MLB continues to play Russian roulette with Maple bats.

Baseball 15 Mar 2010
How many more players, coaches, umpires and fans need to be injured by exploding Maple bats before MLB finally bans them? Tampa Bay pitcher, David price, was the latest victim a few days ago, and was lucky to escape with only an abrasion to his non-pitching hand. Others haven’t been so lucky.

Clay Hensley waiting for impact

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.

Nate McClouth broken bat hits Long

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.

Susan Rhodes

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.

Brian O'Nora

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.

Play Ball!!!!!!!!


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    June 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

    Great article. There is something that can eliminate injuries caused by broken bats that does not change the integrity of solid-wood bats. The Blackstone, Ltd. “IRONHORSE WRAP” eliminates injuries caused by shattered wood bats. It will also increase the durability and lifespan of solid wood bats. It has passed 2 sets of tests, conducted in 3 phases, by MLB’s research facilities at Lowell/UMASS in 2008 & 2009 with a 100% success rate in eliminating flying debris from hurting players and spectators. It has also proven itself effective against all hinging and tethering that causes the baseball bat to come around and hurt the umpire, catcher and the batter. The “IRONHORSE WRAP” does not promote itself to be 100% effective in all multi-piece failures, especially in failures that occur beyond the region the tape is applied, but it has a proven track record of dramatically reducing the amount of flying projectiles that hurt and injure players and spectators as outlined in the December 15, 2009 Lowell/UMass Report. The Baseball Research Center at Lowell/UMASS states: “its use (Ironhorse Wrap) could significantly reduce the number of multi-piece bat failures when applied to maple bats.” Since September 2008, this safety device has virtually eliminated all injuries due to broken solid wood baseball bats during game-play. The total cost for implementing this safety device is $5 per bat. It is no different than the tape a player already puts on his bat today.

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  3. Mike Pisciotta via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Good point, Bob. I guess I forgot that point. I worked for Brian Prilaman back in ’77 and ’78 and though I saw plenty of broken bats, the vast majority of them were in one piece as you point out. I’m no engineer, but it would seem there would be sturdier, more ash-like wood out there to replace maple. Like you, I hope MLB wakes up before someone dies as a result of being hit by a shattered maple bat.

  4. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Mike – I played with Andre Dawson who would get a thin handled bat, then whittle it down even further. Despite the pencil thin handle, and one of the strongest men the game has ever seen swinging it like a buggy whip, I did not see very many Dawson bat heads flying through the infield. The issue is far less the thickness of handles as it is the type of wood that is breaking. Ash, even with thin handles, will still tend to crack keeping the bat broken, but in one piece, where as maple, again regardless of handle thickness, tends to explode sending large pieces everywhere.

  5. Mike Pisciotta via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 9:59 am

    You touched on a great point in your article: the thickness of the handle. Some of these guys carry toothpicks to the plate handle-wise and then get sawed right off. There has to be another way besides restricting to ash. There has to be better, stronger wood out there.

  6. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Wood composites are a good alternative in the youth and adult amateur leagues and are being used, They are $90-$120 but they last longer. Difficult to introduce to MLB because players want different model, weights, and the action off the bat would still be different than traditional solid wood bat, and then skews every stat from then forth.

  7. Connie Werrlyh via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 8:43 am

    use technology => plastic wrap

  8. David Leland via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 7:55 am


  9. Brandon Cline via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 6:20 am

    What about those wood composite bats I’ve been seeing pop up? I would love to hit with one of those but they’re like $80. I know baseball is a pretty “traditionalist” sport but I think when people left and right are being skewered by maple shrapnel, perhaps we need technology to step in here.

  10. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    April 3, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Thanks for invite Luigi. Will be spending the day with the family in L.A. Have fun!

  11. Mike Pisciotta via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I posted your article on my wall, trying to get more exposure to this issue.

  12. Luigi Novello via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    im not going to were my twins jersey im going to were my padres stuff in twin city by the way we are having a huge party tomorrow at randy jones all american sports grill tomorrow come and join us

  13. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    They would hand you a napkin to clean up your bloody Twins jersey and be escorted to the stadium infirmary and maybe the hospital “for further evaluation”.

  14. Luigi Novello via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    what would happend if i sat behind the padres dugout in the twins series and a broken maple bat hits me on the face

  15. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Luigi, c’mon, man you know that some pitchers and third baseman would killed if MLB hitters swung metal!

  16. Luigi Novello via Facebook
    April 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    i think they should use metal bat is better then wooden bat

  17. cgborsotti
    April 20, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Great article, though the content is terribly disturbing. I had no idea there were already so many recorded injuries due to these exploding bats. How can the MLB know about these incidents and continue to allow Maple bats? Is it really going to cost someone his/her life before they do something about it?

    Excellent writing — criminal recklessness is right.

  18. Dex
    March 17, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Hey Scan,

    One of the notes for MLB Rule 6.05(h) reads “If a whole bat is thrown into fair territory and interferes with a defensive player attempting to make a play, interference shall be called, whether intentional or not.”

    My idea for solving the maple bat problem. Adjust this rule so that a broken bat that comes apart is considered interference.

    Observationally, other types of wood will crack and may break, but will rarely fly apart the way maple does.

    Players wouldn’t directly be prohibited from using maple, but the risk of having one of these bats break in an important game situation would eventually force teams to avoid them entirely.

    Also, you might get the slight benefit of safety in that fielders would be taught to just duck and cover the moment they see one of these bats break instead of trying to make a play on the ball.

    I’ve brought up this potential solution for years. What do you think?

    Gaslamp Ball

  19. Bob Scanlan
    March 16, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks for chiming in guys/gals! Hopefully MLB does the right thing before someone gets maimed.

  20. pad_619
    March 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I simply don’t understand why there isn’t a ban on maple, plain and simple. I saw what happened to David Price and that was scary. Just think what guys like CY, Billy Wagner and Rafael Soriano think after getting beaned in the head already, its like oh great here is something else that can come flying at my head and kill me!

  21. eastbaysd
    March 15, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I agree 150%. I hope they ban maple bats. The sooner, the better.

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