July 27, 2003

An 18-year-old American Legion baseball pitcher in Montana was struck and killed by a batted ball Friday, becoming at least the 18th player to die in that manner since 1991.

posted by rcade to baseball at 10:58 AM - 9 comments

I really don't see what anyone can do about this stuff. Aluminum bats, wooden bats, they all are capable of sending balls flying at incredible speeds, and sometimes people get in the way of them. It's just one of those freak things that happen when you play a sport.

posted by therev at 02:08 PM on July 27, 2003

Perhaps he should have played more pepper.

posted by Space Coyote at 10:30 PM on July 27, 2003

Something similar happened to me in a pick-up game in 1990. I pitched the ball and the next thing I knew I was on my back with a bunch of people looking down at me. I was later told that the baseball was line-driven into my face, breaking my nose. My nose was eventually broken three times in one week: the original injury plus two corrective surgeries. The doctors told me I was lucky that the bone was driven sideways instead of backward, where it may have pierced my brain and killed me. Thankfully all I have to show for the injury is a little more "character" in my looks. I was hit by a ball off an aluminum bat, but I don't have enough experience with wooden bats to know if it would have made a difference. I do know that baseballs tend to "jump" off aluminum bats. Anything that allows more reaction time would likely reduce these incidents, although I agree with therev: nothing will eliminate them.

posted by dusted at 10:40 PM on July 27, 2003

Nothing will eliminate these tragedies, but I'll bet that a comprehensive assessment of the fatalities would find that aluminum bats are substantially more likely to cause them. I don't think the public is aware that at least 18 players have been struck and killed by baseballs in the last 11 years. The use of those bats in baseball is completely nuts, and not just on the field. When I was 8, my jaw was broken by a friend swinging a wooden bat around recklessly in my front yard. I can't imagine things would have been pretty if we had grabbed an aluminum bat that morning instead.

posted by rcade at 11:57 PM on July 27, 2003

What about helmets for pitchers? It sounds totally goofy, but think about it: batters need helmets for protection from 90-100mph fastballs. Does anyone know the velocity of a home run or line drive batted ball? I'll bet it's at least 100mph. Also, I had no idea of the changes in bat technology: witness the $35,000 Bionic Bat.

posted by dusted at 02:44 AM on July 28, 2003

I took a line drive in the throat once. The only reason it didn't kill me or cause serious harm is that I turned my body slightly and it hit the neck muscles instead of the windpipe. I've also been hit numerous times in the legs/back/ass/stomach/arms in softball. No, I have no idea why I keep pitching...probably because no one else will.

posted by grum@work at 06:42 AM on July 28, 2003

According to one study, which is part of a site on sporting safety, aluminum bats can produce hits as high as 106 mph and wood bats as high as 97 mph.

posted by rcade at 08:10 AM on July 28, 2003

Aluminum bats are just plain scary. As rcade says, the differential in speed can be 10 mph or more off the bat. While this doesn't seem like much, it can be the difference between getting a glove up and taking a liner in the throat or face. This study from Brown University seems to back up my thinking while wood bats are dangerous also, you don't see nearly as many frighteningly hard-hit line drives off of wood as you do aluminum. Two other asides: 1) I watched a third baseman take a one-hop bullet in the face this weekend in a Junior Legion game. There's nothing conclusive about the fact the ball was hit with an aluminum bat, but I'm still astounded by how quickly the ball comes off. The kid's fine, but it took seven external stiches and five internal to close the wounds. 2) I swing a double-wall DeMarini in slow pitch. The first season I switched to that bat, I went from zero home runs to double digits. I estimate that on a well-hit ball, I get an extra 20-30 feet of distance. How does that translate to a line drive at the first baseman?

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:59 PM on July 28, 2003

I got hit in the face by a line drive at my brother's Little League game. I didn't know what happened (I was mooning over some girl and not paying attention to the game) and I thought the guy next to me had just up and punched me. Seven stiches in my lip, and I've got the scar to prove it.

posted by kirkaracha at 06:50 PM on July 28, 2003

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