Monday, July 15, 2013

Forest Service helps make baseball safer by reducing number of shattered bats

Major League Baseball games are safer than ever, thanks to the U.S. Forest Service. In response to baseball's concern that too many broken bats were putting players and fans at risk, sometimes injuring them, the service and MLB began working together in 2008 to design bats that were less likely to break, Scott Streater reports for Environment & Energy News. MLB reports there are now half as many shattered bats.

By July 25 in the 2008 season, MLB had 257 broken bats in 260 games, Jack Curry reported then for The New York Times. All 30 teams were told to save their broken bats so they could be analyzed. (Getty photo by Chris McGrath: David Wright of the New York Mets, shatters his bat during the 2008 All-Star Game)

The key, the Forest Service said, is getting a more consistent slope of grain, which makes the wood grain straighter and less likely to break, Streater reports. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory has once again demonstrated that we can improve uses for wood products across our nation in practical ways -- making advancements that can improve quality of life and grow our economy."

Wood experts examined every broken bat in every MLB game during a three month period in 2008, and studied video of every broken bat from 2009, Streater reports. They found "that lighter, low-density maple-wood bats that have been popular with players since the late 1990s shatter into multiple pieces much more easily than bats made of white ash or high-density maple. The research has already led MLB to adopt rules restricting wood density, as well as changes to wood-drying techniques during manufacturing -- all of which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of shattered bats, according to the service." (Read more)

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