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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The Aluminum Bat: Weapon of Physical Harm or Relatively Innocuous Piece of Sports Equipment?

That's the question presented in Eric Fisher's excellent piece, Debate over metal bats on the upswing, published in the August 13-19 edition of Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal (subscription only). As Fisher correctly notes, ever since the aluminum bat's widespread introduction in the early 1970's, arguments have centered on safety concerns, aesthetic concerns such as the pinging sound of ball hitting metal, and the sharp rise in scoring that many levels have play have experienced. Advocates of the metal bat over this 30 year period have been arguing that wood bats are more difficult for younger players to use and that wood bats are much more costly to use than aluminum bats.

Fisher notes that, while this debate has stayed outside the mainstream without any true level of critical mass, that is no longer the case as legislative efforts to ban the aluminum bat in high school play are developing in states such as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. North Dakota has a statewide ban on metal bats in high school play and some towns in New Jersey have banned metal bats as well. Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl ruled that it was constitutional for New York City to ban metal bats from high school baseball games. The new law had been challenged by an organization representing national high school baseball coaches and several companies that make metal bats. Judge Koeltl said the new law, which is set to take effect September 1, fits the purpose of legislative bodies like the City Council to protect the public health and safety:

"The protection of the health and safety of high school-age students is entitled to great weight. While the record does not include clear empirical evidence showing that more serious injuries would occur without the ordinance, it is the city's legislative assessment that the risk is too great."

According to Fisher, New York City attorney have cited several physics studies showing a heightened ball-exit velocity from metal bats. Yet, the bat manufacturers and other metal bat proponents argue that the issue is based on emotion and anecdotal data as opposed to reliable statistical evidence. According to Little League Baseball (LLB), the number of batted-ball injury claims has steadily decreased since 1992 and there are only approx. 20 or 30 injuries out of more than 160 million at-bats per year. While LLB is not overly concerned about the safety issue, it continues to monitor and implement bat performance standards.

Well, it is comforting to know that major league pitchers can't even agree on the answer. Fisher notes that Mike Mussina has spoken out against the metal bat ban, but relief pitcher John Franco supports the ban. But maybe that has something to do with the fact that one plays for the Yankees and the other plays for the Mets.....


i wouldn't be surprised to read a story in a couple years that louisville slugger slid some money under the table to the new york city officials.

my main question/concern: who pays?

wood bats are an expense that many new york city high schools likely can't afford or didn't put in their budget. it appears that no alternate plan for funding has been implemented and, without a plan, what are the high schools in New York City that start play next Wednesday to do?

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Blogger J. Mark English -- 8/29/2007 6:21 PM  

"wood bats are an expense that many new york city high schools likely can't afford..."

Schools probably will use Baum or some other brand of composite wood bats. These bats, used by some in the minor leagues, are much more durable than wood (they would easily last a season or two).

Presuming school discounts, each Baum bat would cost in the range of $60-75, which is between a 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of a aluminum or ceramic bat.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/30/2007 4:01 PM  

If I owned an MLB team, i would lobby with the other owners to finance wood bats to high schools and colleges.

Yes, it would be expensive, however, so is giving a prospect who has never picked up a wood bat a $6 million bonus, only to find he can't play.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/31/2007 11:03 AM  

anyone have a cite for the case?

I'd like to read the opinion

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