Mokena family sues metal bat company

December 8, 2010 (MOKENA, Ill.)

The Schutter family is suing bat maker Easton for $75,000 plus expenses, the minimum amount under legal guidelines. They say their goal isn't money, but merely education. They want Illinois to join New York City and North Dakota in banning metal bats from youth baseball.

"I just remember hitting the ground seeing, seeing everyone around me, and everything was just spinning," said Jake Schutter.

Jake was pitching last may when he was struck in the head by a ball hit with a metal bat.

"Being a mom that's played sports, I thought, 'Oh he'll get up.' And he didn't get up," said Cheryl Schutter, plaintiff.

"I didn't know a ball could come off that fast. I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed," said Robert Schutter, plaintiff.

The Schutters say Jake spent two days in intensive care and now has permanent hearing loss in his right ear. Their lawsuit against Easton, the bat's manufacturer, alleges the company endangers young players by making bats designed to maximize a ball's so-called "exit velocity."

"You can see some bend in this bat, and the bend is the whip and that's what causes the ball to just exit the bat faster than it would a wood bat," said Antonio Romanucci, Schutters' attorney.

Easton markets its bat as technologically superior. But some studies question whether metal bats are any more dangerous than wooden ones. Gordie Gillespie of the University of St. Francis in Joliet is the winningest college baseball coach ever.

"I really sympathize for the young man that got hit, certainly. Do I believe it was the cause of the aluminum bat? No, I don't," said Gillespie.

Last fall, Jake returned to the diamond -- but he's no longer pitching. Despite his injury, he still hits with a metal bat.

"I'm going to give every other kid who's using a metal bat an advantage over me if I switch to a wood," said Jake.

In a statement, bat maker Easton said it's "saddened" to hear of Jake Schutter's on-field injuries. "Easton takes sports safety very seriously, and that commitment is built into every product that carries the Easton name. We are dedicated to safety research and development, with a track record of innovating some of the safest sporting equipment on the market," said Mike Zlaket, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Easton Baseball / Softball, Easton Bell Sports, in a release.

Both the Illinois High School Association and the NCAA have both approved the use of metal bats.

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