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Top baseball prospect ditches metal for wood, easing future learning curve

04/08/2013, 6:27pm PDT
By Craig Malveaux

Stephen Gonsalves’ bat isn’t very forgiving.


Cathedral Catholic senior Stephen Gonsalves swings a wooden bat.

Stephen Gonsalves’ bat isn’t very forgiving.

“It displays weaknesses,” said the Cathedral Catholic senior pitcher.

“The sweet spot certainly isn’t as large as the other bats, either, so you have to square up with every single pitch. If you catch a pitch off the end of the bat, instead of squaring up on it, the baseball won’t fly out of the infield.”

In addition, it’s fragile.

“The bat will shatter, especially on a curveball, if you catch the pitch thin,” Gonsalves said.

The reason? Gonsalves uses wood.

“Outside of wood-bat specific tournaments or travel ball, I’m not sure I’ve seen any other San Diego high school baseball players use anything other than metal bats during the regular season,” said Cathedral Catholic coach Gary Remiker.

In his debut, Gonsalves punctured La Costa Canyon’s defense for two hits and an RBI in three total at-bats on opening day in March.

“I wasn’t against the idea, but if I felt it would provide a disadvantage for him, I would have wanted him to use metal,” Remiker said. “He swung the bat well with it, initially, so I had no problem with his decision.”

The change was a no-brainer.

“As I see it, I’m just preparing myself for what I’ll encounter at the next level,” said Gonsalves, who is batting .333 with a HR and 13 RBIs. “I have used wood in travel ball since I was a freshman and for Team USA, so I might as well use it now, so I won’t be shell-shocked.”

The University of San Diego commit, who is MaxPrep.com’s No. 21-ranked senior prospect as a pitcher, is projected to be a first-round pick in MLB’s First-Year player draft in June.

Should a team draft the lefty and he forego his college career as a Torrero, Gonsalves would be ahead of the learning curve, having learned ways to square up and what type of contact produces what results.

Comfort also factored into his decision to switch.

“With all the new regulations, we had to switch to BBCOR bats, which I don’t really care for,” Gonsalves said.

“Wood provides a better feeling, for me. If you get busted on the hands, it’s going to hurt you a little and if you up-end you’re going to feel a little quiver, but if you square up on the baseball, it’s going to fly. You won’t feel much.”

Last season, the National Federation of State High School Associations adopted the Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution standard, replacing the old Ball Exit Speed Ratio standards, to protect pitchers from baseballs.

A batted ball traveling a reported 100 MPH inadvertently struck Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg in the head, placing the 16-year old in a coma in 2010.

The BBCOR bats, ironically, are supposed to mimic wood bats, which have very little to no trampoline effect when a baseball collides with a bat.

Gonsalves’ wood bat and old BBCOR bat are similar in dimensions— both weighing 30 ounces and stretching 33 inches — however, he says wood is much more “true” to where you connect with the baseball and doesn’t mask flaws.

Eleven games into this season, the results are noticeable.

Gonsalves already eclipsed the number of RBIs and HRs from a year ago and prior to the recent National High School Invitational, produced a career-high .414. batting average.

“Baseball is a game of failures,” Gonsalves said.

“Guys hit 3-for-10 — a .300 lifetime average — and find themselves inducted into the hall of fame. You just have to be a competitor in this sport and swing like you can’t get beat and the results will take care of themselves.”

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