A Beetle Strikes Out Baseball's Famous Ash Bats

The white ash tree used to stand tall, straight, and imposing. Its canopy painted the landscape in gold and maroon. It was the species you are most likely to encounter on a stroll through the New York and Pennsylvania woods. But now there are dead ash trees everywhere, devoured by a little green beetle, the emerald ash borer. Ash joins the ranks of over a million plant and animal species presently at risk of extinction.

Among native tree species, ash represents a tiny fraction of the continental woodlands. But there is one arena where ash has historically reigned: in baseball. Ash is probably best known as the preferred material for baseball bats — strong yet remarkably light.

Most of baseball history has been written with ash bats, from Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 to Roger Maris’s 61 home runs in 1961 to Mark McGwire's 70 homers in 1988. Babe Ruth swung ash bats weighing a whooping 46 ounces. Ty Cobb had his crafted for him by a coffin maker. Ted Williams used to travel to the factory of Hilerich & Bradsby, the maker of the Louisville Slugger, to select the lumber he wanted carved into his bats.

Today, not one major leaguer is swinging an ash Louisville Slugger in games. Baseball’s future will depend on other woods, mainly maple and birch. Because ash is a softer wood with a looser grain structure, it can be more susceptible to splintering or flaking. But in the barrel, the so-called sweet spot, the softer ash bats can flex upon contact, producing a trampoline effect on the ball. With maple as the predominant replacement and birch at a distant second, nothing can replace an ash bat.

The light grain in maple can disguise weakness. While ash bats crack, maple bats explode. This results in many more bats shattering and causing potential harm. The downside of birch is its softness. Hitting often leaves dents on the shaft of the bat. Birch is not nearly as flexible as ash, and according to some players “doesn’t sound as good.”

So next time you see a baseball bat shatter in a big game, it may be that ballplayer was forced to swing maple instead of ash. And it won't just be America's pastime that's changed. The demise of the ash tree demonstrates that real, visible, and consequential ecological catastrophes are playing out all around us.

George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth Jr (1895-1948) is an all-American hero, considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

Billets are cylindrical wood blanks which are loaded into the lathe and machined into a baseball bat.

Factory of Hilerich & Bradsby, the maker of the Louisville Slugger.

A demonstrator shows how bats used to be hand-crafted to a major league players personal specifications before computer automation.  

This tiny D-shaped hole is made by the Emerald Ash Borer as it enters and leaves the tree.

Six species of ash (Fraxinus) in North America are at risk of extinction due to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis). Pictured here is the white ash (Fraxinus americana).

For more information on why MLB Players no longer use Ash Bats

Chimichurri Meatballs


Chimichurri Sauce:

1 packed cup parsley leaves and stems

½ packed cup fresh oregano leaves

3 garlic cloves


½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper


1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 large egg

Kosher salt

1 pound ground beef (preferably 15 percent fat)

1 tablespoon olive oil


To make the chimichurri, combine the parsley, oregano, garlic and a big pinch of salt. Chop or pulse until a coarse paste forms, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon water; mix well. Season to taste with salt and more crushed red pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, stir the panko, egg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt with ¼ cup water and ¼ cup chimichurri until the panko is wet and softened. Add the beef and mix until combined.

Roll the mixture into 12 meatballs and chill for 5 to 10 minutes to firm slightly.

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and medium-rare, or to desired doneness, 7 to 10 minutes. Serve with remaining chimichurri spooned over top and alongside.

Thanks for Reading

and Happy Planting!

Faith Appelquist
President & Founder