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Broken baseball bats investigated by U.S. government

Updated on January 23, 2018
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock, and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

In exchange for returning this souvenir for testing by the Wood Grain trust, most fans are given another bat or other keepsake.
In exchange for returning this souvenir for testing by the Wood Grain trust, most fans are given another bat or other keepsake. | Source

The Wood Grain Trust

The players in this one make up a unique all star team unofficially dubbed The Wood Grain Trust. The line-up card features such heavy hitters as the Safety and Health Advisory Committee of Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the U.S. Forestry Service, its Forestry Products Laboratory (FPL), and TECO, a third party certification agency for building products.

You can't see the second baseman in this picture, but it's a safe bet that he's wondering whether to catch the ball or get out of the way of this dagger-like projectile heading his way (seen at the top of the image).
You can't see the second baseman in this picture, but it's a safe bet that he's wondering whether to catch the ball or get out of the way of this dagger-like projectile heading his way (seen at the top of the image). | Source

After teasing you with an enticing and provocative headline, let me state that the project I’m reporting on is not paid for with U.S. Taxpayers’ dollars. It’s funded by Major League Baseball.

But, it’s an interesting project, especially to those fans who have been in the trajectory of a broken baseball bat spinning its way into the stands. Or to an infielder who has to choose between fielding the ball or evading the broken bat that's unexpectedly hurtling his way.


Between July and September of 2008, FPL wood experts examined and tested every broken bat in Major League Baseball. Going forward, they’ll monitor daily videos and examine broken bats collected during two two-week periods of the 2013 season, also. In between, the Forest Service research team has watched video and recorded details of every bat breaking episode since 2009.


Anything Come of It Yet?

Absolutely. Some bats crack, some break, and some shatter in what the study calls multiple-piece failure. The main culprit identified by the study was the inconsistency of the quality of all species of wood used to manufacture bats used by Major League Baseball.

For example, in addition to ash, there are two types of maple wood used in the manufacture of bats for Major League Baseball: low-density and higher density maple.The study found that low density maple bats were more likely to crack, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to result in multiple-piece failure (shatter) more often than ash bats or higher-density maple bats.


It's About the Slope of Grain

Slope of grain is a manufacturing detail regarding the straightness of the wood grain along the length of a bat. Testing revealed, simply, that there’s less chance of a bat breaking when the grain is straighter along the length of the bat.

This Call to the Bullpen Brought to You By Teco

Pronounced tee-koe, TECO is an independent third-party certification agency for all types of structural and non-structural panel products manufactured throughout North, Central, and South America, as well as Europe.

Working with FPL staff, TECO came up with some manufacturing changes that have produced positive results. Limits to bat geometry dimensions have been established, wood density restrictions have been adopted, and wood drying recommendations have been put into play.

The result has been a dramatic decrease in multiple-piece failures, even in the face of a surge in maple's popularity in baseball bat manufacture.

A Food & Drug Administration press release quoted Daniel Halem, MLB's Senior Vice President of Labor Relations thusly: "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. Major League Baseball greatly appreciates the invaluable contributions of the Forest Products Laboratory and Mr. Kretschmann on this important issue."

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "This innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service will make baseball games safer for players and fans across the nation,"

Ever the team cheerleader, Vilsack added, "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."

Major League Baseball and its fans get the Win, and FPL and TECO get the Save. Maybe we’ll see more such productive partnering between government agencies, private agencies and big business. It will be even better if, in future such partnerings, no taxpayers' dollars are injured in the process.

© 2013 Bob Bamberg


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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      18 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, Deborah. I think the bats are more important to the players than we know. They're custom made, but since all trees are different at a cellular level, they can't be manufactured like clones. So, when a player gets good results from a bat, he hates it when it breaks. Plus, I think superstition shares an element, too. Many players are known for their rituals and superstitions. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 

      18 months ago from U.S, California

      ..Good article. It must be disappointing for a players net to break.

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for stopping by, Gail. Yes, this unfortunate event puts a whole new light on the problem of safety at the ballparks. Yet, as troubling as this is, statistically, it's still a pretty safe outing when you consider the number of fans, over a 182 game schedule at 30 stadiums, that don't get injured. I'd bet you have a better chance of getting injured at a NASCAR event. The early reporting on the woman had her in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. As of this morning, she's critical but stable and expected to survive. We share your concern for her and her family. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thank you Bob Bamberg for increasing my knowledge regarding wooden baseball bats and the study that was done on the materials most likely to be strong versus break and spin through the air with unknown landing ! Also, thanks for the info on aluminum bats versus wood.

      This recent, horrific drama, and tragedy at what is supposed to be a happy American Family recreational outing quickly destroying the person's healthy life, with their child and family present, sends an emotional current through everyone who attends and loves such games. Everyone in attendance & those who learned of the news via TV & Internet, etc. are feeling so helpless and also angry that these unplanned tragedies occur!

      ANYTHING MORE THAT CAN BE STUDIED AND MOST IMPORTANTLY IMPLEMENTED TO MAKE THE GAME SAVER FOR ALL ...SPECTATORS (Fans on both sides) , PLAYERS, COACHES, EVERYONE ON THE FIELD OR IN THE STANDS SHOULD BE PURSUED TO THE UTMOST! Thank you Mr. Bamberg for educating me, a very naïve, and unaware, but interested party. Our Prayers and Hopes for the Best Possible Recovery to this Woman, Mother, Wife, and Baseball Fan, who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong moment. Let us help turn her suffering and pain into a CHANGE IN THE BUILDING & TESTING OF ALL BATS, PLUS THE BEST PROTECTION POSSIBLE FOR ALL SPECTATORS BY STUDYING WHICH AREAS OF THE FIELD ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE OPEN TO FLYING DEBRI, EVEN IF EVERYTHING POSSIBLE IS DONE TO BUILD A SAFER BAT!

      So much needs to be examined to maintain the SAFETY and GOOD SPIRIT FOR ALL in this our All American Sport & to show this woman her injuries are not in vain...they will CHANGE THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER. OUR THOUHGTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH HER AND HER CHILD/ CHILDREN & FAMILY AND FRIENDS & SIGNIFICANT LOVED ONES!

      THanks again, Mr. Bamberg for this timely information. I wonder if they know how often spectators have been hurt in the past...or do they keep those statistics quiet?

      Grateful for your research/ informative in-put, Gail

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Debby, nice to meet you. I assume the problem has been around a long time but has been addressed more recently out of safety concerns.

      The barrel of bats broken upon impact with the ball tend to travel long distances because of the force of the batter's swing. They often travel into the stands, endangering spectators, especially since the spectators aren't always paying close attention to the action on the field at any given moment.

      Of course the broken end of the bat is usually a shard, which poses a serious threat as it spins its way into the crowd. Other times the broken end of the bat can end up anywhere in foul or fair territory. More than one base coach or infielder has had to scurry out of the way of a bat hurtling towards them.

      Scholastic baseball teams use aluminum bats and some Little League chapters, I believe, also use aluminum bats as a cost cutting measure. Wooden bats are subject to breakage and therefor costly because of the frequency of replacement.

      I thought I heard of some youth baseball programs outlawing aluminum bats for safety reasons, and there's been a call to eliminate them from high school and college baseball as well.

      The batted ball travels much faster off the barrel of an aluminum bat because of what's termed "the trampoline effect." This has resulted in some horrific injuries to pitchers on "comebackers" and to infielders as well.

      Researching this hub has caused me to devote more attention to baseball bats in one hour than I have in my 68 years of playing and watching baseball. There's a lot more to it than most people think Thanks for stopping by.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      4 years ago

      Good to know they got on top of this problem for the safety of all players young and old. I'm curious to know if the bat breakage problem is recent or has it been around since the beginning of the game. I'm not a baseball player, but I thought they did not use wood anymore and used some other synthetics to manufacture baseball bats. Blessings, Debby

    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      6 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Paul, thanks for stopping by. I didn't see anything about which type of wood produces the most home runs. My guess would be any type of wood that happens to be in the hands of guys like Hank Aaron or Yoenis Cespedes. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Regards, Bob

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      6 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      This is very interesting. Is there any data on what type of wood bat produces more homeruns?


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