HARTFORD, Ma – Last August 13-year-old Zach Hoffman took a line drive to his left eye. He was playing third base for his town’s team in the little league state finals. The injury meant he needed 30 sutures across his eye, which had to be put back together, and eventually the damage cost him his vision in his left eye.
After incidents like the one that happened to Zach have popped up across the country, bat companies have taken steps to make the equipment safer.
The ping of the aluminum bat has replaced the crack of the wooden bat in most baseball leagues, because of the high cost of wood -but at what price?.
Aluminum bats pack a much higher punch. Central Connecticut State University physics professor Dr. Sadu Nanjundiah says that on a 80 mph pitch, “the outgoing ball for wood is about 90 mph,” but “for aluminium, it is about 100 mph.”
The BBCOR Bat cuts down on the “trampoline effect” of aluminum and composite bats, which is a term used to describe how the ball easily bounces off of those bats. The bats are more similar to wood, but not quite the same.
High schools and colleges around the country, as well as some youth leagues, have begun adopting BBCOR Bats, but the little league hasn’t quite caught up yet.
Part of the danger of little league kids using aluminum bats is that the diamond is smaller, and that 30 feet makes a huge difference in terms of reaction time.
Also the more powerful hits traveling so fast can have a much higher impact if they hit one of the kids in the outfield.
Zach recovered from his injury and decided he wanted to go back to baseball saying, "It's just something that's important to me before. It was a big part of my life. Well com ing back just seems like I had to do it I guess."
He's had to make some changes because of his loss of vision. He wears a face mask for picking, and he also wears sunglasses with a polycarbonate lens when plays, to protect his good eye."
Zach also says that batting is different, "I have to turn my whole head... and open up my stance."
Zach uses a BBCOR bat now, but he isn't really sold on that either. He'd like to see all the kids playing with wood bats.
All softball players continue to play with aluminum, as do many little leagues. However, starting this season South Windsor, Zach’s old team, will be playing as an all-wood team.