Team switches to wooden bat to honor hurt player

March 16, 2010 11:21:03 PM PDT
The "crack" of a wooden bat hitting a baseball replaced that of the metal "pings" on Tuesday night at a Marin County ball field. The teams switched from aluminum to wooden bats because of an on-field accident that has left a 16-year-old pitcher in a coma.

The switch in bats started out with both high school principals calling for their teams to put down the powerful composite bats and pick up the wood. Then there was a flurry of emails between parents and coaches, followed by two sports stores -- T&B Sports out of San Rafael and West Coast Sporting Goods out of San Leandro -- that donated the wood bats for Tuesday's game.

In a show of support by both teams, Marin Catholic played Drake High School using only wood bats. It was also a show of support for Marin Catholic pitcher Gunnar Sandberg who is in a medically-induced coma after being hit by a line drive, last Thursday.

"He has a skull fracture shaped like a baseball above his right ear with a severe concussion, with brain swelling," said Gunnar's father, Bjorn Sandberg.

Now Bjorn is on a crusade to ban the popular composite carbon fiber bats from high school baseball. They flex causing a whip-like effect.

"I feel that a composite bat, you get more power for your swing. Especially a smaller guy like myself, I need all the power I can get," said Jack Student, a 15-year-old player from Future Prospects Team.

Composite bats have become the great equalizer. Charles Scott is a former Major League Baseball pitcher and coach of this completive 13 and 14-year-old team in Marin County.

"The reason why they don't use aluminum bats at the Major League level is because it's just dangerous for the pitcher. He's the closest to the batter, he's in a compromising position after he releases the ball," said Scott.

And Scott says high school players have the same strength to generate that dangerous velocity. He also says the Major Leagues prefer that high school and college players use wood bats.

"One of the things that's been a knock with the aluminum bat is we're not able to decipher the true talent of the individual that's swinging the bat," said Scott.

Marin Catholic won after a last inning home run -- off a wood bat.

On Tuesday night, Bjorn told ABC7 if Marin Catholic wants to use wood bats throughout the season, they likely will have to negotiate with every team they play. It is a lofty goal, but he is hoping Tuesday's showing was not just one symbolic game.


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