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A Letter of Support from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association

I received this letter from Mike May of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in response to my column, "Ban Aluminum Bats From Youth Baseball."

While I agree with his stats and that aluminum may actually be as safe as wood, I still think wood sounds better than aluminum. I asked Mike which he prefers, wood or aluminum, and he said, "As for the crack of the bat or the ping of the bat, I like it all. I just like to watch and play baseball."

He also wants aluminum bat supporters to check out Don't Take My Bat Away.

Here's his letter.

Dear Erik:

There has been a great deal of research done in recent years on the ‘wood vs. non-wood’ baseball bat issue which bears further consideration. See the comments below which support the idea of keeping non-wood bats.

1.) Dr. Dawn Comstock, PhD (Center for Injury Research and Policy at Ohio State University) compiles injury data on high school sports for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). During a speech she delivered on April 21st in Indianapolis, she stated that baseball is a very safe sport as football, wrestling, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, field hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, ice hockey, and gymnastics have higher rates of injury than baseball. She noted that baseball injuries are declining – from 1.25 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2006-07 to .93 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2007-08 to .78 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures in 2008-09. Football has more than 12 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures. According to Dr. Comstock, her research is important so that any rule changes made to any sport will be “data driven and not based on anecdotal evident or emotion.”

2.) A 2007 study on "Non-Wood vs. Wood Bats" by Illinois State University concluded that "there was no statistically significant evidence that non-wood bats result in an increased incidence of severity of injury."

3.) In 2002 (before today’s standards were implemented), the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated "Available incident data are not sufficient to indicate that non-wood bats may pose an unreasonable risk of injury." Despite that vote of confidence, the baseball industry implemented a more restrictive standard (BESR) in 2003 which remains in place today.

4.) In 2007, minor league baseball coach Mike Coolbaugh (Tulsa Drillers) was killed during a game by a ball hit off a wood bat, while he was coaching first base.

5.) Since the early 1960s, there have been eight Little League pitchers who have been killed with batted balls – six of them were hit with balls that were struck with wood bats.

Baseball is not dangerous, but unexpected injuries do occur – off both wood and non-wood bats.

In September of 2007, longtime major league baseball player and current Cincinnati Reds manager (formerly with the San Francisco Giants) Dusty Baker wrote a letter where he defended the integrity and safety of the non-wood baseball bat:

“As a former Major League Baseball player and manager, and as the father of an eight-year-old son who uses a metal bat, I support players using the bat of their choice because I know wood and metal are safe. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t let my son use an aluminum bat. I strongly believe leagues, players, coaches and baseball officials should decide what type of bat they want to use.”

Since 2003, non-wood baseball bats used in high schools have been scientifically regulated so that the speed of batted balls off non-wood bats is comparable to that of the best major league wood bats. This safety standard – BESR (Ball Exit Speed Ratio) has been adopted by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Today’s major leaguers all grew up using a non-wood bat. Secondly, amateur baseball is not the training ground for pro baseball. Amateur baseball’s only obligation is to give today’s young players a chance to play and enjoy the game. There’s no need to force amateur baseball players to use a wood bat when many don’t want to play pro baseball or will ever be good enough to play pro baseball.

The main two reasons for injuries in baseball are thrown balls and collisions – not batted balls.

It’s important to realize that standards on bat performance are NOT established by bat makers. They are agreed upon and enforced by baseball’s governing bodies.

I thank you in advance for your time and attention.


Mike May
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association

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