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Group to discuss problem with bats

June 24, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

After a weekend in which three pitchers and a spectator nearly got hit at Dodger Stadium by flying shrapnel from broken bats, a baseball safety committee is scheduled to meet today to discuss possible remedies for this year's epidemic of shattered bats.

No decisions are expected today, although Commissioner Bud Selig has publicly expressed a sense of urgency and privately threatened to act unilaterally if the committee -- composed of representatives of owners and the players' union -- does not recommend reforms promptly.

"We're sitting on a catastrophe," said a source close to Selig, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly in advance of today's meeting.

In separate April incidents at Dodger Stadium, Pittsburgh Pirates coach Don Long and spectator Susan Rhodes were hit by wayward fragments from broken maple bats. Long was hit on the side of his face and suffered nerve damage; Rhodes required surgery to repair a jaw broken in two places.

The bat chunks were flying at Dodger Stadium last weekend. Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo had to hurdle a bat fragment, and two Cleveland Indians pitchers also had to dodge pieces of broken bats on the mound.

In addition, a spectator seated well behind the plate -- in the field-level seats behind the dugout club seats -- nearly was hit by the jagged end of a broken bat.

"I have a lot of clubs every day sending me articles and telling me what happened in their ballpark," Selig said last month in Anaheim. "I'm very sensitive. I'm very concerned."

Maple has recently overtaken ash as the wood of choice among major leaguers, but ash bats tend to crack and splinter when they break, while maple bats snap into pieces with jagged edges that tend to take flight.

The committee could consider banning maple bats, enacting specifications to thicken bat handles so they are less likely to snap and/or extending the netting that protects fans from behind the plate to beyond the bases.

Some players, including the Angels' Torii Hunter, have wondered how baseball could ban bats players have used for years, before the recent rash of incidents.

"I don't want somebody to tell me I can't use a bat I've been comfortable with for seven or eight years," Hunter said.

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