Maple Bat Ban Needs to Happen Now

June 25, 2008 at 7:31 am 2 comments

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

I can’t go an entire game without seeing a bat break, without seeing a maple bat break. The maple bats all seem to break at the bottom of the handle and the barrell is sent flying, often times further than the ball. It’s a shame when you have to see a shortstop or thirdbaseman, or a pitcher have to dodge a bat barrell while fielding a batted ball. One fan has a broken jaw thanks to maple bats and now an umpire had to be hospitalized:

Brian O’Nora, the home plate umpire in the Rockies-Royals game Tuesday night, was a victim a shattered maple bat and left the game in the bottom of the second inning.

With one out in the bottom of the second, Miguel Olivo grounded to shortstop, and in his backswing, the barrel of the bat broke off from the handle and hit O’Nora behind the left ear. He was tended to on the field and then taken to a local hospital.

The incident came hours after representatives of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association met to discuss growing concerns about the way the maple bats shatter, and the possiblity of field personnel and fans being hurt by a shattered bat.

The game was delayed for 13 minutes while Paul Nauert, who had been working first base, put on the gear to work home plate in the absence of O’Nora.

O’Nora was treated by Royals trainer Nick Swartz for a small laceration and was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for further observation. -By Tracy Ringolsby, Rocky Mountain News

It’s a good thing that the meetings have begun but the ban needs to be put in place now. Some batters seem to swear by these maple bats but I haven’t seen any sign of them giving the hitter a better advantage. The saddest part of this is that it may take until the offseason to get this worked out:

Though neither side offered further comment, sources said the likelihood of any change in the rules before the end of the season was extremely unlikely, even though, in the release, the committee said it would “issue recommendations as quickly as possible.” – Jeff Pasan, Yahoo Sports

Hitters need to wake up and make the decision themselves to shelve these maple bats but that doesn’t look like it will happen. One idea Passan wrote was to change the dimensions of the bat and make the handles thicker or the barrells thinner. I also believe thin handles have a lot to do with the broken bats:

And one idea that seems a happy medium, changing the dimensions of the bat – whether to a larger minimum handle size (currently 16/19th of an inch), smaller length-to-weight ratio (minus-3.5, meaning a 34-inch bat must weigh at least 30.5 ounces) or smaller barrel (2¾ inches) – would chafe some players, too.

Todd Helton is a big advocate of using them and keeping the thin handles and thinks it would be a shame to force a player to switch his bat.

“You can’t switch with a guy’s handle,” said Helton, who uses a 34-inch, 32-ounce model. “No. Nooo. I don’t care what they think. It doesn’t matter if handles are too thin. You can’t switch it. That’s how he’s feeling the bat. That’s his connection with the bat.”

It doesn’t seem that the players are going to budge at all. With Passan stating that over 50% of players use these maple bats that were introduced just 10 years ago I doubt the players will be the men they are and lay down the maple for ash or another alternative. So, we might be stuck with this debate until another person is seriously injured or possibly even killed.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. suzy  |  June 26, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    ok with a multitude of warnings and close call injuries baseball again is gonna wait till some one in the infield literally loses an eye is a bat worth ending a career? or its gonna hit an elderly fan or a child and possibly be fatal doesn’t anyone one learn from the past???
    and so what the players will have to step up and be pros. and adjust to something different and make it work!!!

  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  June 27, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I agree. I think the players need to be men about this and lay the maple down for something else.


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