The metal bat versus wooden bat debate is not a new one, but there was an incident in my community a few weeks ago and another one at a high school in California a month ago that has brought it to my attention again. A high school junior in California was struck by a line drive off a metal bat that fractured his skull. He was in a coma for three weeks and his parents were prepared for the worst as there was not brain activity for several days. He did make a remarkable recovery and is now walking and talking. A less severe injury, but one that took place in my own community, is one where a high school sophomore took a line drive right to his sternum. He was able to make a full recovery with only minor injuries in a week’s time, however if that ball was hit another foot or two higher it would be a much different story. Those are just two incidences of many that happen each year.
From 1991 to 2001 there were 8 deaths reported from balls being hit off metal bats compared to only 2 from wooden bats. That is an alarming stat. Amazingly there haven’t been a lot of scientific studies on this topic. The only one I was able to locate was from 1977, which is quite outdated as technology in aluminum bats has come a long ways since then (it has come a long way in the last few years alone). That study showed a ball batted off a metal bat travels speeds 5 miles per hour faster than a wooden bat. Those that have played baseball or softball know 5 MPH is a big difference when it comes to reaction time. I don’t need a study to know when I see and hear a ball hit off a metal bat versus a wooden bat that the ball jumps off the metal bat a lot faster than the wooden bat. I have children coming up through youth baseball and softball and I would like to see some more regulations or bans put in place on metal bats for the children’s safety. They have done things in recent years, but I think more needs to be done to make sure our children are as safe as possible. I don’t want to see any more serious injuries or deaths happen in order to prompt them to take a serious look at this issue.