No decision on maple bats expected soon

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Although Commissioner Bud Selig has appealed for urgent action to resolve baseball's maple bat crisis, one of the players on the committee formed to resolve the issue said he could not promise that reforms would be implemented or even proposed this season.

"I don't know if we can realistically and fairly put a timetable on it," New York Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman said.

Selig is expected to address the issue today. In the three weeks since a committee of owners' and players' representatives first met, baseball officials have tried to collect every broken bat for analysis and have consulted with foresters and bat manufacturers, Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said.

Sam Holman, who designed the maple bats popularized by Barry Bonds, said he has not been contacted by baseball officials.

The urgency has arisen from an epidemic of flying bat fragments. When bats made of maple wood break, they tend to shatter into large chunks and take flight. When bats made of ash wood break, they tend to crack and fall to the ground.

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki injured his hand when he broke a maple bat in frustration, with a jagged piece slamming into his hand and opening a gash that required 16 stitches to close. Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long and fan Susan Rhodes were injured in separate incidents at Dodger Stadium, with each hit by a flying chunk of a maple bat.

The committee could recommend banning maple bats or imposing quality specifications upon manufacturers, and Selig could order netting that protects fans extended beyond the bases.

"We're in the process of collecting data and talking to different people, and getting as much information as we can before we start trying to make any decisions," Heilman said. "At this point, we really don't have enough information to even look at different scenarios of where we go from here.

"It's certainly not something we want to drag out any longer than it needs to be. At the same time, you don't want to make decisions based on half truths and circumstantial data.

"There's certainly a perception of what's happening. We want to make sure the perception is correct and look at every possible avenue of addressing what's happening, and find the least invasive method of solving whatever it is."

Late star

The Angels' Joe Saunders did not arrive in New York in time for All-Star game workouts or interviews Monday. Saunders missed his scheduled Sunday start after his wife, Shanel, gave birth to the couple's first child Saturday night. Saunders was scheduled to fly from Southern California to New York on Monday morning, but the flight was canceled. He caught a later flight and arrived in time to watch Monday night's home run derby.

Derby day

Josh Hamilton put on the best show, but Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins won the home run derby.

Hamilton hit more home runs in the first round than Morneau hit in all three rounds. But the count started over in the final round, so Morneau won by outhitting Hamilton, 5-3, even though Hamilton hit 35 home runs on the evening and Morneau hit 22.

Hamilton's show already included a heartwarming angle -- he flew in 71-year-old Clay Counsil, the guy who pitched batting practice to him as a kid, to pitch to him -- and the redemption element of a player whose drug abuse nearly derailed his career and life.

The Texas Rangers slugger had a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium on its feet, chanting his name. In the first round, when none of the other seven entrants hit more than eight home runs, Hamilton hit 28, setting a single-round derby record. One of those home runs left the stadium, clearing the facade high above right field, at an estimated distance of 518 feet.

New York blasphemy

The reverence in which New Yorkers hold Yankee Stadium extends into the New York media, with each player asked breathlessly and repeatedly during Monday's hotel interview session about the thrill of experiencing Yankee Stadium during its farewell season.

Russell Martin, the Dodgers' lone All-Star representative, said he never had been to Yankee Stadium but he had spoken about it with Joe Torre, the current Dodgers manager and former Yankees manager.

"Joe talked to me about Monument Park," Martin said. "I don't know what else is over there. I'm sure I'll find it."

After one too many questions on the topic, Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros offered a heartfelt response to the question of what he would do first when he got to Yankee Stadium.

"Get undressed," Berkman said. "Go get something to eat."

For starters

Ben Sheets of the Milwaukee Brewers draws the start for the National League. Sheets, who has not pitched in the postseason, said he could not rank the honor of starting the All-Star game against the feat of pitching a shutout against Cuba in the gold-medal game of the 2000 Olympic Games.

Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians, who rebounded from a 2007 season that started with an injury and included a demotion to the minor leagues, starts for the American League.

"I'm completely baffled and privileged to get that honor," he said.

East Coast bias

Clint Hurdle, manager of the Colorado Rockies and the NL All-Stars, struck a blow for baseball fans fed up with the constant flow of New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox national broadcasts.

Hurdle, in discussing how he might suggest his hitters approach New York's Mariano Rivera: "The Yankees are on TV a lot. So we get to see them a lot. . . . We get to see the Yankees and the Red Sox on TV a lot. So we've done a lot of advance scouting in our clubhouse."


For The Record Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 17, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction All-Star Game: An item in Tuesday's Sports section on the home run derby said a home run by the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton traveled 518 feet and left Yankee Stadium. The ball hit a wall behind the right-field bleachers but remained in the stadium.
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