Maple bats: Do they cause more harm than good?

May 5, 2017

MLB

In this June 4, 2013 photo, the wood of choice for the Uppercut Bat is a high grade piece of Maple that can be custom ordered and designed with a variety of stains and paints, at the Uppercut Bat Company in Tupelo, Miss. Ever since the game of baseball was invented, players have needed two essential pieces of equipment: a ball and a bat. The Uppercut Bat Co. is less than two years old, but it has drawn a legion of fans and customers who have taken to the company’s wood bats. (AP Photo/The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Thomas Wells)

By: Ana Kieu

Maple bats became popular after the MLB introduced the first sanctioned model in 1997.

Former outfielder and first baseman Joe Carter was the first baseball player to use a maple bat. Carter played for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants. In his professional career, he hit 396 home runs and drove in 1,445 runs. He was also named to five All-Star teams.

Former left fielder Barry Bonds used maple bats over the course of his career. Bonds broke the MLB’s single-season home run record in 2001. He also broke a career home run record in 2007. He finished the season with 28 home runs, 66 RBIs, 340 at-bats and a .276 batting average. He led both the American League and National League with 132 walks. He became a free agent on October 29, 2007. He served as a hitting coach for the Miami Marlins in 2016.

The validity of maple bats decreased in 2010. The MLB inspected them after they began to shatter at a faster rate. The doubtfulness surrounding maple bats revived after Chicago Cubs rookie Tyler Colvin was struck in the chest by a piece of a broken bat. As a result, Colvin was hospitalized in stable condition and sidelined for the rest of the season.

Despite the incident involving Colvin, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that eliminating maple bats was impossible due to a shortage of high-quality ash. However, Scott Drake, vice president of communications for TECO, said that Louisville Sluggers could produce some bats made completely of ash. Although there’s a shortage of ash, the overall supply hasn’t been hollow just yet.

The close call for Colvin should’ve been enough for the MLB to take steps towards action. The league shouldn’t have to wait until a player dies on the baseball field before the necessary changes are made in bats. In 2010, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the same thing and put an emphasis on how the league would wait too long for an in-game death.

Colvin’s injury came two years after the MLB started looking into the issue of shattered maple bats. 2,232 bats broke in the final three months of the 2008 season. 756 of those bats separated into multiple pieces. It’s obvious the problem came from the increased use of bats made from maple, but all we can do is educate ourselves about the dangers and risks until the league wakes up to smell the coffee.

Maple bats can cause more harm than good.

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