by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
May 11, 2010
WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT THEM?
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Baseball has its own soundtrack. The crack! of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the food vendors with their cries of "COLDbeer! Getcha coldbeer HEAH!"
The sounds of baseball resonates in our brains and in our veins. It echoes in our society's collective souls. Anyone who grew up in this country, whether you played baseball or not, knows what that crack sounds like. In fact, when you started reading this, you imagined that crack!, followed by the roaring of the crowd as the ball sailed over the wall.
When I was a kid, I loved baseball. I played it, watched it, studied it. I talked about it, collected it, and read it. Then, when I discovered soccer, I lost track of it. But I've renewed my love for baseball over the last few years, watching games whenever I can catch them, showing my son and daughters the intricacies of the game. We've even had the chance to go to games for our local AAA minor league baseball team, the Indianapolis Indians, and my kids have had the chance to hear their own sounds of the game.
We live near a high school, and now that it's baseball season, we can actually hear some of the high school games from our window. The cheers, the yells, the ping of the bat.
Wait, the "ping" of the bat?!
Yes, at the high school and college level, they play with aluminum bats. Not the traditional wood bats that all the grown-ups use. They use a bat made of metal because the ball flies farther.
Not only do they ruin the game, but aluminum bats are dangerous, coming under fire by lawmakers and angry parents. California is considering a two-year moratorium on aluminum bats, after a high school pitcher was put into a coma for weeks after being struck in the head by a ball hit by an aluminum bat.
The problem with the aluminum and compound bats is that they have more of a springing effect when they're hit, so the ball pops off the bat faster, which means it can fly farther and faster. And God help anyone who gets hit by one of these balls, especially the pitchers.
Baseball is about tradition. Tradition that goes back to 1869 - to the very first professional baseball team, my own beloved Cincinnati Red Stockings. Never in the last 141 years of professional baseball did anyone's bats ever go ping.
That pinging is an annoying sound that makes the fillings in my teeth rattle in dissonant vibration.
It sounds like a robot fairy granting a bulldozer's wish to become a real live boy.
Every time a bat pings, an angel hangs his head and cries.
Aluminum bats are one of the things ruining youth baseball, and I think they should be banned. Unfortunately, the other thing ruining baseball is the parents.
There are so many helicopter parents who are trying to let their kids play the game of their own youth, but their hovering overprotectiveness is damaging the experience.
When I was a kid, you had a bat, a ball, and a glove. Nowadays, parents make their kids wear chest protectors when they're batting or playing the infield. (Outfielders don't need protection, apparently, since that's where you put the scrubs.)
Parents armor up their children because there have been about 75 deaths over the past 20 years from kids getting struck in the chest by a batted ball at a crucial moment when their heart beats, which gives them a heart attack.
Struck by a ball that was hit with an aluminum bat.
Meanwhile, no major league player has ever died from being hit by a ball hit by a wooden bat.
Don't get me wrong. I would hate to see any of my kids get hit by a ball. I hold my breath every time one of them wipes out on their bike. I try not to gasp whenever my son gets kicked in soccer.
But at the same time, I don't think my kids need to wear protective gear everywhere they go. No shin guards to play with a bunch of 7-year-olds. No knee pads and hip pillows for their bike. And no chest protectors to play a game that millions of children play each year.
If parents want to make baseball safe, eliminate aluminum bats outright. They're a dangerous menace to the game and will only do more harm than good.
The bats aren't very safe, either.
Erik publishes his humor column and other humorous articles at his Erik Deckers' Laughing Stalk blog.