WASHINGTON - If you take a close look at a Major League Baseball bat, it may not look different. But thanks to some government research it is less likely to break and injure players and fans.
For the last few years, since the widespread use of maple bats, players and teams have been complaining about an increase in the number of bats that have broken and shattered.
But that may be changing.
The number of shattered bats has been reduced by 50 percent because of research done by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the change comes from a combination of how the wood is grown, how it is harvested and how it is treated when making baseball bats.
"Sometimes we fail to realize that what goes on in government research basically does impact us every day," he said.
Companies that manufacture bats for MLB, such as Louisville Slugger, have already made changes to incorporate the research.
Vilsack notes the Forests Products Laboratory is researching wood-based body armor that could be lighter and stronger than aramid fiber. Aramid fiber used in combat and law enforcement clothing. The most recognized brand is DuPont's Kevlar.
He said additional research is being conducted on a wood-based film that could be used in cellphones to increase computing power.
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