“Parents to Sue Maker of Metal Baseball Bats Over Son’s Injury”

by Walter Olson on May 18, 2008

“A New Jersey couple, whose son was struck in the chest with a line drive, is planning to sue the maker of a metal baseball bat used in the game.” The family of Steven Domalewski “contends metal baseball bats are inherently unsafe for youth games because the ball comes off them much faster than from wooden bats. The lawsuit will also be filed against Little League Baseball and a sporting goods chain that sold the bat.” (AP/FoxNews.com, May 18). Earlier: Apr. 19 and Dec. 30, 2002.

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Metal baseball bats, cont’d
06.04.08 at 11:33 pm

{ 23 comments }

1 Bob Neal 05.18.08 at 7:44 pm

I’m surprised it has taken this long. Of course using the logic of the parents, baseball is inherently unsafe. By god, let’s outlaw baseball….oh wait, golf is unsafe as is football. Breathing our air is unsafe. When will the madness end?

2 Jason Barney 05.18.08 at 8:20 pm

I do empathize with the boy and his parents but can’t help but wonder if their suit is somewhat stretched. And, I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t sue the baseball manufacturer; after all, that’s what actually hit him, not the bat. Couldn’t the ball be engineered to be a “safe-impact” type, like one that’s more “Wiffle Ball” like? The sport is rarely, but inherently dangerous.

3 Richard Nieporent 05.18.08 at 9:02 pm

Assuming the information on the Little League site is accurate, it appears that they are a day late and a dollar short in their lawsuit.

http://www.littleleague.org/media/USA_Youth_Baseball_012507.asp

PERCEPTION: Aluminum bats are more dangerous than wood bats.

The National Consumer Product Safety Commission studied this issue and concluded in 2002 that there is no evidence to suggest that aluminum bats pose any greater risk than wood bats. Multiple amateur baseball governing bodies, including the NCAA, National High School Federation, Little League International, PONY, et al, all track safety statistics and have concluded that aluminum bats do not pose a safety risk.

PERCEPTION: Balls come off aluminum bats faster than wood.

Since 2003, all bats are required to meet the “Bat Exit Speed Ratio” (BESR) performance limitation, which ensures that aluminum bats do not hit the ball any harder than the best wood bats.

PERCEPTION: Injuries from aluminum bats are more severe than with wood bats.

Two out of the three deaths from a batted ball in the last decade came from wood bats. Dr. Frederick Mueller, Director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, has indicated from his studies that catastrophic injuries from wood bats may be more frequent than aluminum bats.

4 throckmorton 05.18.08 at 9:10 pm

Mr. Nieporent’s comments are valid and to the point. Unfortunately our tort system is not one in which facts and science are able to trump perception and emotion. I certainly hope that no suits will be filed, but if they are, they will definately be poster children for what is wrong with out tort system.

5 kimsch 05.18.08 at 9:28 pm

I would assume that metal bats could be safer than wooden ones. After all, metal bats don’t crack and break like a wooden one could. Therefore a metal bat could be safer for the batter, catcher, or umpire.

6 VMS 05.18.08 at 10:14 pm

Maybe they should not let good batters play. After all, a stronger batter can hit the ball harder than a weaker batter. Or maybe they should not let the pitcher pitch over a certain speed. Part of the speed of the batted ball comes from the energy that the pitcher put into it.

Concrete suggestions would be to move the pitcher back 5 feet from 45 to 50 feet. This will give him more time to react. It may put a very small hardship on little league pitchers (more walks and hits), but probably not too much. Also, backing off on the tightness of the winding of the ball slightly will reduce its coefficient of restitution and hence its batted speed. Making a true “mushball,” however will kill the game.

Anyway, it’s a sad story and a frivolous lawsuit. This would not be a case that I would take. It is a loser.

7 Richard R. Rohde 05.19.08 at 1:59 am

It depends on the make and model of the metal bat. I recall that a case a few years ago survived an MSJ re assumption of the risk doctrine. The case involved a college baseball player and the collegiate baseball association – sorry forgot the initials.

Anyway, the make and model was the Louisville Slugger – AirAttack aluminum bat. The advertising claims were that air was forced into the bat and sealed under pressure thereby causing the balls to explode off of the bats. Apparently an engineer for the company had issued an internal memo re warning that balls were springing off of these bats faster than a human, i.e., a pitcher, could react to it – thereby making it impossible to react in time before being struck by the balls.

I believe that the Court ruled that this fact made the usual assumption of the risk doctrine not applicable. The air pressurized bats caused situations, e.g., line drives back at the pitcher at such higher rates of speed that normal that this exceeded the normal assumption of the risk by the college players.

8 Tim Worstall 05.19.08 at 6:52 am

Hope they don’t try and sue all the way down the supply chain….we’ve been supplying metal for those Al bats for a decade or more :-)

9 Deoxy 05.19.08 at 12:53 pm

The thing that makes no sense in all of this is not suing the league – it sets the rules on what is allowed in the game, not the manufacturer.

Of course, the league doesn’t have deep pockets… but ir’s “Not about the money”, right?!?

10 Todd Rogers 05.19.08 at 1:33 pm

This case will be fun to watch. The implications are just so wide. Could not water be made with such a viscosity that it could be rendered safer when an unsuspecting swimmer dives in to a shallow pool? Was there ever a discussion among engineers at pool-maker XYZ, Inc. that would suggest they knew (or should have known) that by adding a gelatinous aggregate they could have greatly reduced spinal injuries? Is there a record of this discussion? Was there sufficient warning? “Caution, by joining this civilization, homo-sapiens are inherently exposing themselves to risk of injury or death. If you encounter an old bearded man named Darwin who warns that you will soon become extinct, discontinue all activities immediately.”

11 Barry Nordin 05.19.08 at 9:26 pm

Why don’t they sue the REAL culprit — the batter. He’s the one who hit the pitcher and is the direct cause of the injury. It’s about time those villains swinging their huge sticks were taught not to propel hard objects at people.

Although there is a case for self-defense, since he had been thrown at first.

12 matt james 05.19.08 at 9:46 pm

unbelievable.

i have an idea…you better sue the parents of the child that swung the bat. afterall, had they not had SEX, their son would not have been born and therefore, not present to hit the kid that didn’t know how to get his glove in front of the ball – and therefore no injury would have occured. don’t forget to sue the people who mined the ore that was used to make the bat, and the trucking company that carried the ore to the factory, the trucker that took it to the store, the city for building the ballpark, major league baseball for causing undue influence on kids to make it to the big time…

isn’t this the slippery slope???

13 SmooveB 05.20.08 at 12:03 pm

In this particular case, it doesn’t seem that the construction of the bat itself had anything to do with it.

The pitcher was not hit in the head before he could react to the ball. He was hit in the chest at a precise moment between heartbeats. Had the impact happened a milisecond earlier or later, the result would have been different. Therefore, it could have just as easily been a wooden bat that produced the same result. If we sue metal bat makers out of existence, a ball struck by a wooden bat could hit the next pitcher at precisely the wrong time and cause the same result.

At the end of the day, it was just a horrible coincidence. Thankfully, juries are not persuaded by emotion and sympathy and can be trusted to look dispassionately at all of the facts.

14 June Lake 05.20.08 at 12:32 pm

The cause of the brain damage appears to be related directly to the lack of oxygen to the brain….from news reports paramedics did not arrive to treat him for 20 minutes, during which time he did not get oxygen to the brain. No oxygen = brain damage, not the design, configuration or materials used in the bat….why was CPR not administered on the site by coaches that should have been required to know basic First Aid and CPR?

15 Mike May 05.29.08 at 8:18 am

Mike May, here, with the Don’t Take My Bat Away coalition. Don’t Take My Bat Away is supported by players, coaches, fans, parents, bat makers, and associations such as the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, USA Baseball, Little League Baseball, and PONY Baseball, among others. It is a group that supports “bat of choice” when it comes to selecting the type of bat one uses in a Little League, recreational, high school, American Legion, or college baseball game.

The Don’t Take My Bat Away Coalition appreciates interest in this baseball story. Needless to say, we take exception to any comments about any safety concerns on the issue of wood vs. non-wood bats. Any implication that using today’s non-wood/metal bat presents a safety issue has NO validity. The following third-party research below supports that conclusion:

1) Since 2003, metal bats used in high schools and colleges have been scientifically regulated so that the speed of the batted balls off metal bats is comparable to that of the best major league wood bat. This standard — known as BESR — has been adopted by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

2.) Bats used at the Little League level are governed by the BPF Standard which dictates that the rebound effect of the batted ball off non-wood bats cannot exceed the rebound effect of the batted ball off a wood bat. These standards (both BESR and BPF) are presented to bat makers which they must follow.

3.) A 2007 study on the “Non-Wood vs. Wood Bats” by Illinois State University concluded that “there was no statistically significant evidence that non-wood bats result in an increased incidence of severity of injury.”

4.) In 2002 (before the current standards were implemented), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated “Available incident data are not sufficient to indicate that non-wood bats may pose an unreasonable risk of injury.” (April 5, 2002) Obviously, since then, new regulations have been put in place to reduce the performance ability of bats even more.

One other point to consider: In the 2006 College World Series (where a metal bat by today’s standards was used), the batting average in all games was .277, the average number of home runs per game was 0.82, and the average number of runs per game per team was 5.2. In the 2006 American League season (where a wood bat was used), the batting average in all games was .275, the average number of home runs per game was 1.12, and the average number of runs per game per team was 5.2. As you can see, it’s virtually identical — with different types of bats.

Finally, I encourage you to visit our website (www.DTMBA.com) for more information on this “wood vs. non-wood” bat topic.

Sincerely,

Mike May
Don’t Take My Bat Away
6650 West Indiantown Road — Suite 220
Jupiter, FL 33458
p: 561.427.0657
c: 561.317.6111
mmay@sgma.com

16 Ted Frank 05.30.08 at 11:36 pm

We somehow missed a remarkable part of the story: the shotgun complaint named Little League as a defendant–but the game was a Police Athletic League event.

17 Jack Carlson 06.05.08 at 2:42 am

The “Don’t Take My Bat (Profit) Away” group does not tell all the facts.

Let’s review their third-party research claims a little closer.

1) Claim – “Since 2003, metal bats used in high schools and colleges have been scientifically regulated so that the speed of the batted balls off metal bats is comparable to that of the best major league wood bat. This standard — known as BESR — has been adopted by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.”

Since January 1st, 2006 (when the NCAA was sued by the maker of the Baum Batting Machine – BESR), the bat manufactures could self regulate until May of 2006 and then they were required to have there bats tested on the new and improved “ASTM High-Speed Air Cannon for baseball and softball bat testing”. The Air Cannon was the same way that the bats were tested in the 1990’s when the bats were being juiced and the NCAA wanted to make changes to slow down the bats. Thus came the more accurate Baum Batting Machine.

With the Air Cannon, the bat is placed in a stationary position and has baseballs fired at up to 200mph, which is not the speed that the baseballs are shot at the bat for testing. This test is not a true collision of a bat and ball and does not simulate actual field conditions.

2) Claim – “Bats used at the Little League level are governed by the BPF Standard which dictates that the rebound effect of the batted ball off non-wood bats cannot exceed the rebound effect of the batted ball off a wood bat. These standards (both BESR and BPF) are presented to bat makers which they must follow.”

The BPF or Bat Performance Factor for Little League baseball bat is actually set at 1.15 BPF. Anyone care to guess what the 1.15 stands for? I believe that the 1.15 means that the metal bat can out perform a wooden bat by 15%, thus the 1.15.

Now the real story here is that Little League made a rule change back in 2005 requiring the leagues to make the change from the standard of the time, 1.50 BPF (50% better performance then wooden bats), to the 1.15 BPF by the year 2007. Then for some reason, the 2006 Little League rules stated that the bats did not need to be changed to the 1.15 BPF until 2009.

When Little League was asked why the change, they stated it was an error in the 2005 rules but then why not send out a notice to the leagues about the mistake? The statement of “cannot exceed the rebound effect of the batted ball off a wood bat” is false.

3.) Claim – “A 2007 study on the “Non-Wood vs. Wood Bats” by Illinois State University concluded that “there was no statistically significant evidence that non-wood bats result in an increased incidence of severity of injury.”

Another half-hearted attempt to show that metal bats are as safe as wooden bats. This study was done over the same season of high school baseball teams. “Thirty-two IHSA schools submitted data on wood bats from spring 2007 baseball games, and 11 of the 32 reported data for games played both with wood and non-wood bats.” HUH? Only 11 metal teams reported compared to 32 wooden teams? Nice ratio. Clearly not enough data to prove their point.

Did you know that the injury data complied from the NCAA is a voluntary reporting with only a select percentage of schools reporting each year? This also fits in with the below comment number 4.

4) Claim – “In 2002 (before the current standards were implemented), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated “Available incident data are not sufficient to indicate that non-wood bats may pose an unreasonable risk of injury.” (April 5, 2002) Obviously, since then, new regulations have been put in place to reduce the performance ability of bats even more.”

From the CPSC report of April 5, 2002, the paragraph above the “Available incident data…” line states the following:
“Data from other sources are also not clear or detailed enough to determine that an increase in injuries has occurred with an increase in bat performance. Injury reports from the NCAA are not complete, but the data that do exist do not show a significant increase in injuries to pitchers during the 1990’s. The Little League does not keep track of injuries as such, but rather of secondary medical insurance claims. THIS INFORMATION MAY OR MAY NOT REFLECT ACTUAL INJURIES.”

The reason that the injury data back in 2002 was not sufficient was the fact there was no accurate injury data being kept. Voluntary reporting by NCAA, secondary insurance claims by Little League will not give anyone a good indication of the injuries sustained.

Then to top it off, they are comparing NCAA World Series to a MLB regular season. They state, “As you can see, it’s virtually identical — with different types of bats.” Elite college teams making the NCAA World Series can hit the same as MLB players over a course of a season? Put wooden bats in the NCAA players hands during the NCAA World Series and metal bats in the MLB players during their season and then let’s compare notes.

Even their website shows San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Young sitting on the mound with a bloody nose and the wooden bat in the background behind him. Do you think Chris would be sitting if the ball was hit with a metal bat in that MLB game?

It is simple folks, they are out to protect their profit, not the kids. When you can charge $400 for a metal bat and $80 for a wooden bat and both cost about the same to make, which product makes them more money. Metal or wood?

18 gitarcarver 06.05.08 at 1:41 pm

Mr Carlson,

While I agree with many of your points, it is your final conclusion with which I disagree as it is incomplete.

It is simple folks, they are out to protect their profit, not the kids.

Heaven forbid that a company should be out to protect profits. Next thing you know people will be demanding to be paid when they go to work.

However, to lay this all at the feet of bat manufacturors is wrong. It is not just about “profits.” It is about little Johnny hitting the ball. Leagues buy middle of the road performance bats because of the cost savings to the league. A wooden bat in youth leagues will need to be replaced, on average 4 – 6 times a year due to it being broken. A middle performance bat will last 2 – 3 seasons (if not longer.) There are cost benefits to the league to use metal bats.

The higher performance and higher cost bats (the $400 models you speak of) are purchased by PARENTS so that their son (or daughter) can hit more balls, and hit those balls farther. Their son or daughter is now a superstar at the age of 10 and many parents believe that college scouts will be looking for their little darling at a youth rec league game.

At that point it is not only about profits by the bat manufactuors, but greed and pride by the parents.

19 payattention 06.17.08 at 4:20 pm

The lawsuit holds no water. It is obvious that either the child wasn’t paying attention to the game or he is an extremely weak player. Sueing the manufacturor of the bat won’t do anything. If my two assumptions are true then the same result would have come from a wooden bat. The parents should be sued for libel. That is less of a stretch then their suit.

20 Mother 07.25.08 at 10:27 pm

My daughter is in college and was hit by a foul ball while warming up. These metal bats are out of control. They can kill some one. It’s not the game it’s the bat. There making these bats so that the ball can go further, and that is ridiculous let the player generate their own bat speed not the bat.

21 Mother 07.25.08 at 10:29 pm

I forgot to add my daughter lost a lot of her eye sight, because of these types of bats.

22 gitarcarver 07.25.08 at 11:35 pm

Wow. So many misstatements in your responses, Mother.

First, let me say that I am sorry that your daughter lost her eyesight.

My daughter is in college and was hit by a foul ball while warming up.

Warming up doing what? There are two types of “warming up” allowed by NCAA and NAIA rules. The first deals with an on deck batter. The batter must remain in the designated area and must remain focused on the play on the field. I have been umpiring baseball and softball at the college level for 20 years and have never seen an on deck batter hit with a batted ball while the on deck batter was actually watching the game. By the way, if she was the on deck batter, what was she using to warm up with? Was it a wooden or metal bat?

The other “warm up” is for a player that is about to enter the game defensively. Mostly this is for pitchers. The rules are clear that when a pitcher is warming up, they must be in a confined or screened area and if not, they must have a “personnel protector” that can catch or deflect any ball that is hit their way. I have never seen a player that was guarded by someone be hit. Never.

They can kill some one.

So can the thrown ball. My mother has a baseball that killed her then fiance in a baseball game.

So can a batted ball off of a wooden bat:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,290335,00.html

There making these bats so that the ball can go further

Factually false. The bats in both softball and baseball today have less of a COR than previous bats, and mimic a wooden bat more closely. What the governing bodies of softball have done is to raise the COR of the BALL, as well as make the seams on the ball lower. When pitched, because of the lower seams, the ball moves or breaks less. When hit, because of a higher COR, the ball travels further.

let the player generate their own bat speed not the bat.

The players do generate their own bat speed. The bat doesn’t jump off of their shoulder and into the hitting zone by itself. I suspect that you are talking about the “rebound” or the “whip” effect that some bats had. The rebound effect has been severely limited by rules that have been in place for a couple of years now. The end result is the required lower COR. The “whip” effect is a different matter. That too has been outlawed to some extent, and is most likely going to be further limited by proposed regulations on bat wall thickness being consistant throughout the length of the bat, and that the weight distribution of the bat resemble that of a wooden bat.

Once again, I am sorry that your daughter received an injury in a ballgame. All sports have risks associated with them and those risks can be minimized, but never eliminated.

Yet once again, I would ask what bat your daughter used to hit with? Was it a high performance bat? Was it a wooden bat? Or was it a metal bat with lower perfomance? The reason I ask is that if you are or were so concerned about the safety of players when “metal” bats are used, surely you didn’t allow your daughter to ue one for fear of causing injury to another player, right?

23 Steven in CO 08.05.08 at 9:41 am

Pay Attention wrote “The lawsuit holds no water. It is obvious that either the child wasn’t paying attention to the game or he is an extremely weak player.”

Considering that extremely skilled MLB pitchers are sometimes hit and injured by line drives, it seems disingenuous to suggest that a child is at fault when hit by a line drive.

Luckily, it’s quite rare that pitchers are hit in the chest. While about 2/3 of commotio cordis cases are sports related (including baseball, lacrosse, and hockey, as well as football), where balls or pucks are involved the vast majority of incidents involve catchers or goalies. With balls and pucks thrown AT catchers and goalies at speeds around 80mph in youth games, the risk is real if still rare.

For players and parents who CHOOSE to participate the best response is correct protective gear and, whenever possible, quick access to portable AEDs.

Steven in CO
lacrosse coach and player

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