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Injury to Marin boy sparks latest debate on metal bats

Mar 23, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

My objection to metal bats is that I hate how they sound, both when players hit the ball and when local hooligans batter my car. But as it turns out, there have been recent renewed efforts to get rid of them for safety reasons, and I can’t say I disagree. On Sunday, Gunnar Sandberg, a 16-year-old from Kentfield (CA) on the Marin Catholic High School baseball team, was clinging to life in a coma after being hit in the temple by a batted ball in a practice game on March 11. In tribute to Sandberg, his team switched to wooden bats, and the case has prompted a debate throughout the league on the safety of metal bats.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The school’s baseball team switched from metal bats to wooden bats as a safety measure in Gunnar’s honor after the March 11 practice game against De La Salle when a batter slammed a line drive into Gunnar’s left temple. Gunnar, who usually plays second base, was on a temporary stint at pitcher when he was struck.

Players tend to hit harder with metal bats, which are lighter, and some coaches and parents argue that they’ve led to an increase in injuries. North Dakota and New York City have banned metal bats in youth baseball.

In 2008, a New Jersey couple whose son was struck in the chest by a line drive sued the maker of a metal baseball bat used in the game. In 2009, a Montana jury awarded $850,000 to the family of Brandon Patch, who was killed in 2003 after being hit in the head by a ball hit by a metal bat in an American Legion game. The jury found that the makers of Louisville Slugger baseball bats failed to adequately warn about the dangers the product can pose. And this past November, a measure by Chicago city alderman Bob Fioretti to ban metal bats in all Chicago youth sports leagues was voted down by the city council.
The biggest objection to banning metal bats? Expense. Many leagues say it would cost too much to replace broken wooden bats. But we got along for more than 40 years with kids just using wooden bats, didn’t we? Although many will say that there is no proof that metal bats are more dangerous than wooden ones, tests have proven that a ball hit with a metal bat go an average of 4 mph faster. In terms of reaction time for a pitcher, that’s huge. Ask the parents above, just how much is a human life worth?
Marin boy’s injury puts focus on metal bats [San Francisco Chronicle]
Parents to Sue Maker of Metal Baseball Bats Over Son’s Injury [Fox News]

  1. Umpire - Mar 23, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    I’ve been an amature umpire for 38 years, working everything from Little League to College and I’m a father. My heart goes out to all the families who’ve lost a son to a baseball injury. I can’t begin to think I have any idea what that must be like. But, in the heat of this wood vs. metal debate we must stop and think how many thousands, maybe millioins, of balls are hit every season at every lever of baseball, from T-Ball to the Major Leagues. We never hear about those hit balls because nothing tragic happens. It’s the one in ten million that we hear about. Sports are dangerous and tragic things happen in the blink of an eye, no matter how many precautions we take. It’s the nature of all sports. I agree we want to protect our children 100% of the time, but the truth is we can’t no matter if it’s a metal or a wood bat.

  2. JBall - Mar 25, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    I totally agree with you DSmith. We as parents take on the responsibility of putting our children in that inherent risk when we allow and encourage them to play sports. All sports have that risk, whether it is baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse etc. Take responsibility for that and don’t try to blame it on any particular item. While it is tragic and my prayers are with these families the leagues should take further safety precautions. As another post stated, have the pitcher wear a helmet and face mask. The majors began requiring base coaches to wear helmets after this same tragedy happened to a minor league base coach. Why would we not do the same for our children. And this is coming from a mother of a very athletic son.

  3. JCampbell - Mar 27, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Check this out – this guy in my town just invented a great wood bat solution – it has been tested by the Baseball Research Center at U Mass and apparently is the strongest wood bat out there:

  4. keep reading please - Jul 14, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    If you really are serious about this, read this article. Absolutely mind blowing and amazing. NCAA had the numbers and a chance to end this but didn’t. Didn’t want to upset Easton. Here’s the article though.