The recent tragedy of Oak Lawn Community High School baseball player Billy Kalant being struck in the head by a batted ball points out the dangers of metal bats. Kalant went into a coma and remained comatose as of last Thursday.
Since the introduction of metal bats, numerous ballplayers have been hurt, or killed, by balls rocketed from metal bats. Some studies indicate the maximum speed of a baseball struck with a wood bat is 93 mph, whereas a ball hit with a metal bat is known to reach a velocity of more than 120 mph. This additional speed makes it very difficult for fielders (particularly for pitchers because of their proximity to the batter and vulnerability after releasing the ball) to react fast enough to avoid being struck by a batted ball.
We call on the leaders of Oak Park and River Forest youth baseball and softball to ban metal bats. Given the safety benefits to the children, this, in baseball parlance, is an easy call.
From a competitive standpoint, given the lower velocity and smaller hitting spot associated with wood bats, there is no doubt a team using metal bats has an advantage. For our in-house leagues, the ban would have no competitive impact. Our travel teams we would be at a big disadvantage vs. teams that use metal bats. However, we would send a strong message to opponents. We care more about not hurting you than we care about scoring more runs than you do.
Given the outstanding tradition of OPRF High School baseball and softball, many other travel teams and communities would eventually follow our lead. A current example of our tradition of excellence is that in the class of 2005 at OPRF High School we have at least five college baseball signees and three college softball signees. The OPRF baseball team is the 2nd ranked team in the state and the OPRF softball team is the 8th ranked team.
At every level our players and coaches are respected throughout this state and many others. Our change to wood bats in the youth programs would be noticed. Also, to use a pun: any victory by a metal bat team vs. one that uses wood bats would certainly be a hollow one.
If we could tweak one of our more famous monikers to "no nukes, no handguns ... and no metal bats" our kids would truly be safer. Metal bats will eventually be banned everywhere. Let's do it before we have a tragedy in our community.
David and Vanessa Willey