Manufacturers stand by safety of aluminum bats (2nd in a series)

In response to the growing movement to ban aluminum bats, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association founded DTMBA (Don’t Take My Bat Away) about three years ago. Mike May, director of communications for the association, says its purpose was to educate and show people aluminum/metal bats are safe.

The organization supports what May calls the “bat of choice” philosophy and contends aluminum bats are not dangerous and arguably safer than wood bats.

“We are not anti-wood. We are pro both,” says May, who lives in Jupiter. “We want to present the correct facts. Baseball when compared to the other traditional high school sports is the safest. Collisions and thrown balls are the biggest reasons for injuries.

“The problem is that when someone gets hit by a batted ball, it’s almost like a plane crash. It gets headlines, and it’s not by any means a normal occurrence. If you go to wood bats, you are going to have incidents where players get hit with batted balls, and then what are we going to do? You can’t legislate injuries in any sport.”

May believes the average person’s perception that there should never be any injuries in baseball contributes to a rush by some to blame it on aluminum/metal bats.

“People think if you go to wood bats, that is a safety net, and you eliminate injuries — and you won’t,” May says. “Baseball is a physically paced game, and the ball is hard, which is why we have gloves. The most injuries in high school baseball occur at first base because that’s where you have the most traffic.”

Joe Furnari, a Florida High School Athletics Association board member, is leading the charge to ban aluminum bats.

But Rick Redman, spokesman for Hillerich & Bradsby, which produces Louisville Slugger bat, says there is a lot of incorrect information floating around about aluminum bats. He would not comment on lawsuits filed by parents of players who were injured by balls hit off aluminum bats produced by his company.

“The one big mistake most people make is that they think manufacturers just make these bats on their own, and that is not the case,” Redman says. “Bat manufacturers make the bats in accordance with performance specifications and standards established by baseball’s governing bodies.

“No one ever wants to see anyone injured playing baseball. There is a certain risk inherent in playing and batted ball injuries are as old as the game itself.”

Altering a bat is an issue both sides agree is a problem.

May says his organization is against anyone doctoring bats. Composite bats are allowed by the Florida High School Athletics Association, and many players and coaches claim those are the easiest to doctor and go undetected. Some bats gain flexibility the more they are used, which adds to the difficulty of determining whether bats are legal.

“Composite bats can be doctored,” May says. “Those are very expensive bats and have a limited lifespan. But let’s not change a rule to protect the criminal. If someone is cheating in baseball, throw them out of the game.”

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