Another serious shattered bat injury sidelined an MLB home-plate umpire last week when the barrel of a broken bat flew back and hit the ump in the head. He was taken to a hospital on a stretcher, but reportedly is fine and didn’t lose consciousness due to the blow.

Incidents like this will likely revive the debate about the safety of using maple as opposed to ash to manufacture baseball bats. Last year there was plenty of press about maple’s penchant to shatter and create dangerous projectiles, but what if a change in engineering is the key to creating a safer baseball diamond?

Ward Dill, a baseball-loving woodworker who graduated from MIT, looked at how bats are built instead of focusing on the optimal material. He has since made what he thinks is the world's most durable and safest bat, according to an April Denver Post article titled "Shatterproof bat was brainchild of N.J. inventor."

Major League bats are currently cut from a single piece of lumber, but Dill's new Radial Bat is made using 12 wedges of solid wood that are bound together with adhesive and clamped. Dill says that this new construction reduces shattering because when his Radial Bat is damaged, the breakage is confined to one wedge instead of causing the entire bat to explode. The new bats, which are offered in both maple and ash, are not currently allowed by the MLB because of their construction, according to the article.

Radial Bats sound like an excellent solution to me. Can your wood-trained brains think of any other ways to stop shattering bats? What's the coolest piece of wood engineering you've seen so far in '09?

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