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A City Council proposal to ban aluminum bats got a “standing O” from some baseball players, while others hoped the bill would go down on strikes.
From the high-school diamonds of Bensonhurst to the sandlot fields of Red Hook, traditionalists said they support the ban, while teenagers with the major leagues in their sights begged the city to let them keep their supercharged bats.
“They should really pass the ban,” said Dave Serrano, manager of a team of court officers that practices in Red Hook Park and only uses genuine lumber. “The kids can really hurt each other with metal bats.”
Having played with metal bats before, Serrano and teammate Chris Gallo know that the advantage of a metal bat is also its disadvantage.
“A ball comes off a metal bat like a dart,” said Gallo. And in this day and age, you have to be careful.
“You give a metal bat to a 17-year-old kid who’s juicing, and you might as well give him a gun.”
Such firepower was the motivation for Councilman James Oddo’s bill. The Bay Ridge Republican said he was moved to act against “lethal” bats after a Staten Island youth suffered severe face and nasal injuries and a New Jersey boy was sent into a coma after being hit by balls off aluminum bats this summer.
“For the safety of our young people, there has to be a return to wood,” said Oddo.
The councilman said that today’s technology has created aluminum bats with more firepower than ever, allowing even 12-year-olds to hit like Barry Bonds on steroids.
Studies have shown that a ball batted off a metal bat goes an average 10 mph faster than a ball hit with a wooden bat.
“You’re not doing these kids any favors, either,” added Serrano. “Metal bats make mediocre hitters seem really good. It’s definitely harder to hit with a wooden bat.”
But the metal bat has fans of its own.
Norris Gordon, a coach at the Bonnie Youth Club in Kensington, said that younger kids have more fun and play better when they use metal bats.
“You feel sorry for the little kids,” he said. “They need the metal bat to compete.”
Gordon also believes that metal bats are more “economical.”
“Wood [bats] are just too expensive” because they break, he said.
Oddo first proposed the legislation in 2001 — but was struck out by a “small cartel” of metal bat manufacturers, intent on maintaining “an arms race” to invent more “lethal” bats.
But this time, he’s swinging for the fences: The Council took up the proposal at a youth committee hearing last month — and the chairman, Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Sheepshead Bay), sided with Oddo, safety and tradition: “Baseball ought to played with a wooden bat,” Fidler said.
Metal bats and wood bats differ in more than just materials. Everything is different: from the sounds the ball makes on contact to how fast it comes off the bat. We asked Eric Bennett, one of Prospect Park’s legendary weekend warriors, to do some field-testing.
Velocity: Balls hit with a metal bat go faster and higher than ones off a wooden bat. “With a metal bat, they’ll go 20 percent further,” said Bennett. “Plus, they’re lighter and you can swing it harder.” Edge: Metal bat
Sound: The wooden bat makes a distinctive “crack” when it hits a baseball (at least one that’s well hit). A metal bat makes a noise like “a spike being driven with a hammer,” Bennett said. Edge: Wooden bat
Construction: A wooden bat has to be held a certain way, said Bennett. “If you hit a ball on a bad spot, you will break the bat,” said Bennett. A metal bat will never break, so it doesn’t matter how you hold it. Plus, the “sweet spot” on a wood bat is “one-third to one-quarter the size of a metal bat’s,” said Bennett. Edge: Metal bat
Weight: An average 33-inch wooden bat can weigh between 30 and 33 ounces. A comparable metal bat can be as little as 28 ounces, giving the batter quicker swings. “With a wood bat, once you’ve committed, it’s harder to adjust to a curveball,” said Bennett. “That’s why major league hitters strike out.” Edge: Metal bat
Intangibles: “It requires more skill to play with a wooden bat,” said Bennett. “I’ve seen guys about in metal bat leagues hit a major league home run, and they were about my size [about 5’9]. That just doesn’t happen with a wooden bat.” But in the end, Bennett sided with history: “If I’m playing baseball, I want the tradition of a wood bat.” Edge: Wooden bat
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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