9:00am

Sat July 13, 2013
Science

Forest Service Hits Home Run To Prevent Shattered Bats

The U.S. Forest Service and Major League Baseball don’t have much in common, but a new report says the agency’s research is resulting in significantly fewer shattered wooden baseball bats.

It turns out that what the bats are made of matters almost as much as how they’re made.

Researchers at the U.S.F.S. Products Laboratory analyzed thousands of shattered wooden Major League baseball bats since 2009. They found inconsistent wood quality and the manufacturing detail “slope of grain” the most common culprit.

The study also concluded that low-density maple bats – which are popular among MLB players -- would be more likely to shatter into multiple pieces than those made from ash or higher-density maple.

While it might look impressive to see a bat smashed into smithereens, it can actually be a safety hazard. In a written statement, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the research will make the game of baseball safer for players and fans.

"The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory has once again demonstrated that we can improve uses for wood products across our nation in practical ways,” said Vilsack.

According to the report, manufacturing changes that ensure a straighter grain lengthwise have decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than half since 2008: 

“With the help of TECO, a third-party wood inspection service, the FPL team established manufacturing changes that have proven remarkably successful over time. Limits to bat geometry dimensions, wood density restrictions, and wood drying recommendations have all contributed to the dramatic decrease in multiple-piece failures, even as maple's popularity is on the upswing.

The Forest Service research team has been watching video and recording details of every bat breakage since 2009. The team will continue monitoring daily video and studying broken bats collected during two two-week periods of the 2013 season, working to further reduce the use of low-density maple bats and the overall number of multiple-piece failures.”

The study was funded by Major League Baseball.