The shot that Sammamish, Wash., pitcher Jacob Dahlstrom took in the leg off Westport, Conn., batter Tatin Llamas not only knocked Dahlstrom from the game in the second inning, it's the kind of play that has led some to question the safety of non-wood bats.
And while no one involved in Sunday's game between the two at the Little League World Series was suggesting reform, it should be noted that Westport LL has been using wooden bats during the regular season since 2010.
"First and foremost, it's been a safety issue," said Westport manager Tim Rogers about the thoughts of the Westport LL board. "Forty-six feet is a little close with some of the guys being the size they are.
"The wood takes some of the pop out of the bat and, no matter what anyone says, it does, even if it's an equivalent size and weight," said Rogers. "It's harder to swing."
There have been legislative measures in recent years to ban wooden bats in some cities, states and school districts. Besides the 46-foot proximity of the pitcher's mound and home plate in Little League Baseball, non-wood bats have come into question for their bigger sweet spots, making them easier to hit, and the "trampoline effect" that makes the ball jump quicker off the barrel.
However, Little League has maintained that non-wood bats conforming to its safety standards are in fact safe, citing research on its website. There also is an eight-page document on its website that lists hundreds of licensed bats by barrel and handle material, make name, model number and approval date.
However, Little Leagues are welcome to use wooden bats if they please.
"The wood bat, it's heavier and harder to get through," said Westport player Alex Reiner. "Once you get a metal bat, you can catch up to faster pitching."
The Westport kids don't play all their baseball under the most stringent safety standards, as Rogers said the league allows pitchers to throw curveballs. Also, the players use non-wood bats in not only the all-star tournament season, but in some 50-70 games in the spring, so it's not a new adjustment from wood.
"It neutralizes their strength a little, though I think it does develop a hitter," Rogers said.
Sammamish manager Rob Chandler was not asked about metal bats and did not offer an opinion but was concerned about Dahlstrom, as he said it was the second time this summer he'd been hit on the mound.
Dahlstrom went down in pain after taking the hit before leaving Sunday' game. Chandler said Dahlstrom was on crutches afterward with a deep bruise and would be evaluated later to play in the rest of the Series.
"I'm not liking it much. Maybe we have to come up with a defensive mechanism for practice," said Chandler, fighting back tears. "Lined shot back to the pitcher, it's only 46 feet. It's happened twice now, and it's bugging me a bit Golly, it was a delayed reaction. I don't know what happened. It's not fun and I don't enjoy it at all."