Study keeps metal bats from getting the boot

Published June 25, 2005

TAMPA - After intense lobbying and scrutiny, the American Legion's baseball subcommittee concluded wood bats are no safer than those made from metal or composite materials.

Statistics gathered from the NCAA, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and National Institute for Sports Science and Safety were considered by the American Legion in reaching its decision last month.

"We have collected, compiled and distributed for the committee's study a great deal of technical information, scientific analysis and expert opinion," chairman of the subcommittee Larry Price said. "We have heard from both camps - wood and nonwood - and we have found no clear evidence of unreasonable risk of injury or death with the use of nonwood bats in the game of baseball."

The debate regarding the use of metal bats in amateur baseball has been stewing for years, but after the 2003 death of 18-year-old Brandon Patch in Montana, efforts to abolish the use of the bats increased. Patch was hit in the head by a line drive off a metal bat.

"I would be in favor of switching to wood if everybody made the switch," West Tampa Post 248 coach Pop Cuesta said. "It would make things more realistic and the ball wouldn't jump off the bats like it does now with (metal)."

Campaigns to outlaw metal bats have gained steam since Patch's death. Patch's story was documented by HBO's Real Sports and ESPN's Outside the Lines and even prompted Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to sign a resolution urging American Legion officials to adopt wood bats and ban their metal counterparts.

But after the nine-month study, the American Legion decided to keep its current policy, allowing individual teams the option of using wood or metal bats.

HOT START: West Tampa Post 248 (Jefferson) sits atop the area standings after winning its first seven games. West Tampa defeated the previously unbeaten Terriers Baseball Club (Hillsborough) 12-6 on Friday, with Matthew Ryckman picking up the win. West Tampa is mostly comprised of returning Dragons, but Cuesta has added Josh Collazo, Ken Wadsworth and J.R. Dunaway to the roster.

Collazo, the Times' All-Suncoast player of the year, leads the team with three home runs. Wadsworth and Dunaway, both Plant graduates, are coming off freshman seasons at Florida Southern and North Florida, respectively. Wadsworth, who went 9-0 for the NCAA Division II champion Moccasins, was named Sunshine State Conference freshman of the year.

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY: Summer showers usually wind up wreaking havoc on schedules and this season is no different.

"(The rain) affects us every year, but the rains seem to be coming earlier in the season and it's killing a lot of teams," Cuesta said.

The Terriers Baseball Club and Newsome have been affected the most. Hillsborough (4-1) had as many games washed out as it has played, while Newsome has had four games rained out.