Damon weighs in on shattering bats
Yanks streaking outfielder switches from maple to ash
HOUSTON -- The season has just passed the one-third mark, and already Johnny Damon has left an entire shipment of his maple bats scattered in ballparks across the Major Leagues.
Keeping close watch on the controversy concerning maple bats and potential safety risks, Damon isn't taking any chances. The Yankees outfielder had a new batch of lumber delivered while the club was playing a three-game series in Oakland this week, and this time, he's trying ash.
"With all of the rumors flying around, you don't want to get caught not being used to an ash bat," Damon said. "I can tell the difference. Maple bats are definitely harder, and they feel better in your hands. The ash bats normally don't break as much."
Damon decided to make the switch even as he rides a scorching hot streak, batting .443 in 24 games since May 20. His numbers could be even better -- Damon claims that he has hit a number of balls on the sweet spot and still watched his bat shatter.
He tried to keep the maple bat that he used to go 6-for-6 against the Royals on June 13, but alas, that one was littered on the infield at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum. Damon estimates that he's already broken 30 bats this season.
"It's amazing how bad they're blowing up now," Damon said. "Maybe we [should] get real scientific and see how the forests are where they're getting these maple bats. Maybe there's an excess amount of rain or of drought, who knows? They're definitely cracking a lot more."
An estimated 60 percent of Major League players use maple bats. Major League Baseball is set to address the issue, as members of the Commissioner's Office, the Major League Baseball Players Association and various clubs will meet on June 24 in New York.
The matter has been getting attention because maple bats have caused injuries to uniformed personnel and fans seated in the stands. On April 25 at Dodger Stadium, a maple bat used by Colorado's Todd Helton shattered and struck a fan sitting four rows back in the face. Pirates coach Don Long also suffered a sliced cheek this season when a maple bat splintered at the handle.
Then again, maybe ash isn't the answer. Using the new shipment of ash, Damon went 3-for-5 with a double in New York's 8-4 victory over the Astros on Saturday, but he still lost two bats.
"They might have to do scientific research to see why they're snapping more this year than last year," Damon said. "I'm going to stick with whatever feels good in my hand right now. The ash bats felt pretty decent."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.