MANHATTAN (CN) – Since Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs with maple bats in 2001, Major League ballplayers have switched in droves to maple from traditional ash, and the change has brought “a marked increase in incidences where bats broke,” sending “shrapnel” into the stands “at an alarming rate,” a Mets fan says. James Falzon claims “the barrel of a shattered maple bat” fractured his nose and tore his trachea as his son sat beside him at a Mets game.
Falzon was watching the Mets take on the Braves on Aug. 8, 2007, when second-baseman Luis Castillo came up to the plate in the seventh inning. Castillo was using catcher Ramon Castro’s maple bat, which “exploded” when he hit a fly ball, Falzon says.
Falzon says he was watching ball from his box seat and did not see the shattered barrel of the bat as it flew toward his face.
Falzon says his 11-year-old son watched in “shock” as his father suffered multiple fractures in the face and lacerations in his nose, lip and trachea.
According to the complaint in New York County Court, Major League Baseball players “traditionally” used bats made from ash trees, but took notice when Barry Bonds switched to maple and hit 73 dingers in 2001.
“With the increase in the usage of maple bats came a marked increase in incidences where bats broke,” projecting “shrapnel” toward “players, umpires, coaches and fans at an alarming rate,” the complaint states.
Major League Baseball commissioned a study in 2005 by the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and researcher James Sherwood found that maple bats gave no advantage in hit distance or batted-ball speeds, according to the complaint.
But the study showed that ash bats typically crack when they break, while maple bats generally “break apart or explode,” the complaint states.
Based on this study, Major League Baseball in 2006 considered banning maple bats, changing their thickness, and increasing the area protected by safety nets, “to provide adequate protection for spectators to the now known risk, from behind home plate to include the area to the end of the dugout.”
But the league decided instead, in 2007, to require “all their approved maple bat suppliers to increase their liability coverage from $1 million to $10 million,” the complaint states.
Falzon and his wife and son sued Luis Castillo, Ramon Castro, The New York Mets and Major League Baseball for negligence, injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
They are represented by William Manlatis with Schlemmer & Malatis.