Friday, October 23, 2009

Experts: Aluminum bats no more dangerous than wood bats

A decision made by a Montana jury could change the face of baseball in America. Jurors are listening to evidence in a case about the death of an 18-year-old pitcher. In 2003, Brandon Patch was hit in the temple from a hard line drive. He died 5 hours after the impact due to a blood clot. Patch's family is suing Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of the aluminum bat, arguing the bat is "unreasonably dangerous.”
The parent company of the Louisville Slugger has been making wooden bats for more than 100 years and aluminum bats since 1970. In this case, the Montana jury is looking into whether aluminum bats are safe for baseball players to use. In court, the attorney representing Hillerich & Bradsby said aluminum bats are not any more dangerous than wooden bats.
University of Louisville head baseball coach Dan McDonnell is not involved in the Montana case, but spoke with WAVE 3 about the differences between wooden versus aluminum bats. McDonnell said injuries can happen regardless of the bat being used.
"We have pitchers that get hit. Just throughout this fall, we've had 5 or 6 pitchers that have gotten hit with a ball coming off a bat," said McDonnell, whose team uses aluminum bats.
Like any other contact sport, McDonnell said baseball can be dangerous and injuries can happen.
"Whether it's a wooden bat, an aluminum bat, any bat - it's just the pitchers are always at risk because they are so close to the plate," McDonnell said. "The last thing anybody wants is for somebody to get hurt, but it happens."
McDonnell said bat companies are doing a good job of following regulations. "Knowing Louisville Slugger and the type of people they are and the family-owned business, I know they're doing everything in their power. [They are doing everything] in compliance with college baseball, high school baseball -whatever the rules are and the standards."
McDonnell wants to keep the standards the same. He said aluminum bats are a good fit for high school and college players and the wooden bats should be left for the pros. McDonnell said when it comes to speed it has to do with hitting the ball with the "sweet spot" of the bat and aluminum bats give players a better chance to do that.
"For it to come off with any velocity, you're going to have to hit it on the sweet spot whether it’s an aluminum bat or a wooden bat," he said.
Coach McDonnell said a batter swinging with a wooden bat can also hit a pitcher.
Meanwhile, “The Don't Take My Bat Away Coalition” supports players choosing what bats they want to use for a game. Coalition representative Mike May said it doesn't matter if a ball is hit using an aluminum or wooden bat, the speed is the same. May did say that with aluminum bats, "you do get a few more well hit balls, but they are not harder hit balls."
In regards to the Montana case, while May said Brandon Patch's death was a tragedy, he doesn't think you can blame everything on the bat. According to May, just because the batter was using an aluminum bat, it’s a bigger deal. “The immediate criticism is negative and they start blaming the bat and that's not accurate and that's not fair."
Also in court, the attorney representing the Patch's family said Brandon did not have enough time to get his glove in place after the pitch to protect himself. Experts clocked the ball hit by the aluminum bat at 99.8 mph.

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