Commissioner Bud Selig reiterated his concern about the issue of shattering maple bats at the big league level last week, and now Major League Baseball is set to do something about it. A meeting to discuss the pressing issue between members of the Commissioner's Office, the players association and various clubs has been set for June 24 in New York, the New York Times said in its Sunday editions. The report was later confirmed for MLB.com by an MLB official. The owners took up the topic at their quarterly meetings on May 15, and Selig said last week after a press conference in Anaheim announcing that the Angels had been awarded the 2010 All-Star Game that his concern certainly hasn't diminished.
"We're working on a lot of things, with the union and the rules committee," Selig said last month. "It's a source of concern. It has been for me. I watch a lot of games and I am concerned. So I expressed that concern with the executive council and they agreed. I'll be able to give you some definitive answers in the coming months." The matter has been getting attention because maple bats have splintered in great numbers lately, causing injuries to uniformed personnel and fans seated in the stands. On April 25 at Dodger Stadium, a maple bat used by Colorado's Todd Helton shattered. The barrel spun into the stands behind the Rockies' third-base side dugout and struck a fan sitting four rows back in the face. That fan, Susan Rhodes, had her jaw shattered, Yahoo! Sports reported. About 10 days earlier, Pirates coach Don Long suffered a sliced face when a maple bat splintered at the handle. Maple has replaced ash as the wood bat of choice in the Major Leagues. A 2005 study commissioned by MLB and the union revealed that ash bats do not typically shatter into many pieces while maple bats have a tendency to explode. There are a number of solutions to be taken into consideration, from extending netting from behind the plate down the first and third base lines as they do in Japanese ballparks to placing restrictions on the width of bat handles to banning the use of maple bats completely. Players now have a penchant of seeking bats with a thinner handle and a larger barrel, which gives the hitter more snap in his swing, but creates a tremendous imbalance. Some players even shave that thin handle to make it slimmer. "When you're trying to take away weight from the handle and add it to the barrel, it's not very evenly balanced," Mets third baseman David Wright told the Times. "When it cracks, it tends to shatter." About 60 percent of Major League players use maple bats instead of ash because the wood is stronger and lasts longer. MLB has made equipment changes for safety reasons as recently as this season. Last year, Mike Coolbaugh, coaching first base in the Rockies' Minor League system, was killed when he was hit in the head by a line drive. This year, MLB mandated that all base coaches at the Major and Minor League levels wear protective helmets when they are in their positions on the field.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.