The wood bats used in last night’s Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic, or all-star game, benefited from six years of research by forestry scientists.

In 2008, Major League Baseball teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to reduce the number of broken and shattered wooden bats. Flying chunks and splinters from busted bats can injure players and fans alike.

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Since research began, the number of shattered maple wood bats has decreased by 50 percent. USFS researchers identified key factors in wood selection and bat manufacture that contributed to that reduction in dangerous bat shrapnel.

For example, in all species of bat wood, such as maple and ash, greater straightness of the wood grain along the length of the bat reduced cracking. Also, denser maple wood was less likely to shatter.

Using these observations, bat manufacturers now limit bat dimensions, follow wood drying recommendations and use wood density restrictions to reduce bat breakage.

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“Since 2008, the U.S. Forest Service has worked with Major League Baseball to help make America’s pastime safer,” said USFS Chief Tom Tidwell in a press release. “I’m proud that our collective ‘wood grain trust’ has made recommendations resulting in a significant drop in shattered bats, making the game safer for players as well as for fans.”

IMAGE:  Michael Barrett of the San Diego Padres breaks a bat in a July 16, 2007 game against the New York Mets. (Dirk Hansen, Wikimedia Commons)