Posted at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2008
by Chris Dall
A majority of major league players might enjoy the sweet swing of maple bats, but it looks like the league is starting to sour on them.
There's a big debate going on around the league right now about the use of maple bats, big enough that representatives of the players' union, the commissioner's office, and major league teams will meet on June 24 to discuss the situation. One of the options being discussed is a ban on maple bats.
Players have traditionally used bats made of white ash, but a lot of players started switching over to maple bats in the 90s, mostly because of their density, strength, and durability. It's also believed that the ball travels farther off maple bats. It's no wonder that more than 60 percent of player's now use maple bats.
The problem? When they break, they really break. As in explode, in the direction of players, coaches, and sometimes fans. Ash bats tend to crack, while maple bats become flying projectiles, and the league is hoping to avoid a tragic accident.
But one potential factor that could prevent a ban on maple bats is the Emerald ash borer, a disease that's killing white ash trees throughout parts of the United States and affecting the production of ash bats.
The players' union has already given in on steroids and amphetamines. Will it give up its maple bats?
With several million standing dead ash trees it would seem there is an endless supply of material that can be certified or fumigated and certified for freedom of EAB and used to make several million baseball bats. Supply is not an issue here.
A correction about emerald ash borer. It is not a disease, but a wood-boring insect whose larvae feed under the bark of all species of ash (white, green, black, etc.) and cut off the tree's food supply - effectively starving it to death.
A comment on joe's comment: the white ash used to make nearly all bats comes from a relatively small area in New York. The bat "blanks" are cut from a specific part of the trunk of an ash tree of specific diameter, density and species, and the drying process must be tightly controlled for the high quality needed for bats. Dead trees standing for long periods of time would not be useful, whether or not they've been "fumigated." Emerald ash borer could be avoided relatively easily in the making of bat blanks without insecticides, by de-barking to a certain depth into the sapwood.