Time for Baseball to Improve Safety Standards

Too often a traffic light is erected at a dangerous intersection after someone has
been killed.

It seems as if Major League Baseball is ignoring an immediate danger. Flying,
splintered wood from shattered baseball bats have become part of infield play.

Apparently, for more than three years, MLB has been studying the problem of shattering
bats. Yet, in nearly every ball game I’ve seen on TV this season, a bat has
shattered and sprayed around the diamond. I fear the nearness of a very serious
injury.

This is a known, generally avoidable danger, and a truly serious accident waiting to
happen.

On Sept. 19, 2010, however, it did not wait. At Sun Life Stadium, home of the
Florida Marlins, Tyler Colvin of the Cubs was leading off third base. Cubs
batter Wellington Castillo sent a fly ball to leftfield.

Colvin, watching the ball and moving toward the plate, was hit at chest level by a
splintered piece of bat. It punctured his chest, causing minimal external
bleeding, but ended his season that day. He’s fine these days, playing again
this season.

At the time, manager Mike Quade of the Cubs said: “These bats, I’m amazed it doesn’t happen more.  We have seen guys get hit with pieces, but to actually get stabbed with one, I just don’t ever remember (seeing it).”

A few days after the Colvin incident, a shard of wood clipped and cut the ear of
Rangers’ pitcher Cliff Lee. He remained in the game, perhaps lucky his head was
turned.

I’m not suggesting wooden bats be replaced by metal bats. To the contrary, the
convincing sound of a wooden bat squared up with a baseball is as rich as the
Hall of Fame voice of Vin Scully. On the other hand, the ping of an amateur bat
falls far short.

This bat shattering frenzy is fairly new to the game. When ash was the primary wood
used in bats, a bat cracked or broke, but rarely did it shatter. A couple years
ago it was estimated that 60 percent of Major League players use maple bats.

Whether it’s the maple bats or the process used to make the bats, the current standards
are a safety hazard. The safety of players must be paramount.

In 2007, minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, in the first base coach’s box, was
struck in the head and killed by a line drive. Following that tragedy, all
professional coaches on the field were required to wear batting helmets for
safety.

It’s time baseball exercise common sense, and establish stringent bat and bat-making
standards, before it’s too late.

……………………………………..

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