Yesterday, after the scary incident in which Tyler Colvin was injured by his teammate Welington Castillo's shattered bat, I wrote this post for SB Nation Chicago (if you haven't read it yet, please do) on the issue of bats shattering and seriously injuring people; over the last three years a major league coach, a fan, and now a player have been hurt by flying pieces of maple bats.
This is nothing new, although the proliferation of the more easily-breakable maple bats has brought the issue to the forefront; check out this description of a similar injury to the Dodgers' Steve Yeager -- 34 years ago:
In 1976, Yeager was injured when a piece of Bill Russell's bat shattered and hit him in the neck as he was waiting on deck, piercing his esophagus. He had nine pieces of wood taken out of his neck in 98 minutes of surgery. Yeager later invented the catcher's throat protector flap that hangs from the catcher's mask, which he began wearing after the life-threatening incident.
In the comments last night, BCB'er Clutch16 posted this link from former major leaguer Morgan Ensberg's blog in which he posted the cost of baseball bats during his career, which ended after 2008:
Baseball bats that I used while I played cost $720/dozen. That means that the piece of wood in my hands cost at least $60 a bat. I think maple bats are closer to $80/bat.
In this case, cost shouldn't matter. If it's a little more expensive to come up with a solution that will prevent shattered bats from seriously injuring or killing someone, MLB must do it. They really don't have any choice unless they want to explain why someone was killed on a baseball field.
I received an email overnight from Mick Lee, an Australian who -- just coincidentally -- a day before the injury to Colvin, posted on the SB Nation Tampa Bay Rays site a possible answer to this problem. Follow me past the jump for the answer.
Mick Lee (SB Nation user name AUSSIExRULES) is a former professional cricket player in Australia. Here is his post from DRays Bay, in which he talks about a protective coating that is used to prevent cricket bats from shattering:
One such product is called Extratec. It has been approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and is now preferred by nearly all professional cricketers today.
Cricket as a sport has a long and rich history similar in a lot of ways to baseball. Extratec is a clear adhesive which is applied to the face and edges of a cricket bat, like a sticker or decal, giving it a protective coating to stop the bats from splintering or breaking. The great thing about Extratec is that it does not add or take away any of the characteristics of the bat itself. By this I mean that it won't enhance performance or stop the bats from doing its natural thing. You don't want to lose that "natural" sound of the ball hitting the bat, but also you don't want to see any rebound qualities that Extratec does not have to give batters an advantage.
Extratec in its original state was developed in the United States to protect the blades of helicopters. it is both extremely tough and lightweight. The thickness of the adhesive is 0.35mm and weighs less than an ounce. Tests and trials were carried out by the ICC on the ping and performance of a range of cricket bats with Extratec as opposed to a normal bat and there was absolutely no reduction or enhancement on the bats performances. If a bat splinters or breaks it would normally be held together by the adhesive or drop to the ground close to the batsman.
Obviously, cricket bats aren't quite the same as baseball bats, and the ball isn't the same, either, but I don't see why baseball couldn't approve this at least for trials, say, during spring training. If it works, players could keep the maple bats that they like for their lightness and bat speed, and everyone could be assured that they wouldn't shatter as they do now.
Let's give it a shot. Please, before someone gets killed.