Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Commentary: Banning metal bats a good idea

June 1, 2008


The headline was compelling for several reasons. A mother and father from my hometown of Wayne, N.J., had filed suit against metal bat manufacturer Hillerich & Bradsby and Little League baseball after their son was left brain damaged from a batted ball.

Joseph and Nancy Domalewski also named The Sports Authority in their product-liability lawsuit filed Monday in state Superior Court in Paterson, recharging a debate over the use of metal bats in youth leagues, and the technology used in making them lighter, faster and possibly more dangerous.

The bat manufacturer denied the claims almost immediately, and Little League president Stephen D. Keener - whose organization approved the bat as being safe - repeated Little League's long-held stand that there is no evidence metal bats are more dangerous than those made of wood.

Other than what your eyes tell you, that is.

Among parents who follow their sons or daughters from T-ball to American Legion, the evidence overwhelms the debate, makes it silly, really. Ask pro scouts.

"Allowing your kid to play with one of those bats is like letting your kid play Russian roulette," the father said during a news conference this week.

Overstated? Since Domalewski's injury, at least five North Jersey towns have banned metal bats in their youth leagues. On the same day the Domalewskis filed their much-anticipated suit, the New Jersey American College of Cardiology released a statement saying, "Every youth bat used within our state should be built to reduce the speed of baseballs, either through technology or by construction, i.e. wood bats . . .

"By enforcing a low ball-exit speed, we believe players using the enhanced bats have a lower risk."

Imagine that. Physicians believe their eyes, too.

My sons are about to again take part in a summer wood-bat league, which means the power they and their teammates exhibited in high school will be sapped, and the pitching will get better. The ball that skidded through the infield now will be tracked down, at least some of the time.

And that's at normal baseball dimensions. In Little League, bases are 60 feet apart and the mound a mere 46 feet from home, The ricochet off a metal bat - especially when struck by a kid who has passed through puberty ahead of schedule - often evokes shrieks of horror among those in the stands.

So why does Little League resist calls for a return to wood only? One reason is economics. One metal bat can last a couple of seasons. But cynics have in the past charged Little League with partnering with the bat manufacturers that charge as much as $300 for top model alloys. Hillerich & Bradsby makes wood bats as well, but a shift in the proportion would undoubtedly result in higher costs, at least in the short run - and possibly lower profits.

That said, the groundswell of support for good old wood gains with each publicized case like the one in my old hometown. And sooner, rather than later, Little League officials would be well served to put aside their inexact science and trust their eyes, like the rest of us.

The Domalewski family's sad story isn't the first, it's just the latest. And as long as they keep coming, it really doesn't matter whether your heart is in the right place or not.


Leprechaunking13 9 years, 11 months ago

Why do people think they immediately need to place blame on someone because a tragedy like this happens? The reason that pros use wooden bats is because of the power they have from being highly trained in the weightroom and having near perfect form because they are professional athletes! These kids in little league, for the most part don't have that kind of hand speed and rotational strength to cause much damage from the use of metal bats. Now some kids may be prodigies and have great power but those kids are a dime a dozen. Of course accidents happen too and this is a tragic event but is taking a company to court really the best way to grieve?

classclown 9 years, 11 months ago

Metal bats don't kill people.Ball players with metal bats kill people.++++++++++++++="By enforcing a low ball-exit speed, we believe players using the enhanced bats have a lower risk."============================There is also a lower risk by actually paying attention to the batter instead of looking around or up into the stands because a parent is calling to you.

mom_of_three 9 years, 11 months ago

So you are going to ban metal bats for little league, but what about softball? And before you start about boys hitting harder, when the kids are smaller, there isn't much of a difference. Girls use metal bats through college, and pros. Yes, the size of the ball slows it down a bit when it is hit, but it is still flying at excessive speeds. A 12 year old girl died last year from a hit ball. Both of these instances are tragic accidents. Why is one parent reacting one way and another parent a different way?

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

It's sad that someone got hit. Let's be realistic here. You can get hit by a baseball coming off a wooden bat and be seriously injured and/or killed. It happens. Sports can be dangerous.I don't see people banning football players from running when they tackle because the increased force from the speed is dangerous. There are sports that are alot more dangerous than baseball, in which people get injured a lot less frequently.Wooden bats are also less durable, and for some little league programs, could be costly to replace as they degrade.If playing with an aluminum bat is like playing Russian roulette, then it's like playing with a guy with a billion chambers. Get your hands out of the bat manufacturer's pockets and accept the truth. Sometimes things are just accidents, and there is no fault. Just a ball coming off a bat at just the right angle, at just the right speed.This lawsuit is ridiculous and seriously hope it gets tossed.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 11 months ago

punkrockmom: they don't cover lots of things. don't you get it? when they redesigned the newspaper, the cumulative columnar inches of local daily news hit the tank.

Nikki May 9 years, 11 months ago

It's not the bat's fault. It's an accident. It's a horrible accident, and I'm sure people want to be safe. But, one thing that bothers me is paying $300 for a kids' bat. My poor kid can't get me to pay more than $30. Anyway, back to what I was saying, balls do fly off a metal bat faster. However, like Leprechaun said, kids don't hit like the pros. You know just a few weeks ago, there was an article in this very paper that mentioned a base coach getting hit by a line drive and being killed. Since it was minor league, I'm guessing wood bat.

classclown 9 years, 11 months ago

Ban all metal bats and chop down more co2 absorbing trees to make nothing but wooden bats. Long live global warming.

Bud Stagg 9 years, 11 months ago

I bet a kid that plays baseball has a much higher probability of slipping in the tub, falling down the stairs, choking on a piece of candy, etc. It's tragic, but it's part of life.

Nikki May 9 years, 11 months ago

And, I'm also saddened that we only have a story from another area in our youth sports. What's going on with all the youth sports here. They don't cover youth sports in Lawrence any more!

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

The thing is that the ball is not travelling at excessive speeds. To be excessive, you have to determine what is not excessive. What would not be excessive to these people?It's crazy. There are millions of people playing baseball with aluminum bats from tee ball to college, and how many have died? It's like suing vehicle manufacturers for making a car that goes over 55. A higher percentage of driver's die every year than infielders.

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