The Controversy over Metal Baseball Bats

When the New Jersey American Legion Baseball League Tournament ends this summer, will the use of metal bats in that League end also? If the Commission of the League has his way, yes. (1)

The debate over the use of metal bats in amateur baseball leagues (that includes Little League, high school and college teams) is long-standing. Because metal bats are less likely to break than wooden bats, they are more cost-efficient in the long run. (2) However, metal bats are lighter, making it easier for batters to hit more powerfully. As a result, balls hit by metal bats travel faster. It is this speed which leads some to question their safety.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more than one-third of balls hit with metal bats can reach speeds of 160 kilometers an hour, versus about 2% of balls hit with wooden bats. Opponents of metal bats say that speed accounts for the more serious injuries, particularly to pitchers. (3)

In the summer of 2006, 12-year-old New Jerseyan, Steven Domalewski, was pitching a game in Wayne when he was hit in the chest by a ball hit off of an aluminum bat. The injury stopped Steven’s heart. He stopped breathing for 10 to 15 minutes, leaving him severely brain damaged. His family filed a suit two years after the accident seeking compensatory and punitive damages. That trial is not expected to reach court until sometime in 2011.

Three years prior, Brandon Patch, a young Montana man, died from injuries suffered after being hit in the head by a ball also hit off an aluminum bat. His parents sued after failing to get legislation passed banning metal bats in Montana. They were awarded damages, but the case is being appealed. The appeal is not expected to be heard until later next year. (2)

These are not isolated incidents but, fortunately, batted-ball injuries are not common, leaving some people to contend that there just isn’t enough data to determine that metal bats are more dangerous.

In New Jersey some youth teams have decided to err on the side of caution and have voluntarily ban the use of metal bats.

(1) http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748703294904575385471100928674.html

(2) http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748703294904575385471100928674.html

(3) http://www.safetyissues.com/site/sports/are_aluminum_bats_safe_for_kids.html