Irishman may have solved baseball's broken bat problem

An underemployed Irish roofing contractor believes he may have the answer to a problem that is plaguing Major League Baseball. Flan Marsh of County Clare is hoping that a treatment he developed for hurleys, ash sticks used in the Irish game of hurling, can be adapted for baseball bats and help rid Major League Baseball of the scourge of broken bats.

Over the last decade or so MLB has seen a significant rise in broken bats and injuries related to those bats. Stories about fans being injured by flying pieces of bats - like the boy hit in the head by a broken bat in Milwaukee during the early part of this season - have become all too common. Players and umpires are also at risk from broken bats.

Marsh developed his treatment for hurleys because of his concerns for the safety of those who play hurling. Hurling is more like lacrosse, with lots of close contact clashes with opponents. These clashes often lead to broken hurleys where the hurley breaks in two with knife-like sharp ends flying amidst the players.

Marsh's hurleys will still break, although breaks are less common. However, when one of his hurleys breaks the two pieces stay together {see photo above} - no sharp missiles are launched.

I think Major League Baseball might well jump at Marsh's development, so long as it doesn't affect the flight of the ball. That will be the real test. The last thing the baseball authorities want is media and fan complaints that the bats are "juiced", although given the pitchers' dominance this year they might secretly cheer a bit more offense.

Something that would save them the bad press and even lawsuits from broken bats flying into the stands would probably sound enticing.

I hope Marsh's approach to MLB works out for him. It's a great story. However, even if MLB turns him down he may well be onto a winner with youth and high school baseball leagues. Many of those have recently banned (the repugnant) aluminum bats because of fears that the metal bats hit the ball too hard. Pitchers can't respond fast enough to protect themselves.

Metal bats have been legally banned for youth leagues in New York and North Dakota. Many other youth leagues have imposed their own similar bans. Metal bats are increasingly being replaced by wooden ones.

One of the worries about a return to wooden bats is cost: metal bats are cheaper because they need to be replaced far less frequently. If Marsh's treatment can solve the problems caused by metal bats, but also make the wooden bat less breakable he could help tip the balance in the direction of wood over metal. He may just be the right man, with the right idea at the right time.

{picture of broken bat in crowd from AP-Charles Krupa}

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