Baseball is a dangerous game, whether it’s played at the Major League or Little League level, with a wooden bat or a metal one, and it would seem anyone playing it would understand that and accept the risk of injury that’s inherent when a rock-hard ball is thrown or hit at speeds up to 100 mph.
Accidents happen, which is exactly how to describe the disabling injury 12-year-old Steven Domalewski of Wayne, N.J., sustained when he was hit by a batted ball in a Police Athletic League game six years ago. In fact, it was a freak accident: He was struck in the chest at the exact millisecond between heartbeats and went into cardiac arrest.
Still, his parents sued — not the PAL, but the bat’s manufacturer; the sporting goods store that sold the bat; and Little League Baseball, which had certified that the metal bat that hit the ball was no more dangerous than a wooden one — and two weeks ago won a $14.5 million settlement.
Metal bats, which cost more than wooden ones but are far less prone to breakage, have been refined over the years to minimize the so-called “trampoline effect.” That’s what enables a ball hit off one to travel faster than one hit off a wooden bat.
Because Little League Baseball was sufficiently convinced that aluminum and wood bats perform virtually the same, it got dragged into the Domalewski’s suit, as did the Sports Authority sporting goods store and Hillerich and Bradsby, the bat’s manufacturer.
The parties should have told the Domalewskis to take a hike. What happened to Steven was a terrible thing — after his heart stopped, his brain was oxygen-deprived for 15 to 20 minutes — but it really wasn’t anyone’s fault. Baseball is a dangerous game.