Should Metal Bats Be Banned From Use In Baseball Games

Should metal bats be banned from use in baseball games? This issue is coming up with greater frequency, as more and more teenagers and collegians are being hurt by batted balls hit by metal bats.

The short history is that metal bats were developed about 42 years ago as a way to help teams save money. Metal bats last much longer than wood bats, which is a legitimate consideration for Little League and high school teams. The problem is that as the bats have been refined and lighter/stronger metals have been introduced, they have become so effective that players are simply hitting the ball too hard. Pitchers are especially vulnerable, as they stand a mere 60.5 feet away from the batter (or 45 feet in Little League). The number of pitchers being seriously injured by batted balls seems to rise each year, and even fielders, baseline coaches, and spectators have been injured.

In March 2007, New York City moved close to becoming the first city in the nation to ban the use of metal bats in high school. The ban would set in motion bans across the country. Proponents make a very strong case: safety. They also point out that the game itself is somewhat warped by the superior “sweet spot” on metal bats. In other words, you don’t have to hit the ball as squarely with a metal bat in order to get a great hit.

Opponents of a ban cite cost as the major factor. They also point out that metal bats can be developed that provide less power and smaller sweet spots—in other words, that replicate wood bats. They also claim that splintering wood bats present as much a danger as a batted ball from a metal bat; and it’s true that bats break “in action” and the pieces go flying all over the place. People also make the somewhat spurious claim that wood bats result in the killing of many trees, though in the context of the paper and lumber industry, that claim is ridiculous.

The pendulum is swinging against metal bats – and it’s about time. Some college leagues in the west and Rockies are seriously thinking about going all-wood, and numerous summer college leagues do use wood bats instead of metal. This trend will, I hope, trickle down from colleges to high schools. The hitters in college and high school are simply too strong to use the bats and to put people at risk. For little kids, it’s less of a problem, and the leagues have less money to purchase wood bats; it’s probably OK the way it is now. But for everyone above 15, let’s go back to the traditional wood bat. Who wants to hear a “ping” off a bat, when we could hear a “thwack” or a “crack” instead?

Kevin Eaton

Hello! I’m Kevin – an openly biased Baltimore Orioles fan; a youth baseball parent; an obsessive-compulsive scorekeeper; a travelling ballpark tourist and a taste tester of defiantly unhealthy ballpark culinary offerings. In this space I share my love for the game of baseball and in doing so, connect with other really great people who love the game as much as I do.

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