MILES CITY (AP) – The Miles City American Legion baseball teams have agreed to use metal bats in postseason tournaments and in games against teams that won’t agree to use wood bats.
“We had to make a compromise to maintain an affiliation with American Legion,” said Matt Phillips, president of the Miles City Youth Baseball Association, which made the policy change at its meeting earlier this month.
The Miles City Mavericks had refused to use metal bats since pitcher Brandon Patch was struck by a hit ball and died in the summer of 2003.
The American Legion suspended the Mavericks for the 2007 season after they forfeited four conference games in 2006 when the Bozeman Bucks refused to play with wood bats. Miles City also lost its rights to host the state tournament.
The Mavericks were reinstated for the 2008 season, as long as they agreed to play all their games, even if their opponents used metal bats.
“I was definitely disappointed,” said Duane Patch, Brandon’s father. “But I really don’t think they had a choice. I don’t want to see the kids suffer, either.”
Phillips said the Mavericks will still play nonconference games with wood bats and will request that conference teams use wood bats when playing the Mavericks.
“We’ll play with wood anytime somebody wants to, we’ll still be that team,” Phillips said. “We know at some point in time we will face metal and we need to prepare for that.”
The Mavericks were also put back into the rotation to host the 2009 state tournament, at which metal bats will be used.
“I don’t think it would be the best situation if the first metal bat to touch Denton Field in five years was at the 2009 state tournament,” Phillips said. “I think this will ease the transition a little bit.”
Phillips said the board will also be considering whether to require players to wear plastic helmets, called shells, when they play against teams using metal bats.