While discussing a bill approved by the New York City Council last week that would forbid the use of metal bats in high school baseball, longtime Lowell coach John Donahue reflected on a terrifying sprint to the mound 17 years ago.
In March 1990, a line drive off the bat of one of his players caught Galileo pitcher Steve Johnson on the face and the freshman went down.
"I was the first guy out there with my medical kit and I’m not the fastest runner," said Donahue, now in his 25th year as the Cardinals’ coach. "It was really scary. The kid was pretty lucky and got his glove up just a little and blinked before he got hit. But you could see the seam of the baseball on his eyelid."
It took Johnson until his senior season to recover enough physically and mentally to return to pitching. And it’s stories like his that led New York officials to push for a ban of the metal bats, which are perceived to create more velocity upon impact with a pitch. The bill is now awaiting approval from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, if passed, could face a legal challenge from companies that produce the bats.
But regardless of the outcome, members of the local baseball community contacted by The Examiner didn’t think the measure needed to be imported to the Bay Area.
"Safety is obviously the paramount issue, but I think metal bats are more of a factor at a higher level — like college," said West Catholic Athletic League commissioner Ed Ravenscroft, whose league consistently features some of the region’s top talent. "For high school, I don’t think [they need to be banned]."
Both Donahue and 13-year University coach Greg Revelli pointed to safety measures already in place, like a rule ensuring bats are just
3 ounces lighter than their length in inches to limit swing speed. They also discussed the cost efficiency of the proposal, as wood bats are proneto breaking on any given swing while metal ones can be used season after season.
"It would be a lot tougher for guys to get hits and they could be left in the batter’s box holding a splinter," said Revelli, who played as a prep at Lincoln. "And it could be difficult financially — the good wooden bats cost $40, $50 or $60."
Meanwhile, Donahue worried about the affect it could have on participation levels.
"I don’t know if as many kids would play," he said. "And that’s the last thing we want."
ETC.: The Balboa baseball team is off to a fast start in the Academic Athletic Association, winning its first six league games. The Buccaneers went 8-6 in 2006 and reached the playoffs, but were a combined 6-36 the three previous years. Balboa next plays Wallenberg (1-4) Wednesday at Big Rec at 3:30 p.m. … Sacred Heart Cathedral, ranked 21st in the nation in last week’s USA Today Super 25 girls’ basketball team, will likely move up when the poll comes out Wednesday. The Irish (31-2) defeated Sacramento 67-66 Saturday in Stockton for the NorCal Division III title and will next play Bishop Amat of La Puente for the state championship Saturday at 1 p.m. at Arco Arena. Sacred Heart won the Division IV state title last year.