Concern about bats leads to some bans

Concerned about serious injuries and even the potential for loss of life resulting from supercharged composite bats, Milwaukee area park and recreation directors are weighing a proposal to band together under a unified set of rules that spell out what bats can and cannot be used in recreation play.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported more than a dozen municipal officials recently gathered to resolve the sticky issue of banning bats that they believe are dangerous to ballplayers, especially those of lesser talents who play strictly for recreation. Many leagues started banning some of the bats last summer, but there are inconsistencies in which bats are considered dangerous. This led to player confusion over which bats are permitted, said the newspaper.

Liability and the potential of costly personal injury lawsuits also drove the discussion.

The directors were from Cedarburg, Racine, the Milwaukee Public School District, Waukesha, Greenfield, Greendale, Whitefish Bay, Wauwatosa, Shorewood, Brown Deer, Oak Creek, Slinger and the Nicolet School District.

They ended the meeting with an agreement in principle to comply with two lists of banned bats—one from the Amateur Softball Association and another from Tony Elskamp of the Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation Programs, said the paper.

MPS already bans many composite bats and runs the city’s recreational and tournament softball leagues.

They also will consult a list of approved bats from the Softball Association, a national governing organization for the popular spring and summer sport. They will not allow new models for this year until they’ve been reviewed for safety.

Their message to team managers is simply that if a bat is not on any of the approved lists, don’t buy it, said the Journal Sentinel.

The compositions of the bats are trade secrets and can be best described as non-metallic “fibrous compounds,” Bob Szaniawski of Milwaukee Sporting Goods said.

The group agreed that it will seek an endorsement of its actions from the Southeast Park and Recreation Council at its meeting next month, but the directors first want to inform team managers, some of whom may have spent up to $400 to buy the banned bats.

Recreation supervisors believe the three lists will help them eliminate “lightning sticks” that turn average hitters into superstars who jack three homers a game over a fence 300 feet from home plate.

The technology has turned the game from one of hits and strategy to one of home runs, said Pete Narrai, a representative of the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, another national organization for softball players..

With names such as Dark, Wicked, Orange Crush, Freak, Fury and Genesis, these souped-up sticks feed the egos of softball jocks who, when armed with these bats, often pound beer-league clubs with embarrassing scores of 50-0, said the newpaper.

To make the point of the dangers, a softball Web site for teams in southern Illinois posts a picture of a player who was struck in the head by a softball hit by a composite bat. He suffered serious head injury, but he did recover.

Bats listed as banned by either the Amateur Softball Association or the Milwaukee Public Schools recreation leagues include the following:

• Demarini Dark

• Easton Synergy, Synergy II, SCX2 Synergy and SCX23 Synergy Plus

• Louisville Slugger SB34 Genesis, Ti XXL

• Miken Ultra Balanced, Ultra Maxload, Ultra II, Freak, Fury and Orange Crush

• Worth EST9, XEST9X, QESTFP, SBWK, Wicked (slow pitch version), XWICKX (slow pitch version), WWSC Wicked Composite (slow pitch version), Wicked Composite WWSCA, SBWKA

• Rawlings Silverback ACL

• Steele XXX.

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