Forget health care, the Iraq elections, the battered Middle East peace process, the crazy Cheneys’ insistence on calling everyone who doesn’t share their world view a terrorist sympathizer. Let’s focus instead on something really weighty — flying maple bats.
These are not nocturnal animals that swoop through Vermont forests. They are baseball timber with a sweet spot that sprays line drives to all fields. Only when a 95-mph pitch hits these lighter-wood models in the wrong spot, the bats tend to shatter and become potentially deadly projectiles that fly toward the mound, the shortstop or into the stands.
It happened again yesterday when Tampa Bay pitcher David Price had to fend off the barrel of a flying maple bat with his palm after Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre’s bat shattered during a spring training game. Price appeared to avoid any serious injury, the Boston Herald‘s Ron Borges reports. But the incident angered his mound opponent, Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, a man who has been felled by a whistling line drive and would just as soon not have bats flying at him, too.
“It kind of sucks that baseball hasn’t done much with the maple bats,” Lester told Borges. “They’re a danger to the game. They’re a danger to the players and a danger to the fans. Ash doesn’t shatter like that, but hitters like (maple bats) so you can’t outlaw them.”
Price’s manager, Joe Maddon spoke out, too. “If we’re going to wait for someone to actually get killed or impaled, we’re going to wait way too long,” The Boston Globe quoted him as saying. “Something has to be done.”
Baseball has been studying the issue — at its own pace. (Reports the Associated Press: “MLB and the union have been extensively studying the issue of broken maple bats since 2008, as splintered barrels wildly helicoptered all over the field and into the stands.”)
Now help might be on the way. The AP last week reported that most maple bats will be banned in the minors this year. The version of the article adapted by The New York Times also notes that: “Major League Baseball sometimes puts a rule in place at the minor league level before it takes effect in the majors.”