The New York City Council voted earlier this month to ban non-wood bats in high school play. Mayor Michael Bloomberg must decide soon whether to sign it.
He ought to veto it. The letter explains why.
John Kass is a superb columnist and his intentions are noble in "Play hardball and bar new metal bats" (News, March 22). But his conclusion is dead wrong.
I have more than a passing interest in the metal bat safety issue. While I was communications director for former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), he assigned me to research the contention that balls were flying off the new bats at unsafe speeds.
Fitzgerald tabbed me because I played college baseball when metal bats were replacing wood. (I currently am president of Curry Public Strategies Inc., a political and public affairs company; the bat manufacturer Easton Sports is one of my clients.)
Going in, my instinct was the bats were less safe than wood. My research proved those instincts wrong. I had not realized that starting in 1999, the NCAA and then high schools and youth leagues put in place mandatory restrictions on the barrel size of the bats and their length-to-weight ratio. The new measurements were calibrated to ensure that balls were exiting the bats at the same speed as the best wood bats.
Results were dramatic.
College baseball is the best laboratory because it keeps the most extensive statistics. In the last year before the restrictions, NCAA Division I teams batted .306 collectively, scored 7.12 runs per game and each game averaged 1.06 home runs. Immediately afterward, the numbers dropped to their level today: .291 batting average, 6.15 runs per game and only .68 home runs. Those offensive levels are identical to those in 1980, more than 25 years ago.
The numbers demolish the argument that balls are flying off bats at unsafe speeds and traveling obscene distances.
I was further convinced that safety is not compromised by non-wood bats when I learned that every youth baseball organizationâ€”the NCAA, National High School Baseball Coaches Association, Little League Baseball, PONY Baseball/Softball and American Legionâ€”conducted its own safety research or reviewed existing data and concluded the bats posed no safety risk compared to wood bats.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reached a similar conclusion.
We should be free to choose any type bat from the bat rack.