Flying bats roil Boston pitcher

DENVER - OCTOBER 28:  Starting pitcher Jon Les...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

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.”

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About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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3 Responses to Flying bats roil Boston pitcher

  1. Scott Bowen says:

    Jerry: Interesting post. I’m curious about the economics — are maple bats less expensive than ash, or easier to come by? Or is this just a question of player preference for a less dense wood? I would think that if you connected with an ash bat, the greater mass would work in the hitter’s favor.

    • Jerry Lanson says:

      Hi Scott,

      According to baseball-bats.net, maple is more expensive but lasts longer. As for preference, here’s what the site says: “Maple baseball bats have recently become popular largely as a result of Barry Bond’s amazing 73 home runs hit using maple bats in 2001. For years, maple was too heavy to make an effective bat. Recent technology in drying wood has created bats with lower moisture content, which are light enough to make effective baseball bats. Rock or Sugar Maple bats are preferred.”

      The problem is this. All bats crack in time. But it’s the maple ones that tend to explode and become projectiles. That, AP reports, is what Major League Baseball found during a 10-week period in 2008 when it examined more than 2,200 bats that broke.

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