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Ban the Bats, Hold the Fats

from the magazine

Ban the Bats, Hold the Fats

New York’s busybody city council is at it again. Spring 2007
Economy, finance, and budgets
New York

A generation of Little Leaguers knows the distinctive sound that a baseball makes when it’s hit with a metal bat. But that sound will never be heard again at New York high schools, thanks to the City Council, which has passed a bill banning metal bats from high school baseball games. The bill won sufficient votes to override a potential veto from Mayor Bloomberg. But the mayor’s extraordinary enthusiasm for government nannying would make a veto unlikely anyway.

Metal bats are dangerous, the council says, because they propel balls faster than wooden bats do, possibly not allowing pitchers enough time to protect themselves—especially when physically maturing high school–age batters are doing the swinging. A few highly publicized cases of players either killed or seriously injured by balls struck by metal bats prompted the legislation. A Brown University study determined that balls hit by metal bats do, in fact, travel faster, but drew no further conclusions.

The larger question, of course, is why the council believes it necessary to micromanage school sports. Isn’t that the job of parents and coaches? After all, baseballs struck by wooden bats regularly injure kids—and big leaguers, too. Pitched baseballs can be dangerous as well. Batters have good reason to be more worried about what Roger Clemens might do to them than the other way around, as former Met Mike Piazza can attest. Maybe the council should just ban baseball, period.

The council’s bat ban went through as part of a session devoted to other meddlesome work, such as forcing businesses to provide helmets to employees using bicycles. And it comes on the heels of the Bloomberg era’s most visionary idea since outlawing smoking in bars: a ban on trans fats in restaurants, originally passed by the Board of Health and now given the force of law by the council, which had feared that future mayors might do away with it. “The legislature of the greatest city in the world is protecting its citizens from trans fats, and everyone else should do the same thing,” said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.

Compared with that inspiring directive, banning metal bats may seem like small ball. But it perfectly expresses the council’s and the mayor’s underlying belief: too much liberty is hazardous to your health.

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