Posted on 08. Mar, 2009 by in General Baseball.

 

Example of a Two-toned Maple Pro Stock bat from Louisville Slugger

Example of a Two-toned Maple Pro Stock bat from Louisville Slugger

Arguably, one of the most important pieces of equipment to a baseball player is his bat. Without it, a player does not stand a chance to reach first base or beyond.  There are numerous styles, sizes and colors of baseball bats, and even more companies that produce them. Later in the season I will look more in depth at “the baseball bat,” and talk more about the kinds that are being used throughout the game.   One issue that I wanted to touch on now is the maple bat.

Major League Baseball invested a lot of money last season into research why maple bats “shatter” so much more than other bats when they break.  Last season in the majors, one broken maple bat landed into the dugout and sliced Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long in the face.  Another maple bat went into the stands and broke a fan’s jaw.  These problems, coupled with other similar occurrences led major league baseball to look into the problem.

According to a Major League Baseball study, 2,232 baseball bats were broken by batters from July to the end of the regular season.  756 of those bats broke into multiple pieces.  It is not known the exact number of how many of those were maple bats, but researchers  did say that “maple bats were three times as likely to shatter into multiple pieces than more traditional ash bats.”

As a result, a new mandate has been put in place for the manufacturers’ with plenty of new rules to follow.  Some of the new regulations are:

1.    Bats must adhere to a slope of grain requirement of just under 3-degrees for the handle and taper regions.
2.    Bat makers must place an ink dot on the face grain side of the handle for maple and birch bats to gauge the slope angle
3.    The hitting surface for maple and birch needs to be the face grain, not the edge grain, meaning a quarter turn (90-degrees) placement of trademarks on bats
4.    Handles for maple and birch bats must be either natural or clear finished (to see the grain and ink dot)
5.    Bat makers need a system to track maple and birch bats that leave their shops
6.    Bat makers need to participate in an MLB sponsored workshop on engineering and grading of wood
7.    Bat makers will be visited and audited for manufacturing processes and tracking systems
8.    Audits will also be made randomly (does that sound familiar?) at ballparks
9.    An on-going third-party certification program needs to be set up to deal with any new innovations that come along in the future

Nobody can truly predict if this will help solve the problem of shattering maple bats, but Major League Baseball felt like they had to try something.  They will continue to monitor the problem and have additional guidelines put in place if needed.

A few grumblings have been heard throughout spring training, as players do not like the looks to some of the new maple bats.  As regulation four above states, the handles must either be natural or clear finished, leaving most of the bats two toned.  But I say if it helps you hit the ball over the wall, than who cares what the thing looks like.


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