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Batter Up!

Microscopic magnets in toys -- definitely dangerous. Lead. Yep, that, too.

But aluminum baseball bats? A threat to little boys and girls?

That's just what the family of Steven Domalewski says. Steven was 12 when a line drive hit him just above the heart, says the Associated Press. His heart stopped beating for a time and he suffered brain damage.

Steven's family is suing the Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the maker of the 31-inch, 19-ounce Louisville Slugger TPX Platinum bat used when Steven was hit, as well as Little League Baseball and Sports Authority, which sold the bat. The family says the bat's maker either knew or should have known that the bat was a danger to children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, meanwhile, declared in 2002 that there was not enough evidence to support the claim that non-wooden bats are less safe than wooden ones.

So, calling all batters and moms and dads of Roger Clemens David Ortiz wannabes. Do you see a difference in the performance of wood versus aluminum baseball bats?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Tweens
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Aluminum bats definitely hit the ball harder than wooden ones -- that's why they're banned in the majors. But that doesn't mean they're "dangerous." They're doing exactly what they're designed to do.

What happened to this child is clearly a tragedy. But it has nothing to do with the bat. It has happened any number of times as a result of any kind of blow to the chest -- for some people, if hit just so, the heart immediately stops beating. A ball hit by a wooden bat would have had exactly the same result.

Sports are inherently dangerous. Bad things happen, and it's not always someone's fault.

Posted by: Laura | May 20, 2008 8:20 AM | Report abuse

A child was playing baseball and got hit with a line drive in a one in a millions shot that briefly stopped his heart, and the parents are SUING the bat maker, seller, and Little League? Are you kidding? Anyone with an IQ above 60 knows that injuries can happen in baseball, this is not a surprise. Not to sound overly callous, but if it's anyone's fault, it's the child who got hit. That's what the baseball glove is FOR. American's have got to stop suing as the first course of action whenever anything bad happens to them. This is absurd!

Posted by: Really? | May 20, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm with "Really?"...that is totally absurd. Everyone knows that there is a risk to playing sports. It was a freak accident, but not necessarily one that could have been prevented by use of a different kind of bat. Sometimes bad things happen and suing someone doesn't make that go away.

Posted by: Momof5 | May 20, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

So Johnny, using a wooden bat, gets struck out. Angrily he hits the pitcher over the head with this wooden bat. Now wooden bats are dangerous and should be banned. I guess Little League becomes a wiffle ball league.

What happened to this child is sad but you can blame the bat. Accidents happen. Yes, you should minimize risks but you have to be real about it all.

Posted by: MDMom | May 20, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we should just ban kids. (yes,I am being sarcastic). What's next - banning bicycles? Swing sets? Any outdoor activity?

Posted by: Me | May 20, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

You. Have. GOT. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Litigious much? It's awful that it happened, no doubt, but suing the bat maker because someone managed a one-in-a-million hit? (I assume no one's going after the kid who hit the ball *with* the bat? Or is that who they sue if they lose *this* case?)

I need another cup of coffee, apparently the world has finally gone 'round the bend. (It was teetering for a while.)

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we should just ban kids. (yes,I am being sarcastic). What's next - banning bicycles? Swing sets? Any outdoor activity?

Posted by: Me | May 20, 2008 8:41 AM

YES! Don't you see this is already happening? No tag, dodge ball, recess.

Accidents happen everyday. It is horrible that this child died but no one is to blame. Let us hope the courts throw out this case, there is no liability. Soon we will be able to sue knife manufacturers when we accidently slice our fingers and car manufacturers when we get in an auto accident.

Posted by: Get Real | May 20, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm with all of you. Wow.

re: tag - I asked my son about that actually and he said they used to last year (PreK) but they don't this year cause there's nowhere to hide. It could, I guess, be a teacher who told him that, but I tend to doubt it.

Posted by: atlmom | May 20, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

I agree that suing the manufacturer of the bat that hit the ball and caused an injury is rediculus, but I think a money-making win-win situation could come of it.

For instance, in exchange for a settlement, the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. could get permission to market their 31-inch, 19-ounce Louisville Slugger TPX Platinum bat as the "Steven Beaner 2006".

or heck, any model of bat that hit a ball and a broken nose resulted, the manufacturer could go to settlement for the priveledge of imprinting an image of the kid with the broken nose in its sweet spot, (signature too), and call it the "Snot Knocker".

Or in a more serious case, market a bat called "The deadbolt 31" and I'm sure the company that sells it would have no problem offering a cut of the profit to the victim's family.

I'm all for doing anything to separate the name of baseball from a sissy sport for boys!

Posted by: DandyLion | May 20, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

There are two different issues here. One is the family suing everybody because of an accident, and the other is the issue of wooden vs. non-wooden bats.

I agree with (I think) everybody else that this lawsuit is nuts and should be immediately dismissed with prejudice. The injury is unfortunate, but it's a part of life and doesn't mean that the bat-maker or the local league or Little League in general is at fault; it could have happened playing in the yard.

The second issue is that yes, non-wooden bats can and do hit the ball harder and faster than wooden bats. It's simply the laws of physics. So youth sports sanctioning bodies spend a lot of time and money figuring out what's safe and enforcing rules.

I use the term "non-wooden" bats because they're not just aluminum. They're titanium; they're carbon fiber composite; they're all different materials. Some are multi-walled; some provide an astounding trampoline effect. Just like golf clubs, they're made to propel a ball farther and faster with the same energy applied in the swing. If you want to spend 600 or 700 dollars on a bat you can.

It's simple physics that if you swing a lighter object with the same energy that you swing a heavier one, the lighter object will be moving faster. And if the lighter object is as strong as the heavier one - that is, if the non-wooden bat won't bend or break upon contact - then the faster-moving non-wooden bat will apply more energy to the ball and make it go farther and faster.

The physics are a little more complex, but if you can build a bat with a trampoline effect - the metal flexes in slightly upon impact with the ball, then rebounds back out to propel the ball in the same way that a trampoline bounces back to propel a kid higher into the air - then the ball goes farther and faster still.

(The main technical term is "coefficient of restitution" or COR for those other geeks out there. :-)

So, youth sports organizations in particular set limits on what bats and balls can be used. (I run one of the largest girls' fastpitch softball programs in central Maryland so I have to spend a lot of time dealing with junk like this.) We generally follow the rules of our sanctioning body (ASA, NSA, USSSA, PONY, etc.) and then occasionally get more restrictive. For youth fastpitch softball we don't allow titanium bats or multi-walled bats. Softballs can have a maximum COR of 0.47. (Baseballs typically allow up to a COR of 0.55.)

Once everybody is using sanctioned equipment, it becomes a risk accepted by the players and their families.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 20, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Dandy, I know you are trying to be funny but I just didn't find your response appropriate, except for the sissy sport comment. I don't like baseball either, but making jokes about naming the bat after a dead kid is too much.

Normally I enjoy your input, not so much today.

Posted by: Get Real | May 20, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Yeah...I'm in the "assumption of risk" boat.

Posted by: Kat | May 20, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

So why aren't they suing the maker of the baseball that hit the kid? For once I have to agree with the posters who say this lawsuit is totally absurd. Accidents happen when playing any kind of sport. Get over it.

FWIW, my little brother got hit in the head with a wooden baseball bat by a neighbor kid who deliberately hit him. It wasn't an accident -- the kid had a temper and popped him one over the right eye. It hurt like hell, the bump and bruise eventually disappered and we didn't sue the parents of the mean-tempered kid. This was back in the 1950's.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

what it boils down to is this kid has enormous mediacal bills and suing someone, anyone for anything is the only option these parents have. Havind said that, they are wrong, injuries can happen whenver you play a sport.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure where I stand on this issue. Being a dad of twin girls I really try to think of an activity that will help them in the future and give them better skill sets. Right now baseball is kinda not on my list of usable skills for girls. Cooking and sewing works but heck they have people to do that with and without citizenship. For my money it is paint ball and an NRA course in gun handling. That is something the girls can use.

Being in an upper economic demographic I can see that the future for them in America may just be some class struggle. So giving them skills they can use to protect their families is a benefit in my mind.

Once a month we go to an NRA class on guns and safe handling. You should see these eight year olds field strip a .380 Browning. And in paint ball well they are wily and strategically smart. They always get the boys. Those are skills that they can use. What's the point of an double play.

Posted by: NYC | May 20, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

What happened to this poor child is a tragedy and I feel very sorry for him.

Now, with that out of the way, good luck to these nut-jobs in proving negligence on any of the entities they are bringing suit against. I'm not sure if this is even allowed, but if it were, these fools should be counter-sued by both the legal fees of the defendant and the state for wasting precious court time and resources.

Their attorney had better already be rich. He or she will be wasting a lot of what could otherwise be profitable time on this one. Sheesh.

Posted by: hokiealumnus | May 20, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse


"The physics are a little more complex, but if you can build a bat with a trampoline effect - the metal flexes in slightly upon impact with the ball, then rebounds back out to propel the ball in the same way that a trampoline bounces back to propel a kid higher into the air - then the ball goes farther and faster still."


Between this and the never ending LAUNDRY discussion on the OB, you really, really need to get some.

Posted by: Bogie | May 20, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

About having defib's? That was the outcome when that young man died after a lacrosse ball hit him. His family crusades for having defib's at sports venues now. Was there one available?

I didn't read the article as I heard enough about the lawsuit on DC 101 (of all places) this AM. We're turning more and more into a bubble society. Accidents happen, it's unfortunate, but it's life.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | May 20, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I've heard that an aluminum bat is good for threatening your kids with if they pick their noses or pee on the toilet seat.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat is absolutely correct that a lot of these bats are not safe. Allowing kids to use a 31-inch, 19 oz bat is asking for trouble. For comparison, wood bats are generally pretty close to an ounce per inch, so you can't swing them as fast.

However, this is just another case of "something bad happened so let's sue whoever has the deepest pockets".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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