|May 6, 2005 – Padre pitcher Clay Hensley is heat in the back of the head by the barrel of a broken Maple bat. He receives 4 stitches to close the wound, but stays in the game.|
|April 16, 2008 – Pirate’s batting coach Don Long is struck below the left eye by a piece of shrapnel from the handle of a broken Maple bat swung by Nate McClouth. Long receives 10 stitches to close the wound dangerously close to his eye.|
|April 25, 2008 – Susan Rhodes, a fan at an MLB game, is struck in the face by the barrel of a broken Maple bat. Her jaw is shattered, and requires surgery to put 4 screws and a titanium plate in place to hold her jaw together. Doctors are unable to predict whether she will ever fully recover from the headaches, shifted teeth, atrophied jaw, and loss of energy that she suffered from the injury.|
|June 24, 2008 – MLB umpire, Brian O’Nora is struck in the forehead by the barrel of a broken Maple bat while umpiring home plate. He is forced to leave the game and goes to the hospital to get treatment for a laceration on his forehead. Ironically the same day O’Nora was hit, MLB’s Safety and Health Advisory Committee had met to discuss what to about injuries being caused by broken bats.|
These are just a few examples of injuries directly related to the explosion of Maple bats being used by batters. There are countless other stories, and even more near misses involving players, coaches, umpires, and fans.
The danger is clear, and the cause of the threat is obvious. Yet, MLB continues to refuse to remove Maple bats from games, almost in defiance of the body of evidence that continues to build warning that an even more serious injury, or worse a pointless death, is a looming eventuality. Even their own study conducted in 2005 showed no difference in the reaction of the ball off the different woods, and more importantly that Ash bats tend to break innocuously while Maple bats had a propensity to explode!
MLB’s response? More studies, of course! More studies to investigate the affects of grain angles, moisture content, and wood density. More committees to review policy on bat handle thicknesses. More meetings to discuss every option OTHER than obvious, sensible, and prudent solution…banning Maple bats from use in competition.
As the injuries mount, so does MLB’s culpability. In fact, the legal responsibility for this needless game of Russian roulette being played with anyone who participates or goes to a game is obvious, but they are doing all they can to protect themselves from future litigation. The fact that they have refused to financially assist any of the victims, especially fans like Susan Rhodes, shows MLB’s awareness and concern of creating a trail of evidence acknowledging it’s responsibility.
Is it their worry over the increasing cost and availability of Ash bats, as Ash supplies decrease for natural and man-induced reasons? Is it a need to protect bat companies who’ve already invested in millions of dollars worth of Maple billets, waiting to be spun into exploding weapons? Is it a need to save face for allowing a dangerous piece of equipment on to their fields in the first place, or to avoid legal culpability for injuries that have already occurred?
Whatever the reason, it is now beyond simply being short sided and irresponsible – the term now is becoming criminal recklessness. “Recklessness usually arises when an accused is actually aware of the potentially adverse consequences to the planned actions, but has gone ahead anyway, exposing a particular individual or unknown victim to the risk of suffering the foreseen harm but not actually desiring that the victim be hurt.”
Of course, no one in the MLB offices wants anyone to be hurt, but they certainly are aware of the danger, and yet continue to allow victims to stand and sit in front of the barrel, while players spin the loaded cylinder and pull the trigger. It’s just a matter of time before there is a bullet in the chamber, and a career is cut short, or worse, a life is lost.