At 3:50 p.m. today, the business end of Rick Ankiel's bat helicoptered into the seats behind and to the right of the Nationals' dugout. The bat separated on a foul ball hit by Ankiel, and thankfully, no one was injured.
I don't know whether Ankiel's bat is ash or maple, and it's a cinch that what happened couldn't be done intentionally. However, it seemed like a good time to point out that incidents like this can be a thing of the past if the game would just quit ignoring reality and invest in an existing technology that keeps bats in one piece.
I did a radio show a couple of years back with a guy who'd come up with a micro-polymer coating for bats that acted like one of those old straw finger puzzles we played with as kids. The more you tried to extract your fingers, the tighter it got. When a coated bat starts to separate, the polymer shell grips tighter, keeping the bat in one piece.
The technology was tested in one of the short season Single-A leagues, and worked 100 percent of the time. It had no effect on the velocity of the ball off the bat. So, why didn't Major League Baseball jump all over it?
They wanted someone else to absorb the additional cost of the coating. As I recall, the actual added cost was a pittance, but MLB's bean-counters turned thumbs-down, presumably because there wasn't a raft of fan - or player - injuries that could be pointed to as motivation.
They dodged a jagged shard today, but hopefully wiser heads in the game will prevail and we can see an end to similar incidents in the future.