— Scott Gura (@scottgura6) May 7, 2014
Despite recent murmurs about the lack of quality in Spalding baseballs, Fred Balsamo, the head of the CIAC baseball committee, said complaints have been minimal.
The murmurs may get louder.
After Eastern Connecticut Conference coaches voiced issues with the baseballs in a Norwich Bulletin column, the Southern Connecticut Conference polled its coaches to see if they felt the same way. Twelve of the 19 coaches responded and the feedback was overwhelmingly negative, according to SCC baseball chairperson and West Haven athletic director Jon Capone.
“I didn’t get one coach that said they like the Spalding ball,” Capone said. “Nobody.”
Spalding senior vice president Paul Sullivan said there have been no complaints made to Spalding regarding the ball.
“Spalding is in constant contact with the CIAC to ensure its products are performing in the field,” Sullivan said.
“Given our new baseball adoption in Connecticut, we specifically concentrated on this category over the past 12 months.”
Spalding is a corporate sponsor with the CIAC and part of the deal, which began last season and expires in 2017, stipulates Spalding balls are used during the state tournament.
To properly acclimate players to the ball, most schools are using them during the regular season. According to Shelton coach Scott Gura, more baseballs are being used and, on average, about 10 balls become damaged during each game.
“They become crooked or something,” Gura said.
Gura posted a picture on Twitter of a Spalding baseball that was completely busted at the seams. Gura said that has been what coaches have had to deal with since last season. Balsamo said the CIAC did not have that issue during last year’s state tournament.
“We haven’t used any more balls in our tournament than we did prior to using Spalding,” Balsamo said.
According to Balsamo, no one has filed a complaint to the CIAC regarding the poor quality of the baseballs. He said last season less than two coaches voiced complaints. He said he does not remember what the complaints were about.
“It seems to me that if a coach does not like the ball, they need to let people know,” Balsamo said. “Not the press, but the people that are manufacturing the ball.”
He said when the deal was put in place, the coaches were all notified that if they did not like the ball, they could complain. Gura said he was never told that.
Sheehan coach Matt Altieri said people did not complain last season because they may have been trying to feel out the new baseballs. He also said he was never informed by the CIAC that he could complain.
“People realized that this is going to go on now until 2017,” said Altieri, who has not filed a complaint with the CIAC or Spalding. “If I thought that would make a difference, I would.”
Altieri might be changing his mind. He said he plans to file a complaint to the CIAC. He will have support. SCC commissioner Al Carbone said the voices of his coaches will be heard.
“I’m going to give it to (the CIAC) and say, here you go, here’s the problem,” Carbone said. “That’s how I’m going to approach it. Whether they ask for it or not, they’re going to get it.”
Carbone said he also was not informed when the CIAC switched from Rawlings brand to Spalding, a company better known for manufacturing basketballs. Carbone said the CIAC never sought out his opinion and did not request the input of his conference’s coaches. He also says he was never told he could complain if there was an issue.
The SCC will be using Spalding baseballs during its tournament. Carbone said the CIAC needs to have the coaches and Spalding sit down and figure out what can be done.
“I’m not going to ask my teams to spend money on baseballs if they’re not quality baseballs,” he said.
Altieri said the uproar is justified, but it is not the fault of Balsamo or the CIAC baseball committee.
“I’d like to know who was in on it at CIAC headquarters,” Altieri said.
CIAC associate executive director Paul Hoey said prior to making the deal with Spalding, the CIAC gathered input from other states that used the ball.
“In all cases it was reported there were no issues and they were very satisfied with the Spalding product,” Hoey said. “Consequently, the finance committee and the CIAC board voted for the adoption.”
However, Altieri said baseball people need to make baseball decisions. CIAC baseball committee member and Xavier coach Rich Magner said the ball has one flaw, but durability isn’t it.
“I wish it was bigger,” he said jokingly. “We’d hit it better.”
Magner said due to the location of Palmer Field, where the Falcons play their home games, they tend to lose balls on Route 66. He said they have not noticed durability issues.
In a statement sent to the Register, Spalding said it’s open to talking to coaches about the quality of the ball.
“Spalding stands behind all of its products. Our goal is to put the best products in the hands of athletes at all levels of competition, every day, whether on the field or on the court. We stand behind the integrity of our products and as a proud partner of the CIAC, we engage with coaches, players, athletic directors and dealers and take their feedback very seriously. We utilize this feedback to constantly review and evolve our product offerings to make them the best in their category while ensuring the needs of the athletes are met.”
Magner said not much can be done at this point to alleviate the situation.
“Do you complain to (Spalding)? Maybe you do. But I think we’re taking the money and that’s the reality of it,” he said.
Balsamo thought otherwise.
“I think we would express those concerns to Spalding,” he said.
Balsamo says hopefully future complaints go to the CIAC.
“Is this newsworthy?” Balsamo said. “I don’t think so, because (the coaches) haven’t exhausted every way of remedying the situation.”