SACRAMENTO — High school baseball teams in California will have to follow new safety standards for the metal bats they use under rules released Wednesday, in the wake of accidents that brought national attention to the issue of the bats' safety.
The aluminum bats will be tested to limit the speed of the balls they hit and may include a tamper-proof decal that would change color if the bat was modified to improve performance. While in production, the new bats will be broken in to ensure that their performance — the speed balls travel and the amount they bounce — could not be improved over time with wear.
Schools will be required to use the new bats in January if they are available.
The changes came after 16-year-old pitcher Gunnar Sandberg of Marin County suffered a major head injury when he was hit in the head last March by a line drive off a metal bat.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said Wednesday that he will withdraw his proposed two-year moratorium on non-wooden bats for high school baseball teams.
His bill, AB7, sought to ban both aluminum and composite bats until new safety standards were adopted. Huffman said he postponed the bill for months as he worked on safety changes with the California Interscholastic Federation, which sets statewide rules for high school sports.
The new rules released Wednesday will give California a jump start on implementing national standards for aluminum bats, which take effect in 2012.
The CIF announced in July that the composite bats that some high school teams use will also have to meet new national standards. The CIF also will encourage member high schools to require protective headgear for players.
"Safety has always been the top priority, and continues to be the top priority, of the CIF," said Marie Ishida, executive director of CIF.
Sandberg, who was in a coma for weeks following the accident, said Wednesday that he plans to resume playing baseball this season.
"Even though this new protective gear might not look like just wearing a regular hat, I would say that it's definitely worth it, after what I've been through, and after what other kids have been through," he said.
Huffman said many other young people have also suffered similar head injuries.
"Not all have recovered. Some young people have been killed from this very same type of incident: a line drive driven by a performance-enhancing metal bat," he said.
Ishida recommended that those who plan to buy new bats should wait until bats that meet the new standards are available.
Tom Cove, president and chief executive officer of the Maryland-based Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, said companies are rushing to develop new products to meet the standards.
"There will be bats available, but not enough to sell to the whole market by the beginning of next year," Cove said.
Cove said the changes would make the new metal bats more "wood-like" and take away some of the benefits of composite bats. He said manufacturers do not yet have the technology to create the tamper-proof decals, and he is working with the standard makers to refine that rule.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.