USA Baseball v. City of New York, 509 F.Supp.2d 285 (SDNY, 2007)
What’s the Issue?
Beginning in 2002, the City began to consider enacting a bill forbidding the use of “non-wood” bats by children in competitive baseball games and the Council held public hearings, heard testimony and reviewed reports and records, eventually totaling in excess of 3500 pages. In 2007, the City of New York enacted the “Bat Ordinance” prohibiting the use of “non-wood” bats by players in high school baseball games sponsored by public or private schools and taking place within the geographic boundaries of the City.
The records included the testimony of a mother whose son died after being struck by a ball hit with a non-wood bat; a father of a boy who was seriously injured by a ball coming off of a non-wood bat and even former Major League pitcher, John Franco, who testified that metal bats are “very, very dangerous” based on his experience throwing batting practice at high school baseball team practices. A City high school coach denied that the ball came off the bat any quicker with a metal bat but did concede that a metal bat has a bigger “sweet spot” making it easier for the batter to hit the ball cleanly for a base hit.
After considering the evidence, the Bat Ordinance was initially adopted on March 14, 2007; however, it was quickly vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on April 4, 2007. The City Council thereafter overrode the Mayor’s veto and enacted the Bat Ordinance with the September 1, 2007 effective date.
The plaintiffs (including parents of students, metal bat manufacturers such as Easton and Hillerich & Bradsby, the National Baseball Coaches Association and USA Baseball) filed a lawsuit to prevent the ordinance from taking effect on September 1, 2007 claiming that the ordinance was unconstitutional and was beyond the police power of the City.
The City argued that they were within their constitutional powers to promote the safety of high school age students in competitive games and that this was more important than padding the players’ statistics through the use of metal bats.
So who won?
The Court ruled in favor of New York City, finding that the law was constitutional and granted their motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
The City has the power to enact laws for the “safety, health, well-being and welfare” of its residents.
The Court found that the Bat Ordinance had a rational relationship to the legitimate purpose of protecting public safety, stating that the high school baseball players’ safety was more important than higher batting averages and more offense.
Also importantly, the Bat Ordinance did not make the use of non-wood bats illegal under all circumstances – it was properly limited to only high school-sponsored baseball games taking place in the City.
The Court found that the plaintiffs’ argument that the Bat Ordinance had an illegal impact on interstate commerce to be “breathtakingly speculative” and found it ironic that the manufacturers of the metal and composite bats would boast the increased batting performance to hitters then seek to avoid the consequences of more balls being hit at players in the field.
Ultimately, the Court found that the Bat Ordinance was constitutional and did not exceed the police powers of the City.