- Notre Dame High School baseball player, Sheldon Brogden, clutches his wooden baseball bat Monday afternoon during practice in the batting cage at the high school in Chattanooga. Brogden is the only high school player in the area this season that chose to use a wooden bat instead of aluminum.Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Sheldon Brogden has risen above any controversy that might arise with the switch from baseball's so-called hot bats to the nationally mandated BBCOR style, and the Notre Dame senior has taken his power and batting average with him.
A week into the season the 2011 Best of Preps pick is hitting .588 with three home runs, a triple, two doubles and nine RBIs. And he's gone old school, opting for a wood bat as is required in pro baseball.
"I feel it makes me a better hitter. You have to hit it right on the button to make the ball jump off the bat," he said.
He bought his tool of choice at the Perfect Game tournament in Marietta, Ga., last summer and used it for the Chattanooga Cyclones select team's last two summer tournaments and throughout their fall season.
This particular bat, which already has proved its sturdiness, is a Pro Maple J154 custom pro, manufactured by the Old Hickory Bat Company in Goodlettsville, Tenn. The cost was $79.99, and Brogden could buy five for what a quality BBCOR bat sells for.
"You can hit with the new BBCOR bats, but I think wood is more pure. It shows that you're a good hitter and it helps you learn as a hitter," Brogden said. "I feel the wood bat causes me to focus more. Using wood, you have to do everything right. There's no room for error."
The few errors at the plate have pretty much been accepted. It is, after all, hard to deny a .588 batting average, Irish coach George Oleksik agreed.
"He came to me early in the preseason and I had been at the umpires meeting when they stressed that bats had to be BBCOR or wood," Oleksik said. "I didn't try to talk him out of it. He told me that was the route he wanted to go and asked if I had a problem with him trying it. I told him we'd play it by ear."
Brogden has considered the ramifications of a slump, which might be more likely with the more unforgiving wood bat.
"I'll work through it. I have been hitting well with wood and I plan on working hard every day to get better," he said.
While Oleksik believes the BBCOR bats are still more forgiving than wood bats, he also considered Brogden's frame of mind.
"I do think the BBCOR bats have more pop, but he's comfortable with the wood bat and I think that's important to his mentality," the coach said.
The center fielder and shortstop has impressed college coaches, but mostly junior colleges including Chattanooga State and Cleveland State have been in contact. That seems to be fine with Brogden, who also is considering Walters State, Chipola in Marianna, Fla. and LSU-Eunice.
"I don't know that he has gotten the interest from the big boys yet, but they're starting to call," Oleksik said. "He got on some folks' radar last summer, but a lot of them want to see him play. I think he's definitely a [NCAA] Division I prospect."
If they don't think so, Brogden probably won't be offended. He is seriously considering the junior college route because of a career path he has chosen.
"Everybody's goal is to try and play pro ball one day," he said. "With a four-year school you have to stay for three years. I want to play [pro ball] as fast as I can and as young as I can."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765.