Deadspin.com (ESPN and the NBA’s favorite sports blog) reports an $850,000 settlement against Louisville Slugger in the accidental death of an 18-year-old baseball player. The pitcher was killed when he couldn’t react to a come-backer in time. A Montana jury found the bat manufacturer liable.
It’s terrible to see a young baseball player get killed, but why hold a bat manufacturer liable for a freak incident that happens in the course of a game?
And why blame metal bats? A USA Baseball report from 2007 showed that metal bats are no less safe than wood. Furthermore, youth baseball leagues switched to metal bats in the 1970s specifically for safety. Wood bats splinter and shatter, especially those made with cheaper grades of wood. They are also too heavy for younger players to gain proper control in their swing.
So, if wood bats aren’t safe, and metal bats aren’t safe, what type of bats are kids supposed to use? Wiffle?
This is not to make light of someone’s death. If anything, it’s the lawyers who are making a mockery of this family’s loss, thinking that if they pick from the deepest pockets, it would assuage this family’s loss. As Deadspin.com points out, this suit may be just pocket change to the sporting goods industry. But it’s youth sports organizations that suffer the most from rulings like this. We already pay for liability insurance, and we have the constant fear of litigation hanging over the heads of every volunteer coach and board member. If judges wind up micromanaging how we can run a program or what equipment we can use, we might as well pack up our equipment bags and let the kids play video games. But then, we’d be sued for allowing kids to stay home and get fat.
All sports have inherent risks. As responsible organizations, we do our best to mitigate these risks and teach kids how to play safely. But we can’t make things 100% perfectly safe. There will always be circumstances we can’t control. Parents need to understand this.