Severely Hurt in a Youth Baseball Game, Teen Victim Gets $14.5 Million Settlement

It was just a baseball hit toward him during a youth baseball game in 2008, but the moment the pitch came off the batter’s metal bat, it changed the life of a teenaged pitcher, striking him hard in the chest, and almost instantly stopping his heart.

The victim, now 18, suffered severe brain damage because his brain was without oxygen for 15 to 20 minutes after the ball struck him, according to a recent Associated Press story.

After the incident, the family of the victim, Steven Domalewski of Wayne, N.J., filed a lawsuit against Hillerich and Bradsby – the makers of the Louisville Slugger metal bat – Little League Baseball and against the Sports Authority sporting goods chain, alleging that despite safety approvals for some metal bats, they are unsafe for use in children’s sports.

A baseball sits on a pitcher's mound, waiting for the game to be played. Image credit: ©

“His family had claimed the metal bat was unsafe because baseballs could carom off it at much faster speeds than wooden bats,” the AP story reported.

Now, following a four-year legal fight, the victim’s family reached a $14.5 million settlement with the bat maker, the baseball organization and the sporting goods chain on Aug. 22 that will help care for him.

The teen was pitching when the hard-hit baseball came right at him and slammed into him, sending him into cardiac arrest, according to the story. He stopped breathing and was quickly attended to by a man trained in CPR, then was rushed to a hospital by paramedics.

“Little League reached an agreement with the major manufacturers in the early 1990s to limit metal bats’ performance to that of the best wooden bats,” the AP story reported. “Little League said in 2008 that injuries to its pitchers fell from 145 a year before the accord was reached to the current level of about 20 to 30 annually. The organization’s website lists scores of metal-barreled bat models that remain approved for use in Little League play.”

According to SAFE KIDS USA, a global non-profit organization that works to prevent childhood injuries, more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.

This tragic incident should remind parents that they must be vigilant when it comes to the sports that their children play and to keep up to date on the equipment that is being used.

One thing to remember, according to Beth Kates, an outreach coordinator for athletic trainers with the National Center for Sports Safety in Birmingham, Ala., is that parents can take a larger role in ensuring that the sports equipment being used by their children is in good condition and meets all safety requirements.

“The bottom line is that you cannot leave the responsibility for the safety of your child in someone else’s hands,” said Kates. “Research your child’s equipment and find out what the safety standards are. If you want your child to be as safe as possible, then you have to take that responsibility.”

That means taking an interest and asking the coaches and organizers what is being used, she said. By asking about the equipment, parents can catch problems before they can lead to injuries.

“You see that all the time, that the league or the coach doesn’t have the safest things out there” for games and practices, said Kates. “You have to take the initiative to bring it up. We’ve let that go on for too long.”

That means parents taking a deeper interest in checking the sport’s rules and making sure that the safety and playing equipment is being adhered to by the teams, organizers and officials, said Kates.

“Look at the equipment,” she said. “Write it down,” from model numbers to dates of manufacturing and any other details, then go home and check it all out online to ensure that it meets the latest safety standards.

If it doesn’t, bring it up to the coaches and officials and make sure that they take the outdated or unsafe equipment out of use.

“Who is going to take better care of your children than you?” asks Kates.

Organized sports are great activities for our children, keeping them active, building teamwork and giving them a love of sports and physical fitness. But at the same time, coaches and organizers also have to do more to be sure that the equipment being used is safe and complies with league regulations to prevent future tragedies like the one that happened on a New Jersey youth baseball field four years ago.

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