San Francisco - Here in California the wood bat vs. metal bat debate has been going very strong since last spring, when a player at Marin Catholic High School (Kentfield, CA) was struck in the head by a batted ball off a metal bat.
The player's name is Gunnar Sandberg. Gunnar lived but it was not always a given that he would, particularly when his brain was so swollen that doctors had to remove part of his skull to alleviate the pressure on his brain as it was pressing against his skull.
I ended up very near to the heart of the debate that immediately began about metal bats. Just a few weeks earlier I was at Marin Catholic scouting some scrimmages. During the game I was talking to their head coach, Mike Firenzi, a baseball colleague of mine for a number of years, and we were talking about metal and wood bats.
During my time scouting for the Atlanta Braves I became a proponent of wood bats, simply due to the nature of my job and looking for players that could hit with wood bats at the higher levels of the game. Coach Firenzi and I shared some of our opinions with each other, about the merits of kids using wood bats in high school, then the game was over and we went home.
When I got home, I posted an article on my blog site (www.9County9.com) about our conversation and that was that, so I thought. Fast forward a few weeks later to Gunnar being injured and it seemed like I had somewhat foreshadowed a nearly tragic incident, but not one that hasn't happened before. The obviously weird thing was that I was at Marin Catholic, talking to their head coach about metal vs wood bats and just a few weeks later, at that very same field, a player from Marin Catholic was fighting for his life.
Some people found my blog article from January and started to contact me. More and more I was pulled (willingly) into the discussion because I had a forum to say what I wanted to say and thought I had some perspectives that were important to publish. I ended up on a local radio show talking about the wood vs metal debate.
I ended up as the key witness at the state capitol for Assemblyman Jared Huffman during the educational senate hearing for his proposed bill to put a moratorium on metal bats in high school baseball in California. The bill was called AB7 and it did eventually pass. You can read about all the legislation and new rules in California high school baseball (also in effect at the NCAA level) at my blog or all over the internet. My point is that the more I was involved, the more I thought about wood vs metal.
Most people here and nationally focused on the safety issues of metal bats vs wood bats, particularly the speed of the ball off the bat and the limited reaction time pitchers have to get out of harm's way. Granted, I also am concerned about that but I also accept that in any sport there is inherent danger assumed when a player participates. I recognize that pitchers are at danger with a wood bat in a batter's hand.
Next: I am going to share my opinion of the Top 5 Reasons Why Players Benefit from Using Wood Bats. To me the danger issues of metal bats vs wood bats seemed to be obvious and frankly I think it goes way beyond that.