Battle of the aluminum bats

An aluminum, bat is used during a Little League game.

TEXT OF STORY

LISA NAPOLI: Batter up! What you use to hit the ball if you're in high school is the subject of this next report. Marketplace's Amy Scott explains.


AMY SCOTT: On a chilly winter afternoon, Philip Romero coaches a little off-season batting practice at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx.
PHILIP ROMERO: Now, when you get to this part of your swing right here, you should either be able to see the label, or not see it at all, alright?

[BAT CRACK]

ROMERO: That's it. That's exactly the sound. That's the one you wanna hear.

Romero wants that wooden whack to be the only sound a bat makes in city games.

The New York City council is expected to vote soon on a bill that would ban the use of aluminum bats in high school games. Romero says it's not just that he prefers the old-fashioned crack of the wood bat to the. . .

[PING]

. . . of aluminum. He says a ball hit by a metal bat travels faster. A pitcher doesn't have as much time to react.

A few years ago in Montana, an 18-year-old pitcher was struck in the temple by such a ball and died. Others have been seriously injured.

Romero says metal bats aren't allowed in the Major League. Why should high school players use them?

ROMERO: It is more dangerous, it's less aesthetically-pleasing, so why?

Well, for starters, aluminum bats tend to be lighter and more maneuverable. That makes it easier for small players to hit big.

Opponents of the ban say aluminum bats are also cheaper in the long run, because unlike wood bats, they don't break.

Jim Darby is vice president of promotions for bat maker Easton Sports. He says one academic study showed that non-wood bats were faster, and therefore potentially more dangerous.

But he says that study was conducted years ago, before high school and college sporting officials adopted tougher safety standards.

JIM DARBY: None of those bats would be allowed today in high school or college baseball. So, there are no studies that I'm aware of that do show that bats today — non-wood bats — outperform the best northern white ash wooden bats.

New York city councilman James Oddo doesn't buy it. He sponsored the proposed ban.

Oddo says the tests officials use to measure a bat's so-called "exit speed" don't accurately reflect game conditions. He believes aluminum bats still hit faster and harder.

JAMES ODDO: Kids are being placed in harm's way for no other reason than money. This started as a hundred million dollar industry. It's well in excess of $200 million. And that's why they're fighting so vehemently today.

The industry is fighting more and more battles lately. New Jersey and Massachusetts are considering statewide bans.

And when high schoolers in North Dakota head back to the diamond this Spring, they'll be swinging only wood.

[CRACK!]

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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