An unidentified woman sustained life threatening injuries when she was struck in the head by a piece of a broken bat at a game between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.
The woman was reportedly attending the game with her husband and young son.
The incident occurred in the top of the second inning when Oakland’s Bret Laurie grounded to second, breaking his bat in the process. Part of the bat flew into the stands between home plate and third base where the woman was sitting in the second row.
Stadium officials rushed to treat her while her husband and young son were being comforted by neighboring fans. She was eventually wheeled out of the stadium on a stretcher, bleeding profusely from the head, and screaming in pain.
(Warning: Graphic video)
“You try to keep her in your thoughts and, hopefully, everything’s all right and try to get back to the task at hand,” Lawrie said when asked how he was able to refocus after what happened. “Hopefully everything’s OK and she’s doing all right.
“I’ve seen bats fly out of guys’ hands [into] the stands and everyone’s OK, but when one breaks like that, has jagged edges on it, anything can happen.”
Alex Merlis, of Brookline, Massachusetts, said he was sitting in the row behind the woman when the broken bat flew into the stands just a few rows from the field.
“It was violent,” he said of the impact to her forehead and top of her head. “She bled a lot. A lot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
Merlis said the woman had been sitting with a small child and a man. After she was injured, the man was tending to her and other people were trying to console the distraught child, he said.
Concerned about a rash of flying broken bats and the danger they posed, Major League Baseball studied the issue in 2008 and made a series of changes to bat regulations for the following season.
Multi-piece bat failures are down approximately 50 percent since the start of the 2009 season, MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said.
Although dozens of baseball fans are struck by foul balls each season, there has been only one fatality, according to baseball researchers — a 14-year-old boy killed by a foul line drive off the bat of Manny Mota at Dodger Stadium in 1970.
In professional hockey, a horrible incident in 2002, where a teenage girl sitting behind the goal was struck in the stands by a deflected puck and died caused the NHL to put up netting in a semi-circle around each goal. Would Major League Baseball consider doing something similar? The question will be studied carefully in the wake of this tragic incident.
Part of the problem of broken bats turning into deadly projectiles has been a switch by hitters in the majors from using bats made of white ash to bats made of maple. When ash bats break, they tend to splinter or shatter, which is a danger to players on the field but rarely to fans in the stands.
Maple bats, on the other hand, break into large pieces with one or two shards of the bat capable of flying many yards. Maple is a lighter wood, favored by players because ash bats that are the same length are heavier. The lighter bat allows the hitter to generate greater bat speed through the hitting zone and, theoretically, send the ball farther when struck.
MLB and the Forest Service examined the problem of broken bats back in 2008 when the league was averaging one broken bat a game. Since then, that rate has been cut in half as the league developed strict standards on manufacturing bats with a “straight grain” in the wood compared to a “slanted grain” that used to be found in many maple bats.
The controversy of wood bats vs. aluminum bats, which are used at every level of amatuer baseball, will probably be reignited by this incident. But even aluminum bats can slip out of a player’s hands and sail into the stands, presenting a danger to anyone not paying attention to the game.