BNL, depending upon how many kids and teams there are in the league. We certainly hope to get to host a few games this fall."

Defense on alert with wood bats
Modern-day players certainly do not remember the days when wood bats were the only option, be it Little League or the National League, and it put more of a premium on glistening glove work in the field. Of course, their dads and uncles have probably told them about the time when men were men and bats were wood, but now the only place where ash, maple or hickory are the only options are the major leagues.

So the HSFBL provides a nice change of pace for players and offers some variety in the approach.

"For one thing, wood bats make games go a lot faster," Callahan said. "With a wood bat, a lot of the balls find the left fielder's glove instead of finding the gap or maybe going over the fence. There's definitely more pop in a metal bat, so with a wood bat league the defense has to be ready to make a few more plays, and it gives the pitchers an advantage.

"They get to challenge hitters more with their stuff and work on some things they might not normally do in a game with metal bats. But the league is really just intended to give high school kids the opportunity to play some more baseball in a fun league with no pressure."

Contact Times-Mail Sports Writer Jeff Bartlett at, or on Twitter @jeffbtmnews.

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