Last year, more than 2,000 bats broke during the last three months of the Major League Baseball season. Last April, a woman at a Dodgers game had her jaw broken by a chunk of Todd Helton’s shattered bat. One of the main reasons that youth and college leagues use metal bats (which are more dangerous for pitchers) is because the cost of constantly replacing broken wood bats is too high.
All of these things got New Jersey resident Ward Dill to thinking. What if he could make a wood bat that doesn’t break? The MIT graduate got to work and eventually did just that. Now, Dill’s radial bats, which are made out of wedges that fit together rather than a single piece of wood, have been approved for use by the NCAA. Dill envisions a day where metal bats are pushed out by his new creation.
The NEWARK STAR-LEDGER explains how they’re put together:
An MIT graduate who has been woodworking since he was 15, Dill developed his bat design after making a vase out of joined wood from a tree in his backyard. Impressed by the vase’s strength, the lifelong Red Sox fan had the idea for an unconventional wood bat made out of wedges that fit together, like Trivial Pursuit pieces, rather than a single piece of wood. The pieces are adhered with strong glue and 36 tons of pressure.
The design allows the tight grain of the sweet spot to cover the bat’s full circumference. The wedges are also the reason the design is billed as shatterproof, with a one-year guarantee. While traditional bats can shatter into multiple pieces when fractures in the wood spread through grain lines after impact with a ball, in the Radial Bat those grain lines are contained to a wedge and never pass all the way through the bat.
Dill acknowledges that breaking in to the MLB market will be tough, with standard ash and maple bats being the preference of most players. But there have been grumblings that maple bats may need to be banned if any further serious injuries come from them exploding as they so often do (basically, if someone dies from being hit by a bat chunk, something will have to happen).
One of the reasons given for MLB not embracing the new unbreakable bats is kind of laughable, though:
“I think there’s a hesitancy to mess with Major League Baseball with all the tie-ins to historic records,” said David Kretschmann, a research engineer for the Forest Products Laboratory. “If you completely change equipment, you move away from the records. There’s inertia to doing that.”
Right, because as we all know, a bat change will be what ruins the legitimacy of baseball’s record book. All of the sport’s current records are totally legitimate, right?
While the bats are billed as shatterproof, they are not infallible. They come with a one-year guarantee, which is much better than any other wood bat can promise.
Hey, anything to keep sharp chunks of bats from falling in the vicinity of roided-up pitchers, who might feel compelled to fire it at the guy who just hit the ball.