Kill the Ump, Bat Almost Does

Umpire Injured Baseball Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley was carted off the field on a stretcher in the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s Toronto-Texas game after being struck in the head by a broken bat shard as Hank Blalock followed through on his swing. Danley immediately collapsed to the turf and Blue Jays catcher Rob Barajas motioned to the dugout for help as Blalock’s soft infield popper was caught by shortstop Marco Scutaro. Starter Roy Halladay and a few other players huddled around as both trainers came to attend to Danley. All players cleared the field shortly after.
Blalock’s bat shattered at the handle as he made contact and the barrel flew out his hands at full speed into Danley’s mask. The game was delayed 10 minutes as Danley was taken off field. Hunter Wendelstedt moved form second base to behind home plate.

I wrote about this incident, which occurred April 15, 2008. Maple is a harder wood, and many players swear by it these days. But there’s a reason maple wasn’t used in the first place. While ash cracks under pressure, maple shatters, sending shards of sharp wood everywhere. In the dugout of a game on April 15 in Los Angeles, the maple bat of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Nate McClouth bat shattered on a hit and a piece of the bat flew into the dugout, opening a huge gash in the cheek of his hitting coach, Don Long. “Didn’t see it at all,” Long told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. “It just hit me. I backed up. I saw the blood coming out on the card I keep and on my shoes.” The piece of maple cut nerves in Long’s cheek and a doctor had to remove the wood before he sewed in 10 stitches. Who will be next? Perhaps a player or an umpire or, worse yet, a fan. And studies show very little difference between ash and maple in performance. What will happen next? A movement is afoot to either ban maple or at least change the shape of the bat handle.

When will baseball do something about this dangerous situation? I know the ash borer beetle has taken its toll on quality ash bats, but something needs to be done about maple bats shattering before somebody gets killed.

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