It’s been almost 9 years since Barry Bonds broke the home run record in a season while using a Maple baseball bat all season. That magical season in baseball was the Maple Bats show year. Although players like Joe Carter used Maple even in the late 1980s, Maple never really took off until the 2001 season when Bonds crushed 73 home runs to break baseball’s single-season home run record. From that point on, the maple came into more and more hands in baseball … and the maple hasn’t looked back since.
Many things in our society turn out to be fads and never survive hard times. Maple baseball bats are beginning to silence critics who have been strong defenders of maple. There have been several cases in which the maple has been the culprit of major injuries in baseball. A good example was during the 2008 season when Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long was hit to the face just below the eyes with a large chunk of Nate McLouth’s maple bat during the eighth inning of a game at Dodgers Stadium. Witnesses say that chunk appeared to be about half the bat. Just ten days later, another piece of maple bat flew out of the hands of the Colorado Rockies, Todd Helton, flew into the stands and broke the jaw of a Dodgers fan.
Many players concerned about the safety of their teammates, coaches, and fans have even switched from Maple to Ash or Birch. Including a few seasons ago when Frank Thomas and Eric Chavez switched from Maple to Birch, and Jason Bay reverted to Ash from Birch.
A 2005 study commissioned by the MLB found there was no difference in how fast the ball exits a maple or ash bat. But still, maple seems to give hitters a confidence that ash doesn’t. Although the exact number of players who swing maple in MLB is unknown, it is true that it is a majority; some reports estimate the number between 60 and 70 percent.
There is certainly a longer lifespan with Maple as well. Various studies have found that the average lifespan of a Maple Bat in MLB is about a month, compared to the lifespan of about a week for Ash. So while there are concerns among MLB officials about the safety risks associated with Maple baseball bats, bat manufacturers are working hard alongside MLB officials to create a solution to the safety risks; in addition to banning maple bats in baseball.
Through all the issues, controversies and concerns surrounding Maple baseball bats, the demand is still there and the popularity continues to grow. Maple bats can have a tough time, but it seems like the new king of wood bats is here to stay.