Maple Bats: Major League Baseball Looks the Other Way

Andy MillerCorrespondent IMay 30, 2008

I was watching the Cubs' batting practice yesterday at Wrigley Field along the first-base line, hoping that Fukudome would catch a foul ball and possibly toss it my way.

Soriano was taking batting practice, and one of the employees at Wrigley Field was making sure that the people in the section watching batting practice actually had tickets for that section.

A foul ball missed hitting him in the head by about five inches. It didn't seem to faze him one bit. I realized that he works there every game, he's probably been nearly hit many times.

A baseball isn't that big and somewhat easy to avoid. But what if a maple bat had exploded towards him? Would he have been as fortunate?

In the past couple of weeks, there have been a few people at ballparks around the MLB that haven't been as fortunate.

While the MLB is currently focusing on issues such as instant replay for controversial calls, they're turning a blind eye towards a much more pressing subject: the banning of maple bats around the league.

Up until about eight years ago, the norm for most major-league players was to use a bat made of ash wood. While these bats would still break, they wouldn't explode like maple bats.

The reason for the change of the status quo? Who else except for MLB's most controversial player, Barry Bonds.

Bonds started using maple bats and started putting up big numbers* (Hopefully somebody will appreciate that). Superstitious players around the league started using maple bats, hoping that their numbers would be boosted by a different bat.

The result is that bats are breaking much more often than they ever have, and it's a serious risk to the players, the coaches, and the fans.

People have been wondering what it'll take for the league to take steps to prevent injuries. Would someone have to get hurt in order for the MLB to take action against these bats?

Obviously, it's going to take more than that.

On April 15, Nate McClouth's bat shattered and a fragment of it sliced the side of Pittsburgh's hitting coach Don Long. That was only one of two so far this season.

Number two came just 10 days later when the Rockies were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Todd Helton was using Tulowitzki's maple bat, and the barrel of the bat flew right into contact with the jaw of Susan Rhodes. The bat fractured her jaw in two places.

So, the MLB is currently discussing how they're going to fix this, right?

Wrong. They're too worried about what a home run is and what's not.

It's going to take a death to get this corrected, and unfortunately, that's very ignorant of the MLB. Something needs to be done about this. It shouldn't take the death of a player/fan/coach/umpire to fix something that has already produced two injuries.

So, what are possible solutions to this? There's about two options the league has. One, ban all maple bats and then there's not too much to worry about.

Players who have used maple bats for most of their career would be very upset over this solution, and would suggest another that would only protect the fans. Extend the net behind the plate so that way it covers practically the entire front row of baseball parks.

While this would certainly solve the risk of hurting fans, there's still the risk for players, umpires, and coaches.

The MLB NEEDS to ban maple bats if they hope to prevent serious injury as a result from broken bats.