The Washington Times - July 12, 2013, 10:19AM

Hailing it as work to make “America’s Pastime safer,” the Agriculture Department announce Friday that government research funded by Major League Baseball (MLB) will significantly reduce the number of shattered wooden bats.

Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service’s lab on forest products worked with MLB to examine every broken bat in the pros from July to September during the 2008 season.

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They found that inconsistent wood quality, particularly when it comes to the “slope,” or straightness, of the wood grain, was the primary cause of broken bats. The straighter the grain, the less likely it would be for the bat to shatter.

Low-density maple bats broke into multiple pieces more often than ash bats or high-density maple bats, the researchers found.

The researchers employed a wood inspection service to establish quality controls that limit the bat’s dimensions and density. Those changes, and other recommendations, have led to much fewer broken bats even as “maple’s popularity is on the upswing,” the department said.

“The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory has once again demonstrated that we can improve uses for wood products across our nation in practical ways — making advancements that can improve quality of life and grow our economy,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

Forest Service researchers have been monitoring and detailing every broken bat incident since 2009 and will continue to monitor the subject during the current season, the government said.