A young baseball pitcher, age 16, from Marin Catholic School remains in a critical life threatening coma two weeks after being hit in the head by a line shot off a high performance aluminum bat on a March 11th scrimmage game against De La Salle.
The Marin County Athletic League has since imposed a moratorium on all metal bats for the remainder of the baseball season.
If aluminum/composite bats are no more dangerous than wood bats, then why do youth baseball players through college nearly exclusively utilize the performanced tuned metal baseball bat?
Why are oversized 460cc drivers so popular with the weekend recreational golfer? Simple enough, because the weekend golfer wants to knock the golf ball as far and straight as possible.
It is the enlarged sweet spot of the equipment.
Aluminum bats were first introduced in the early 1970's as a cost saving measure for baseball teams by eliminating the broken wooden bat. Quality aluminum/composite bats now however cost between $250-$350, the manufacturing emphasis is no longer cost saving economics, but on-field performance.
Even if one were to believe that aluminum bats do not out perform wood bats, and are no more dangerous than wood bats, one must concede that the sweet spot on performance tuned aluminum bats are much, much larger than wood bats. A catostrophic event that might only occur 1 in 10 million times with a wood bat, must be much more likely to occur with the greatly enlarged sweet spot of the aluminum bat.
Even if the aluminum bat is engineered to hit similar to that of a wood bat, the aluminum bat is still hollow, and thus much lighter. Reduced weight is the key, that is why you see these ridiculously light weight bats with a minus 14 drop at the youth league, and still see minus 3 drops at high school. The smart ballplayer wants to hit the ball with the lighest bat possible, because he realizes that it is swing speed of the bat and not the mass of the bat that sends the baseball sailing.
Economics, a youth hitter out grows his bat nearly each playing season, at $250, the player could actually purchase four quality wood bats, should he even need them.
For individuals who say aluminum bats are no more dangerous than wood bats, then I would suggest that you switch to a wood bat, and save the money. Oh!, but you do not want to give up the performance of an aluminum bat. Nor does anyone else.
Aluminum baseball bat manufacturers are only producing what we want, high performance bats. It is though time that we all began to understand that we must first begin with safety of the players. We must consider and start with the safety of the pitcher in mind who is afterall closest to batter, and therefore the most likely to become seriously injured.
A youth baseball player needs about 0.4 seconds to deflect a line shot "comebacker". Might it be prudent to design baseball bats with ratings that allow youth pitchers to adequately defend themselves by eliminating the weight drops in baseball bats thus improving APRT (Available Pitcher Response Time).
A world class professional baseball pitcher (remember Joe Martinez from the SF Giants last season) requires more than .33 seconds to defend himself from a line shot from 60.5 feet.
A professionally hit home run ball travels at 110 mph or more. The pitcher begans at 60.5 feet measuring from the tailend of the plate, but after his stride, and the batter hitting the ball out in front of the plate the pitcher has about 54.5 feet of distance to protect himself. In LL baseball, the pitcher begins at 46 feet on the mound, and has about 41 feet after stride, and the batter making contact.
Professional Baseball Pitcher - 60.5 foot mound
Reaction Time (seconds)
MPH Ft/Sec 60.5 ft 54.5 feet
110 161' .375 .338
100 146' .414 .373
90 132' .458 .412
80 117' .517 .465
Little League Pitcher - 46 foot mound
Reaction Time (seconds)
MPH Ft/Sec 46 ft 41 feet
80 117' .392 .349
70 102' .448 .399
60 88' .522 .465
Little League baseball players can be as old as 12/13 years old. Have you ever seen a young LL ballplayer hit at 250 plus homerun? If you have that baseball was travelling 80 mph off the bat or 117 feet per second.
If your son was the pitcher that just gave up that homerun, realizing that a world class professional athlete requires at least .33 seconds to defend himself on the mound at 60.5 feet, do you believe .349 seconds of reaction time is sufficient enough for the him to defend himself, before he was hit unconscious.
I am not trying to scare anyone, but we are dealing with fractions of seconds in the hundredths place. Hundredths of seconds which could translate to the pitcher catching the comebacker or becoming seriously injured.
Did a high performance tuned aluminum/composite bat indeed provide that miniscule benefit of a hundredth second that made the difference in the young Marin Catholic boy's life?