With a shift to maple, more shattered bats

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Former San Diego Padres catcher Josh Bard shatters his bat in a 2007 game against the Seattle Mariners. Hitters seeking more power are switching from flexible ash to harder maple, contributing to a spike in broken bats in the Major Leagues. Photo by SD Dirk/flickr.

Mar. 31, 2014

Home plate has seen more litter from broken baseball bats lately. Blame hitters seeking 'pop' – not climate change – for Major League Baseball's transition away from more flexible ash bats.

Mainbar: An unlikely victim of climate change: Derek Jeter's favorite bat

By Brian Bienkowski
The Daily Climate

Notice more broken bat shards flying from home plate lately? Bats are shattering more frequently in Major League games. But don't blame climate change.

Power hitters looking for home runs are using maple more: It's a harder wood and the ball "pops" off the bat more

Ash bats have long been the preference for Major League's contact hitters who consistently put the ball in play, don't strike out much and rarely swing for the fences.

But power hitters looking for home runs are using maple more: It's a harder wood and the ball "pops" off the bat more, said Brian Boltz, general manager at Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the parent company of Louisville Slugger.


The downside is that maple shatters more easily than ash.

Spike in 2008

Louisville Slugger supplies about half the bats used in Major League Baseball, and about 60 percent of Major League bats are maple, according to Major League Baseball.

Broken bats spiked in 2008 – the same year that maple bats became widely used – about one bat per game.  Last year's average was about a half bat per game, thanks in part to a partnership between MLB and the U.S. Forest Service that found low-density maple and inconsistent wood quality for all species were behind the increased splintering. 

"With maple coming around, we lost a bit of market share … it's easier to work with so companies jumped on board," Boltz said. "But we'll figure something out – we've been doing it for more than a century."

Brian Bienkowski is a staff writer for The Daily Climate and its sister publication, Environmental Health News

Photo of broken bats courtesy Major League Baseball, via the U.S. Forest Service.

The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org

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