When Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Tyler Colvin stood on third base hoping to score, he probably didn’t anticipate an emergency trip to the hospital after hitting home base. Sure, athletes are prone to unexpected sports injuries, but the incident that landed Colvin in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital was not a usual sports injury. Tyler Colvin was a victim of a bat wielded by the teammate who drove in his scoring run-a maple bat that splintered, sending a shard of maple wood into Colvin’s chest.
Bats break all the time-so what’s the safety risk of a maple bat? Yes, baseball bats break frequently in baseball. Maple bats are reported to be stronger than Ash bats-but, when a maple bat breaks, it’s more likely to send projectile like shards of wood flying with force. The maple bats have been popular for many years with players-in spite of the splintering effect.
Should Major League Baseball take action against the use- of maple batsor take precautions to prevent future injuries? With sometimes multiple broken bats per game, it does not appear that the league is concerned with the flying bat pieces creating injury. But, should they be? If the league requires protective equipment-or bans the bats entirely, players may be more concerned about bat selection. Personal protective equipment such as chest armor is not comfortable-but, could have protected Colvin from a potentially season ending injury.
What is MLB doing to insure the safety of fans? What if that maple bat shred had pierced the body of a toddler or small child in the Florida stands instead? What if that child had died? Sure, fans are aware that they assume the risks of attending the game-and many fans have been hit with fly balls throughout baseball’s history-but, would that lessen the blow to the player swinging the deadly bat? Perhaps the installation of protective nets or screens, as in hockey arenas, may be necessary to protect the fans in the stands from maple bat injuries-but many fans complain that such added precautions would take away from the open air baseball field feel that they know so well.
The lighter maple bat is a player favorite for many major league hitters-although players have gone on the record to denounce the use of them because of the known risks. Minor league opted to ban maple bans-and a number of MLB recommendations were made in previous seasons to strengthen safety. Yet, Tyler Colvin suffered a season ending injury that could have been life threatening had the splinter of maple bat wood entered lower into his chest-or upward into his neck. Will Tyler Colvin’s injury result in further maple bat restrictions and recommendations in 2011?