THE BASEBALL SEASON HAS JUST STARTED AND ALREADY THERE’S A YOUNG PITCHER IN A COMA FROM A BALL HIT OFF AN ALUMINUM BAT

                                                                                       Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It was a scrimmage in Kentfield, California, between Marin Catholic High School and De La Salle High School on Thursday, March 11, 2010. Junior right-hander Gunnar Sandberg was on the mound for Marin Catholic. Sandberg, 16, threw a pitch and the batter, hitting with an aluminum bat, hit a rocket right at Sandberg’s head. By all accounts of the people who were there, Sandberg never had time to react, was hit in the head just above the right ear and went down in a heap. Yet, Sandberg was actually able to get up and even walk around after he was hit.

Thankfully, according to the reporting of John Swartz of Marinij.com, who has covered this story from the beginning, Marin Catholic trainer Jamie Waterman said, “[Sandberg] was answering questions, but as soon as they told me what happened – a batted ball to the head – I said to call 911.”

Thankfully, someone did.

DECOMPRESSIVE CRANIECTOMY SURGERY

After several CAT scans at the hospital, which showed a fractured skull above his right ear the size of a baseball, according to Bjorn Sandberg, Gunnar’s father, “On Friday morning, everything seemed reasonable. That night, my wife noticed [Gunnar] seemed more agitated. The doctors did another scan, and they came back and told us he was in surgery in 10 minutes.”

According to marinij.com, Sandberg then underwent decompressive craniectomy surgery, which consisted of removing a portion of Gunnar’s skull to allow his brain to swell without being compressed.

The doctors had to put Gunnar into a medically-induced coma, which has been done to other young pitchers in other parts of the country who have been hit in the head with balls hit off aluminum bats.

While the doctors told Bjorn Sandberg that his son would be in the coma for about three to five days, they also said don’t be surprised if it’s more. Friday was Gunnar’s eighth day in a coma.

WHAT’S THE MESSAGE?

The first message is that, no matter how “OK” a kid may seem after he’s been hit like this pitcher (and others), you have to get him to the emergency room immediately. And he has to be monitored for at least days, not hours, after the fact.

But the bigger message is coming from Bjorn Sandberg, who now wants to work towards making things safer for kids. It’s interesting to see that, despite the “victory” of the Brandon Patch family in Montana (who got a jury verdict for $850,000 against Louisville Slugger when their son was killed by a batted ball hit off an aluminum bat, see Kallas Remarks, 10/28/09), many people don’t understand the dangers until they see them happen in front of them.

Well, the people of Marin County, California have now seen it first hand and, hopefully, they will be able to do something about it. Already, Gunnar’s baseball team has played games with donated wooden bats. Another team in their league, Branson High School, not only played against Marin Catholic with wood, they announced that they would use wood the rest of the season to “honor Gunnar and the rest of the Sandberg family,” according to Branson coach Damon McGovran.

WHAT DO THEY DO NEXT?

There’s a lot to try and do. As the Patch family did in Montana prior to filing a lawsuit on virtually the last day before the statute of limitations ran out on their claims against Louisville Slugger, the Sandberg family could spearhead a movement to try and get a local, city or even statewide law passed banning non-wood bats in games for kids 18 and under.

They can do what legislator Jim Oddo successfully did in New York City – lead an effort to ban non-wood bats in high school games. They can lead informational sessions, increase awareness, show others what can happen to a virtually helpless kid on the mound (Marin Catholic catcher Andrew Traver said “I saw that Gunnar didn’t have any time to react… . It got real serious real fast.”).

And while the family may not want to do this now, they may consider releasing the video of their son getting hit. As of now, they have allowed TV stations only to use the before and after of the video. While that is certainly a family decision, having others view the video will show the obvious – that, many times, kids are helpless and have no chance to get out of the way.

We all hope that Gunnar Sandberg comes out of his coma and has a complete recovery. But many are on notice in California of what can and does happen in youth baseball with these modern-day non-wood bats.

They can put kids in comas and, in the case of Brandon Patch, even kill a kid. Now, in California, and, hopefully, across the country, a whole new group of parents is aware of this.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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One response to “THE BASEBALL SEASON HAS JUST STARTED AND ALREADY THERE’S A YOUNG PITCHER IN A COMA FROM A BALL HIT OFF AN ALUMINUM BAT

  1. Richard Schneck

    Dear Mr Steve Kallas — I am a senior citizen who lives outside the USA, but am a native of California. of course, I was sorry about what happened to Gunnar Sandberg. years ago when I was young — Gil McDougal of the Yankees hit a line drive (with a wooden bat) straight back to the mound and it hit Herb Score in the face (I believe). I wonder if Herb Score is still alive and could give us his reflections based on his own personal experience. post scriptum — back in 1967, I coached Frosh baseball at St Ignatius Prep in San Francisco. I wasnt too good a coach because we lost more games than we won. So be it. Shalom. Richard Schneck at the equator in the Andes mountains.

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