Broken Baseball Bats Become Chopsticks
Rather than throw away a splintered or broken bat, in Japan, they are recycled into chopsticks which is part of an effort to preserve a species of ash tree.
If a baseball bat cracks when a player uses it, it’s considered useless, right? Not so fast. In Japan, thousands of bats that have been cracked and splintered are repurposed into chopsticks and cooking utensils. This recycling is part of an effort to preserve a species of ash tree known as Aodamo, which are native to Japan and an eastern region in Russia.
Today, Baseball bats in Japan are mostly made from maple or white ash trees. That hasn’t always been the case though.
At one point, they were made out of Aodamo wood, a species of ash tree, which is durable, light, flexible and resistant to splintering. The trees are native to Japan and a region of eastern Russia.
Right now, it is not economically feasible to log these trees since there are so few of them left. It takes Aodamo trees 50-70 years to grow to the height and width needed to make baseball bats and as they were taken down, not enough were planted in their place.
In 2000, an article about how the availability of the Aodamo trees was decreasing caught the eye of the officials at the Hyozaemon chopsticks company. Chief executive, Hyogoo Uratani, had played baseball in high school and was able to contact his friend, Takeo Minatoya, who had pitched professionally for the Taiyo Whales of Japan’s Central League and then became the general manager and consultant for the Yokohama BayStars.
Broken bats were mostly given away or burned to keep players warm during spring training but Uratain and Minatoya had a different idea. They wanted to turn the bats into chopsticks.
Each season Hyozaemon said it collects an average of 10,000 broken bats that they are able to recycle into chopsticks. But the recycling doesn’t stop there.
The barrel of each bat can be used to make chopsticks and part of the handle can then create shoehorns and handles for forks and spoons. The cap of the bat can be repurposed as a drinking cup. Each part of the bats can be repurposed into something useful.
Twelve teams in Japan’s two leagues were persuaded into helping the cause by paying a licensing fee to have logos put on chopsticks. Not only that, but Nippon Professional Baseball, like the MLB of Japan, makes an annual contribution to the nonprofit Aodamo Preservation Society. This group goes out to plant Aodamo tree saplings on Hokiado island.
There are many baseball individuals who are hoping that one day there are enough Aodamo trees to return to having bats be made out of Aodamo wood once again.