Two-Year Ban on Metal Bats in High School Baseball Advances
Legislation to place a two-year moratorium on the use of metal bats in high school baseball was approved May 5 by the Senate Education Committee.
The measure, AB 7 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, was sparked by 16-year-old Gunnar Sandberg, who was hit in the head by a line drive off a metal bat while pitching for Marin Catholic High School in Huffman’s district.
Huffman told the eight member committee that what he called “performance-enhancing” metal bats are easier to hit a baseball with than wooden ones, and power the ball with greater velocity, potentially causing greater injury. Sandberg spent more than 50 days in the hospital before recently returning home.
“There are some people who think the answer is to ban metal bats. That’s what they’ve done in the City of New York. And they point out that at all professional levels wood bats are used. Even the elite high school tournaments use wooden bats,” Huffman told the committee, which approved his bill on a largely party-line vote.
“Safety might be addressed by some form of protective gear worn by pitchers,” Huffman said.
“That’s why (this bill is a) narrowly tailored temporary measure that doesn’t decide what the safety solution will be. It’s a cautionary measure to level the playing field while nudging baseball officials to bring this decades long debate” to a conclusion.
Opponents, which included bat makers and veteran high school baseball coaches, said there wasn’t much difference between hitting a ball with a wooden bat or a metal one.
Among the opponents was Guy Anderson, the coach of Cordova High School’s varsity baseball team for 40 years. He said he’d coached the team for over 1,200 games, 847 wins.
“I’ve seen the wooden bat. I have seen the aluminum bat. I’ve never had a pitcher in that entire time I’ve coached who has had a serious injury.”
He said that one of the advantages of metal bats is that they have a larger sweet spot and can help less gifted players hit more successfully.
Rand Martin, a Sacramento lobbyist, testified on behalf of Easton Bell, whose website describes it as a “leading designer, developer and marketer of branded equipment and accessories that enhance athletic performance and protection.”
Martin said the company was just as concerned as Huffman about safety but that bat bans weren’t the answer.
“What we do is do everything we can to maximize both performance and safety. We are in the process of looking at and developing protective headgear for pitchers,” Martin told the committee.
“All sports have risks. Baseball for boys is the least risky of all sports. We’re very supportive of making it even safer.”
Martin said he would have “loved to have a metal bat. I might have hit something.”
The end of Huffman’s two-year moratorium coincides with the adoption of new bat performance standards for high schools which are set to take effect January 1, 2012.
Sen. Curren Price, an Inglewood Democrat, asked Huffman the impact such a moratorium might have on small retailers of sporting goods.
“I assume we all agree we have to put safety above profits,” Huffman replied.
The measure now moves to the full Senate for a vote.
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