Starting in 2010, Boombang collaborated with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's team and the Safety and Health Advisory Committee to examine an emerging issue adversely impacting the game. Broken bats have always been part of baseball, but an inordinate amount of them were now suddenly splintering into tiny multi-piece failures (MPF) upon impact and rocketing towards infielders and nearby fans at deadly speed, threatening serious bodily harm.
After discussing the issue with the Players Union and even going so far as to consult the Timber Engineering Company (TECO) National Forest Laboratory to get their perspective from a wood science standpoint, MLB engaged Boombang to begin exploring possible design solutions for this problem.
We tested over 100 different tapes, adhesives, coatings, cores and materials, in a rigorous scientific environment to find the best option that would work with a wood bat, using the weakest wood as a baseline (which turned out to be maple). After all that research and testing, the ultimate solution was among the simplest.
Wrapping a custom-engineered adhesive film at a particular location on the bat handle, and at a particular wrap density, meant fewer breaks. It also meant that if the bat did break, the protective sleeve held the pieces relatively in place, thereby eliminating the possibility of multi-piece failures or the bat tethering and hitting the catcher or umpire.
Once the bat wrap solution had been tested and widely approved by all necessary stakeholders, we tirelessly optimized the wrap solution to minimize the impact on bat production and perceived performance impact. With gradual tapers built into the pre-cut lengths of adhesive, the ends of the wrap are seamless and clean, nearly unnoticeable to the untrained eye, and unobtrusive to batters. This system is not only simple and effective, but affordable and low tech enough to allow teams and players from other leagues around the world to retrofit their bats themselves.
MLB was suitably impressed with the solution, so much so that subsequent design challenges followed. All of them with one guiding principle in mind: design to improve the safety of players and fans in a way that enhances the spectator experience and maintains the integrity of the game.
Other than their gloves, there are few things pro ball players care more about—or are more protective of—than their bats. Each bat is as unique and quirky and as specific to a particular player as his batting stance. Pine tar or no pine tar. Large or small knob. Painted or bare. Maple, Ash or Hickory. But one rule applies to every single bat that's ever been used in the pros: it must be made out of wood. So whatever the solution was going to be, we knew it had to center around the particular dynamic of using wood bats, which meant late nights of deep analysis of the physics behind splinters and shards, the chemical compound of wood density, and the structural makeup of grain direction.
Wrapping a commercially available clear 3M adhesive tape in a particular location on the bat handle and at a particular wrap density meant fewer breaks. It also meant that if the bat did break, the protective sleeve held the pieces relatively in place, thereby eliminating the possibility of MPF. Simple. Elegant. Effective.