At this time every year we at MomsTeam get a flood of emails asking the same question: "Why don't they ban metal bats?"
This has been a contentious issue and one which I have been following for years. I have always been on the fence, although leaning in the direction of some common-sense regulation of metal bats to limit the speed at which balls come off the bat.
Ironically, it is a new metal baseball bat commercial that raises safety concerns and has me re-thinking my stance.
I wonder if you saw the same commercial. It seems to be running mostly during peak women/mom viewing hours (I am on a new fitness program which coincides with morning TV, so I am watching what advertisers are targeting moms) and features Michael Strahan, (the gap-toothed former star defensive end for the New York Giants), who is supposedly trying to find a new sport to play now that he is retired from football. It shows him crushing a baseball with a new Easton metal bat, hitting it so hard it knocks down the Sports Authority sign at the other end of the gym and then shows a young woman pounding the ball with the same bat.
Watch the video and see if you end up having the same questions I had after watching it.
My first question was why all the spots on women's shows? I did not need to think about that one too long: because moms buy most of the sports equipment in this country. According to a 2003 Sports Authority survey mothers buy 70 cents of every dollar spent in their store. (A side note:They ran the survey after I convinced them they would find this to be true even though they did not believe me).
But the next question can't be answered so easily. The commercial says the reason Strahan hit the baseball hard enough to knock down a sign was because of a "reduction in mass in the barrel makes it lighter for extra exit speed." Wow. I could not believe what I had seen.
The commercial assumes that the extra exit speed is a good thing. I'm not so sure. Can you imagine a 11-year-old kid hitting a ball with all that extra speed and, instead of knocking down a sign on the outfield fence, the ball knocks down a pitcher, especially one playing youth baseball standing a mere 46 feet away?
Every baseball season it seems like there are stories about kids suffering catastrophic injuries or dying after being hit by a baseball rocketing off a metal bat. This year, sadly, is no exception. Two weeks ago, in the San Francisco Bay area, 16-year-old pitcher Gunnar Sandberg was struck by a ball off a metal bat traveling, according to estimates, at least 100 mph. He fell to the ground on the pitching mound, wobbled as he tried to stand up, then fell again. Rushed to nearby Marin General Hospital, Sandberg was actually alert and conscious for the next day or so, but then fell into a coma from which he has not, at last report, emerged. Because of the accident Gunnar's school baseball team switched from metal bats to wooden bats in his honor for the next game and is considering making the ban permanent. North Dakota and New York City have banned metal bats.
There don't seem to be any easy answers. But as a mom and youth sports safety advocate, I prefer to err on the side of caution. When I hear about metal bats that increase the speed at which baseballs rocket at players' heads, I worry. I wonder whether, in some cases, technological advances actually make our kids less safe. Can the average 10-year-old boy react quickly enough to put up his glove or duck when a ball is traveling at his head at 100 miles per hour???
Has your league, school or town banned metal bats? Do you have a story to share about metal bats? What do you think?