Federal researchers have discovered a way to lower the number of baseball bats that shatter in the course of Major League Baseball games, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday.
“This innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service will make baseball games safer for players and fans across the nation,” Vilsack said in a statement. “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.”
The Elias Sports Bureau, which tracks statistics for MLB, doesn’t track the number of bats that actually break, but the sense is that the number of broken bats has increased since a majority of players began using maple bats over the last decade. In 2011, a shard of a maple bat hit a fan attending a Kansas City Royals baseball game in the face.
“I’m proud that our collective ‘wood grain trust’ has made recommendations resulting in a significant drop in shattered bats, making the game safer for players as well as for fans,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, whose agency received funding from the MLB for the research, said in his statement.
Some entrepreneurs are trying to build businesses around solving the problem. “Jim Cortez, an entrepreneur in Chicago, and Greg Kendra, who is a real-estate agent in Denver, came up with a process by which bats are cryogenically frozen at minus-310 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 24 hours, and then slowly allowed to come back to ambient temperature,” the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011. “They’ve had their bats tested by an independent university laboratory and claim in their patent filing that their cryogenically treated bats are 26 percent stronger than standard bats.”
WSJ added that an MLB spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the business plan, but instead pointed to the Forest Service’s research.
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander shattered a bat with a 100 mph fastball during a game against the Chicago White Sox last summer.