Steamboat Springs The cracking of wooden bats has replaced the hollow popping sound of aluminum bats at home plate this weekend.
"The ball doesn't carry as far with the wood bats," said Erik Schuessler, a pitcher for the Cherry Creek Bruins, one of the teams in the local Triple Crown World Series.
"You can just bust (the pitches) in and try to make them hit with the handle and make them bust their bats."
Schuessler's team, which is in the age 16 division, is competing in the Triple Crown World Series tournament in Steamboat, Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig this weekend, along with 111 other visiting teams.
This year, Triple Crown has enforced a rule that prohibits youth baseball players from using aluminum bats in Triple Crown championship games.
Balls can be smacked a lot farther with aluminum bats, said Sean Hardy, Triple Crown baseball director.
Often times, games get out of hand, Hardy said, as teams nail as many as nine or 10 home runs in a single contest.
Hardy said the fields in Craig and Steamboat are smaller than the fields most of the teams in the World Series are used to playing on.
At Simillion Field, a shot over the center-field wall is 323 feet away a relatively easy task, Hardy said, for a good hitter who has an aluminum stick.
But most of the players have to jack hits about 400 feet for a home run back home, Hardy said.
Triple Crown enforced the aluminum-bat rule last year for those in the 18-and-under division.
This year, the rule also applies to the 15 and 16-year-old divisions.
The rule has not seemed to bother the Cherry Creek players.
Jake Laramie, who plays first base for the Bruins, said his batting average has not dwindled since he switched to hitting with a wood bat.
He said it is just a little harder for him to hit a home run.
Aluminum bats give hitters an edge because they are specially designed to cause greater impact, Hardy said.
Top-of-the-line high school aluminum bats run for as much as $350 these days.
Several Bruins players agree that wooden bats pose less of a threat to pitchers.
Wood bats, they say, allow pitchers more time to get out of the way in the case of a line drive to the mound.
"I think wood bats are a lot safer just because the balls are not hit as hard," third baseman Mike Lettin said.
"Our pitcher would have been dead the other day if (the hitter) had used an aluminum bat."
Eric Just, who plays second base, said wood bats are more challenging to use.
"It makes the game more interesting," he said. "It makes you earn your bases, too."