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Should A Baseball Bat Maker Be Sued For the Injuries To A Little League Pitcher Struck By A Fastball?

December 14, 2010

It was the bottom of the fifth with two outs when the batter stepped up with an Easton BT265bat.  Eleven-year old Jake Schutter of the Mokena Blazes threw the third pitch.  The batter  hit a line drive directly at the pitcher, the ball smashing into the left side of Jake’s head, knocking him to the ground.  

Jake is now deaf in his left ear and suffered cognitive damage. 

Was Jake injured because he did not duck in time or because the bat’s construction propelled the ball at such speed that the boy did not have  a chance to react in time?  This is at the heart of a law suit filed in  a Chicago federal court on Tuesday.

Why the bat?  Once, all bats were once wood and then the balls rarely sailed unless you had a  junior Mickey Mantle in  your Little League.  Then, aluminum bats  became the rage because the “trampoline” effect sent the ball richocheting so fast off of the bat that mom and dad in the bleachers could imagine that their Johnny was the  next Sammy Sosa.   But after numerous legal and legislative actions to change the construction of the aluminum bats, the “trampoline” effect was  softened.  And so came the  “composite” bat,”constructed with the same aluminum exterior of a standard aluminum baseball bat but with a graphite wall on the inside to create such  great exit speed that the bats were advertised as “hitting balls through cement walls.”   It was this kind of bat, a “composite,”  an Easton BT265,  that hit the ball that changed Jake Schutter’s life. 

Jake’s lawyers argue that it was because of the bat that the pitcher did not have a chance to duck.   The ball was just moving way too fast.   Under this theory,  the bat was unreasonably dangerous and  the manufacturer would be strictly liable for Jake’s injuries.  

What do you think?   I have four boys and a gal, all who play ball.  I have seen balls whizzing past that pitcher’s mound for years.  But, I never saw a ball hit a child at that speed.  Should the manufacturer be blamed?  Should the bat be banned in middle school when stronger players begin to hit harder and faster? Or was this a freak accident that could not be forseen?  I may add the  aluminum bat has been banned in NYC and elsewhere. 

There are several articles if you want to learn more:

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