Metal or wood baseball bats?

February 25, 2009 4:49:11 PM PST
Which are safer? That's the question being debated on Wednesday in the Chicago City Council as aldermen consider an ordinance that would outlaw metal bats.Good old fashioned wood bats are still good enough for major league baseball, which has never allowed metal into the game, largely out of concerns over safety. But metal bats have been the standard for youth baseball for nearly 30 years now.

New York City was the first major metro area to ban metal two years ago. Could Chicago be next?

A swing and a hit and a split second later, the ball slams right back into the pitcher's head. It was a frightening scene.

"My face was shattered by a ball wolloped off an engineered aluminum bat," said Tony Russo, former baseball player.

It happened to 16-year-old Tony Russo when he was on the pitching mound two years ago, breaking his nose and crushing many bones in his face.

"It was quite an ordeal and so I would really feel better if no one had to go through that again," said Russo.

Russo testified before a Chicago City Council committee debating a ban on metal baseball bats on Wednesday.

Debbie patch's son, Brandon, wasn't as lucky. He was killed in Montana.

"His brain was totally moved from the impact. I just want you to know, don't put any of your kids at this risk," said Patch.

Was it the metal bat that was lethal?

Second ward alderman Robert Fioretti believes so and proposed the ordinance that would ban metal bats for children in Chicago between the ages of eight and 18.

"This ordinance, if it can save one child's life or prevent one child's injury then we all would have scored here," said Ald. Robert Fioretti, (D) 2nd Ward.

But the wood versus metal debate has little league baseball siding with metal.

Stephen Keener, president and CEO of the Little League, says wood bats are top heavy.

But metal is much easier for children to connect with the ball.

"It gives them more opportunity not to hit homeruns or doubles, but just to put the ball in play," said Keener.

Keener told the council that studies have shown no difference in safety between wood and metal bats.

But Dr. Ricardo Senno, a brain injury specialist, says balls fly off metal bats 15 to 20 percent faster than off a wooden bat.

"Prevention, prevention, prevention. I want to put myself out of work. I do not want to sit across from a parent and tell them that their son is in a vegetative state," said Dr. Senno.

Alderman Frank Olivo from the 13th Ward revealed today that his 18-year-old son recently had his skull fractured after he was hit by a ball coming off a wooden bat. He agrees it may have been worse if the bat had been metal.

Even so, he's against this ordinance because he thinks it should be done on a state or federal level to be fair to everyone.

There just weren't the votes to pass it on Wednesday. They'll try again next month.