U.S. Forest Service, Science Save Baseball Spectators from Broken Bat Schrapnel

When MLB spectator Susan Rhodes was struck by a broken bat at a Dodgers game in 2008, it broke her jaw and set off an investigation into the alarming number of bats (750 in 3 months) that shattered that season.

The investigation was headed up by the U.S. Forest service and cost a relatively cheap $500,000 to complete. The results, nevertheless, were pretty profound.

Two things were to blame for the brittle bats used in the 2008 MLB season: Maple wood and the cut of the grain. In previous seasons, ash was the preferred wood, and 2008 represented the year the MLB switched over to more maple than ash. Ironically, maple was selected over ash because it was deemed to be more durable.

As for the grain, the lines are supposed run along the shaft in a straight top to bottom fashion. When they don't the mistake is easily spotted and addressed—so long as the wood is ash. With maple the discrepancy is extremely hard to spot.

In the wake of the report, the MLB has required all maple bats include a black dot on the handle. The ink allows the manufacturer to see any grain discrepancies with the angle of the grain. In the 2009, the year the mandate took effect, broken bat incidents were down 30 percent, and have decreased each season to the present.

Now all they have to do is partner with someone who can help investigate why the games are so long and boring. [Discover]