Parents of an 18 year old baseball pitcher who died four hours after being struck in the temple by a baseball ball hit off of a metal bat sued the manufacturer of the bat for damages.

At issue in the trial that is expected to last at least until early next week is whether anyone could have known the danger that could come from using an aluminum baseball bat, and whether the manufacturer should be held liable for Patch’s death.

“There is absolutely no warning anywhere … that this bat can create a situation where a pitcher is defenseless,” said Joe White, the Patchs’ attorney.

Excuse me, but did Mr. White just land on earth from Mars?  Everyone who plays baseball and most who watch it know:

  1. Baseballs are very hard objects.
  2. During baseball games baseballs are constantly being thrown at high speed by fielders and pitchers.
  3. Batters frequently try to hit a pitched ball as hard as they can (maximum bat speed) because it causes the ball to travel farther and faster than a ball that is struck without much bat speed.
  4. The harder the ball is hit, the more likely it will not be caught and will result in a “hit” or perhaps a home run.
  5. When a fast moving baseball hits any part of the human body, it hurts and can break bones and cause an injury.
  6. A thrown or hit baseball ball could strike a player full force in the wrong place and cause serious injury such as loss of sight in an eye, brain damage or death from a blow to the head.

I know from playing baseball at many age levels that it hurts when you get hit by the ball.  There is one incident I’ll never forget.  I was 12 and catching balls in the outfield during practice for my town’s little league allstar team.  I was under a high fly ball, but must have lost concentration at the last moment because the ball completely missed my glove and struck me square on the forehead.  Ouch!  I remember it hurt a lot.

From the first time a youngster plays baseball, he or she is struck by the ball and feels the pain or sees other players struck by the ball and cry in pain.  Neither players nor parents can miss the pain/danger aspect of the game.  There are many other ways to get hurt playing baseball such as sliding or colliding with another player or a wall or fence.  I remember running into a fence once in high school, but I didn’t drop the fly ball.

When my son pitched in junior high and high school, I always worried about him being struck in the head by a batted ball.  I worried about all of the pitchers being struck by ball hit off of a bat.  I also worried about my son getting beaned by a pitched ball when he was at bat.  Injury from playing the game is a risk that all parents and players assume.  This is true of all sports, especially football.

the bat makers’ attorney, said it is hard to comprehend someone dying while playing a game, and many times family members are looking for answers.  “Baseball is a safe sport – always has been. Aluminum bats have not changed that,” he said.   Baseball averages about six injuries to every 1,000 games and practices, Sterup said, adding this is far fewer than in other sports, such as football.  People are 800 percent more likely to be injured while driving a car than playing baseball, he stated.

It’s a tragedy for the parents, players and families involved, but the boy’s death was not the fault of the bat manufacturer.  It was an accident.

See the jury verdict in my update of October 29, 2009.

Related stories: