Sunday Rewind: “Bat Changes…They are A-Coming”
After the increase in both fan and player injuries and incidents in the last few seasons in connection with the maple bats, something had to be done before a real tragedy happened in the stadiums. The Frontier League took it upon itself to ban the maple wooden bats from league play until they could be made safer for everyone in the ballpark.Along with this same line, bat manufacturing companies and the MLB commissioned studies and inacted procedures to try and help eliminate a lot of the past problems with the maple bats.
MLB instituted a mandate that all types and styles of maple bats will be tested from time to time from today forward to check for unusual seepage and grain damage before they leave the manufacturing plants and are delivered to any minor league or Major League player or team. If the bats are not deemed to be ” certified ” by the inspector at the manufacturing plant, then they will not be able to be used in a baseball game. This is just a first step by both the bat companies and MLB to try and unify to secure the safety of everyone within the stadium, and to again bring back confidence in the safety procedures used by teams and leagues around the game.
Inventors like New Jersey native Ward Dill, who is also a MIT graduate and designer of a bat that is said to be almost unbreakable by today’s baseball standards. Okay, so the wooden bat is not totally unbreakable per se, but it is guaranteed not to break, crack,or shatter in any form for an entire year, or Dill will replace it free of charge. What current MLB bat manufacturing company can or would back-up their product like that in a contract? Dill first invented this bat as an alternative to the current metal bats used in the college ranks and below, but with maple bats exploding all over the place, maybe it has other applications at the MLB level.
“The result is that it is very strong, and as a result of it being strong, it is safe.” Dill boasted at a news conference to promote his innovative wooden model bat. ” It is impossible for this maple bat to shatter in the way the maple bats shatter in the Major Leagues today. The worst thing that can happen is a crack.” To solidify his unique claims, Dill conducted an exhibition where he had a player taking his usual pre-game batting practice using just a single wooden bat. After performing a usual batting practice segment, the bat was examined and there were no cracks, or signs of wear and tear on the model. And most importantly, the bat did not break even after a change in grip and facing the “sweet spot” of the bat into the area of the pitched baseball.
The bat also plays upon the baseball like a traditional ash or maple wooden bat. A sweet spot on this bat is still a sweet spot. It also resonated with the same crisp sound upon impact that current bat models make with contact with a baseball. Dill currently has his wooden bat model out in independent sporting goods stores in the New Jersey, New York area. The bat would have to undergo extensive MLB testing before it can be released and approved for game use by any of the leagues minor league or major league clubs and players.
The usual bat prices for a wooden maple bat are between $ 50-75 dollars a bat. Considering you might need at least 12 extra bats per year, the saving are huge for a minor league or amateur player trying to learn to hit after years of using a metal bat for hitting.
But it might be his current invention of a type of wooden bat, made from a wood product unknown in America for current bat production that might be his greatest discovery. Preston began to notice in 2008 that bats were breaking in the Major Leagues with more frequency than ever before. And with more MLB players having their bats made from maple instead of ash because of the insect attack in ash trees in North America by a wood-boring beetle, and the common fact most MLB hitters seemed to think that the maple manufactured bats produced a harder and lighter handling piece of lumber to use at the plate.
But maple bats are also have a tendency to be more brittle. Hitters have complained that their bats can sometimes simply explode on impact, even when the ball connects with the thickest part of the bat barrel. The result has sent players and fans ducking for cover in more games than you can imagine in the last few years. Preston, who had recently retired from teaching Art History at City College of New York in 2006, began looking towards the thord-world country of Ghana for trees and a type of wood that could be used to make bats that wouldn’t break as easily, or splinter into shards or projectiles. He found a tropical hardwood tree that grew straight skyward and had the right weight and density to produce a quality wooden bat.
He then began to teach craftsmen in an Ghana village the art of how to spin the massive tree’s logs into bats and dry them in kilns, and now he currently brings home a load of bats after each trip to West Africa. He’s sold a dozen of them to players in his own league (they’re $90 each), and he uses one of his model himself every time he steps into the batter’s box. He’s applied for a patent for the design and hopes to have MLB test and ultimately approve his model for league play. Preston has used this type of wooden bats for several years and has mounting proof that the bats crack, but do not fall apart or even project dangerous shards like the current maple wooden bats.
He even remarked that even when they do crack, they can still drive the ball into the field and do not just fall apart upon impact like some of the current maple models used in the MLB.Preston finishes each bat himself with a Danish clear varnish that give the bat a dark red tone. He then hand-stamps each bat with the same logo, ” Made In Mamfe-Ghana Baseball Ltd.” and is enthusiastic about the Fine craftmanship and details that go into each bat, with the final inspection falling upon his own shoulders before he ships or delivers bats to local players or teams for use in games.
“Major League Baseball needs to do something about all these bats breaking before something really bad happens,” Preston said. Preston held one of his bats on his shoulder as he looked out over the Bronx, towards Yankee Stadium. “I’d like to sell these to one Major League club and let the battle with the fastball begin,” he said. “This bat would be great for Johnny Damon. Damon’s always breaking bats.”
So as we can see, America is starting to get more involved in the move to make the MLB ballpark safe again for everyone. People in all walks of like want to feel safe and secure when they enter and watch a baseball game. Until 2008, the people in the front rows and above the dugouts in baseball did not have much to fear except for the odd foul ball coming their way. But over the last few seasons, they have had a new reason to fear, and have to maintain constant field vision during MLB baseball games. MLB and the bat producing companies are doing more and more research and testing to secure the confidence in the public again to come out to the ballpark.
But it might be that lone design or invention somewhere out there in America that might finally produce a safer option and conclusive answer and final solution to this maple wooden bat controversy. Maybe it will be the independent baseball bat manufacturer/inventor who is currently scoffed at as a fluke or crackpot who finds a viable solution. Or maybe it will be someone like Wade Dill or George Preston who will develop a effective bat solution, then find themselves deep in involvement with MLB or another bat manufacturer and turn a present nightmare into a plausible secure dream of a safe haven at the ballpark for everyone who enjoys both playing and watching the great game of baseball.