Bay Area lawmaker takes on metal bat debate

March 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The debate over aluminum baseball bats is headed to the state capital. Bay Area Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, announced on Tuesday he is drafting a bill that would ban the use of non-wood bats in high schools, but the effort to make the game safer could strike out.

The line drive that put Marin Catholic High pitcher Gunnar Sandberg in a coma has one state lawmaker wanting to throw out non-wood bats from high school baseball.

"This is not a rare situation, it happens all over the country, all over the state. It's time to do something about it," says Huffman.

Huffman, who represents Gunnar's district in Marin County, says lightweight composite bats have dramatically increased the speed of the ball.

"I think it's time to have the debate. We've got to look at young people who are 60 feet away from an aluminum bat, sending a line drive in their direction, and ask ourselves 'Is this safe?'" says Huffman.

And the debate will see a lot of input from both sides. Some high school baseball coaches would like to see the limitations of the bats changed instead.

"The wood bat companies would probably find ways to make the ball jump off the wood bats as much as they've done it in the major league level with maple bats and things like that. So i think that banning bats might not necessarily be the answer," says San Ramon Valley High coach Chris deClercq.

"There's more of a danger now than there has been in the past," says Brian Cereghino, from Play for 4.

Play for 4 is a non-profit group that designed a fielding helmet after a similar accident in Ohio. It is being used in parts of the Midwest, but even major league pitchers refuse to wear helmets, which raises a challenge.

"I think the easiest level is at the younger level, the youth baseball. I think your biggest challenge is going to be in the high school where you're going to get resistance from the old school mentality," says Cereghino.

Despite the dangers, Total Sports store in San Ramon says there is no demand for baseball fielding helmets.

"They think, 'Oh, it's not cool to wear that. None of my friends have worn that,'" says Trevor Bowers from Total Sports.

Huffman says his bill still needs a co-author, and he admits it will require some tweaking, but he says baseball league officials have been slow to react, and now it's time for government to take a swing at protecting high school baseball players.


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