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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Metal bats kill

James Woodcock/Billings Gazette, via Associated Press
The Miles City Mavericks were joined by the Helena Senators
in July 2003 for the funeral of Brandon Patch, who was killed
by a drive off a metal bat

Metal Bats Are an Issue of Life and Death

Published: July 16, 2006

On a July night three years ago, a line drive rocketed off a metal bat and smashed into the left temple of Brandon Patch, an 18-year-old American Legion pitcher in Montana. Within hours, he was dead.

A ball is estimated to travel about 20 miles an hour faster off a metal bat than off a wood bat.

In April 2005, a line drive off a metal bat slammed into the temple of Bill Kalant, a 16-year-old high school pitcher in suburban Chicago. The ball traveled “with laserlike speed,” said Skip Sullivan, Kalant’s coach at Oak Lawn High School. Kalant was rushed to a hospital adjoining the field, where an emergency-room doctor told his parents, “He is on the cliff of death.” He made it through after being in a coma for two weeks and having brain surgery. He has had to learn how to brush his teeth again, how to tie his shoes again, how to walk again.

At a Police Athletic League game last month in Wayne, N.J., a line drive off a metal bat struck the chest of Steven Domalewski, 12, knocking him down and stopping his heart for a few minutes. He was revived on the field and taken to a hospital, where he was put in a medically induced coma, placed on a feeding tube and hooked to electrodes to stimulate his brain. He is still in a coma.

Brandon Patch lived with his parents, Duane and Deb, in Miles City, Mont., a small cowboy town where he played for a team called the Mavericks. The Patches run a Web site dedicated to Brandon,, and are part of a national crusade to eliminate aluminum bats in amateur baseball in favor of wood bats, which they and many others consider to be less dangerous. They have, however, met with stiff resistance from bat manufacturers and officials of amateur leagues.

At home in Oak Lawn, Ill., Tony Kalant, Bill’s father, said he believed that his son would not have sustained his life-threatening injury if a wood bat had been used. “He would have reacted quicker,” Kalant said. “Like this, the ball was hit so hard and came so fast, he didn’t have a chance.”

In Trenton, Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., a Democrat from Middlesex County, introduced a bill last month to prohibit the use of metal bats in youth and high school baseball leagues. “It’s time to do away with the hollow ping and the increased risk of injury aluminum bats brought to New Jersey ballfields,” Diegnan said in a statement. He added that a ball traveled about 20 miles an hour faster off a metal bat than off a wood bat because of what is generally referred to as the “trampoline effect.”

The conflict over the use of metal versus wood began almost from the inception of the use of aluminum bats in the early 1970’s to cut the cost of replacing broken wood bats. The controversy took an odd turn last month: The Mavericks forfeited four games as part of a home-and-away series with the Bozeman Bucks of their Eastern Montana Class AA American Legion conference because Bozeman refused to play with wood.

“Ever since Brandon’s death, we only play games with wood bats, because it’s safer — I feel there’s no question about that — and out of respect for Brandon and his parents,” said Matt Phillips, the Mavericks’ coach.

posted by Steve @ 1:29:00 AM

1:29:00 AM

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