MLB, U.S. Forest Service decreases bat shatter rate

Summertime brings to mind more than wildfires…

Here’s a link… below is an excerpt.

As the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) season slides into the All-Star break, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the results of innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service, and funded by MLB, that will result in significantly fewer shattered baseball bats.

“This innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service will make baseball games safer for players and fans across the nation,” said Secretary Vilsack. “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.”

Testing and analyzing thousands of shattered Major League bats, U.S. Forest Service researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) developed changes in manufacturing that decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than 50 percent since 2008. While the popularity of maple bats is greater today than ever before, the number of shattered bats continues to decline.

“Since 2008, the U.S. Forest Service has worked with Major League Baseball to help make America’s pastime safer,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “I’m proud that our collective ‘wood grain trust’ has made recommendations resulting in a significant drop in shattered bats, making the game safer for players as well as for fans.”

“These results would not have been possible without the outstanding work of the Forest Products Laboratory and the tireless efforts of its project coordinator, David Kretschmann,” says Daniel Halem, MLB’s Senior Vice President of Labor Relations. “Major League Baseball greatly appreciates the invaluable contributions of the Forest Products Laboratory and Mr. Kretschmann on this important issue.”

14 thoughts on “MLB, U.S. Forest Service decreases bat shatter rate”

  1. It’s a joke because it is true, farmrdave. Babe Ruth used a laminated bat that was designed not to shatter in 1923, but it was banned — in part because he hit so well with it — within weeks. It’s interesting that even Tidwell is making promotional speeches on this topic, so they must think they’re doing something right and this is it. wow.

  2. Being a big baseball fan, (and thoroughly enjoying the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Pirates), I have followed the usage of maple for bats. Ash had been used exclusively in the past but, when the new maple bats came out, some hitters liked the lighter and livelier feel to them but, they often shattered into very dangerous shards. A Pirates coach, sitting in the dugout, was impaled by a piece. I would guess that the premium ash used in previous bats were getting harder to come by, especially with the advent of the emerald ash borer. Ash also occurs in sensitive places like bottomlands. Of course, maple is much more plentiful and not affected by the mortality. Both the owners AND the Players Union were extremely concerned about potential injuries (and lawsuits) from these dangerous bats. The Union has supported the players who like the maple bats. The owners saw a way to limit the rising costs associated with the traditional bats made of ash.

    Of course, it is all about money! BIG money!

    • I’m pretty sure most baseball players make more money than most loggers, foresters, firefighters, or rural families and some towns. I can see why Tidwell pulled out the stops and gave his name and statement and our money to seeing that no more coaches are impaled by a broken bat ever again during his watch. I would have thought, though, that MLB could have paid for such research on their own, without involving the federal government. What did Tidwell have to say about the Granite Mountain Hotshots?

      • The big money isn’t in bat savings. If the player gets better statistics, due to the maple bats, he gets millions of dollars every year. The player’s Union gets a big chunk, too. The owners fear a big lawsuit from a fan, who gets seriously injured or killed by a chunk of a bat. Again, BIG money!

        Ironically, players are striking out much more often, these days, swinging for the fences. The old adage of “Swing hard, in case you hit it” is more in play than ever. Pitchers are throwing harder and harder, too, with more of them having more than one strikeout per inning, than ever. There are more pitchers who throw 100 mph fastballs, than ever. The super slo-mo cameras often catch the bats as they shatter and fly towards their unintended targets.

        Now, you know, the rest of the story!

  3. The US Forest Service formerly known as “pest control” has certainly come along way. Actually I would like to see them manage the forests and not developing shatter resistant base ball bats. The Department of Energy was begun under Carter to prevent any future gas shortages. That has sure worked well , don’t you think? Now we have the USFS expanded into the safety of base ball. Our government is overcome by cancerous growth. Next election vote them all out.

  4. It seems farmrdave may have missed the part of the article where it says this research was funded by MLB, not FS. They’re not wasting your money. Shouldn’t the government collaborate with the private sector and help it when possible?

      • You said they were wasting our money. They’re not spending our money, they are spending MLB’s money.

        Government expertise shouldn’t be used to help the private sector improve, especially when it doesn’t cost the government anything? Really?

        As for the purpose of the Forest Service, their motto is “caring for the land and serving people.” This seems like serving people to me.

        • Hayduke: Two points: a) they are the USFS and exist, function, and operate on taxpayer funding — their sources of income are independent of the overhead cost of building and maintaining the agency, which we pay for; b) it is a matter of priorities.

          What is worth more, income-wise, ecologically, and/or in the national interest: salvaging and protecting millions of acres of dead and dying trees in bug-killed and fire-killed overcrowded stands or doing research on game equipment for millionaires? A logger or a firefighter (and their families); or a baseball player or a third base coach (and their fans)?

          And when do Vilsack and Tidwell choose to brag and crow about on a national stage? And why do they choose to do so?

          • Bob, I understand what you are saying but will respectfully disagree.

            Yes, FS exists on taxpayer funding, and this expertise was assembled and nutured thanks to federal appropriations. With this I completely agree. However, I believe it is not only appropriate but just a great idea for the government to help support the private sector instead of just getting in the way with regulations. The article says MLB paid for the time spent on this project. No doubt MLB benefitted from the research, FS public relations (you say “brag and crow”) benefitted, and I’m confident that the FS scientists probably learned a new thing or two, and the government didn’t have to pay for it. Perhaps this expanded knowledge will be brought to bear on more substantial resource issues in the future?

            As for your second point, it’s not an either or. I don’t believe it’s fair to suggest that FS shouldn’t do research on building a better baseball bat until the bug kill problem and others is solved. Having ten (a WAG on my part) FS employees working on this project is not going to be the difference between healthy forests and whatever it is we have now. You know that has more to do with policy than employees, which, I imagine, it the source of your legitimate issues with Vilsack and Tidwell.

  5. A 50% decline in shattered bats is incredible! The US forest service has done a great job but I think a lot of problems could be avoided with a transition to the BBCOR baseball bats or forests could be saved by using sustainable and hard bamboo for creating bats.


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