Gunnar Sandberg is a California high school baseball player who was put into a coma this spring after being hit in the head by a line-drive coming off a metal bat. The very good news is that Sandberg is recovering, but the reaction to his injury has been sadly predictable: Democratic California Assembly member Jared Huffman has introduced AB 7 --a bill that would impose a moratorium on non-wood bats for one year.
This bill is opposed by pretty much every key organization in the baseball world, including Little League International, Babe Ruth League Inc., USA Baseball and PONY Baseball and Softball. These organizations have all published letters or memos and the subject, and they all say very much the same things.
First, by comparison to other youth sports, baseball if among the safest if not the safest sport.
Next, the best, most recent research does not support the idea that aluminum bats are significantly more dangerous than wood bats. In fact, it is impossible to compare the two because wood bats can and do break and splinter, and an increase in their usage will cause some sorts of injuries to increase.
Finally, a moratorium will be very expensive for Golden State high schools, as every batter would go through between four and six bats a season, making the cost to schools or players of AB 7, if passed, of at least $8 million and as much as $12 million in the first year alone. (More than 40,000 kids play high school baseball in California.)
I know about the bill because one of my law partners, Gary Wolensky, represents sporting good manufacturers, at least one of whom makes bats.
And I have also been getting an earful about it from my radio producer Duane, who has been a Little League umpire for more than 20 years.
But most people don't know that some in California government want to extend the nanny state to the baseball diamond.
Wolensky points out that the scientific evidence has concluded that there is no significant difference between wood and non-wood bats in terms of ball speed when it is hit by a batter.
Duane opposes AB 7 because fewer kids will play ball if fewer kids can hit, and smaller kids especially will have a much harder time swinging a wood bat --they are heavier-- and thus will make contact and get on base less often.
And as Tom Cove of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association has pointed out on my show, because every serious injury is a tragedy, the game's overseers are always looking for ways to improve the safety of the game while keeping it competitive and fun.
The people regulating the game, Cove added, have been doing so for years, carefully balancing risks and rules with the essential nature of the game, and they ought to be trusted to act in the best interests of the sport.
Legislators can be driven by good intentions to do bad things, and they can also be driven by politics to do attention-grabbing things.
They ought not to be encouraged to intervene on the basis of anecdote and rare cases of genuine serious injury.
They ought also to be very deferential to the people who play and love the game.
But they aren't and they won't be because politicians love headlines, and left-wing politicians love to have the government make laws about everything.
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