Japanese Baseball Bats Find New Life as Chopsticks
Each season, thousands of damaged bats are reprocessed into reusable “kattobashi,” a mash-up of the Japanese word for chopsticks and a baseball chant that translates as “get a big hit.”
The recycling is part of a conservation effort, designed to be decades long and to help preserve and replenish a species of ash tree known as aodamo, native to Japan and a region of eastern Russia. Aodamo wood — durable, light, flexible and resistant to splintering — was once used to make most of the professional bats here.
But baseball officials, sporting goods companies and conservationists say aodamo is no longer considered economically feasible to log on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, considered the sweet spot for bat production. At one time, Japanese stars like Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui used aodamo bats. So did some Americans like Mike Piazza. But forestry officials did not systematically replant the trees as they were felled.
Now the vast majority of bats are made from maple and white ash, mostly imported. Mizuno and Zett, two leading Japanese sporting goods manufacturers, say they no longer make bats from aodamo ash. The hope is that if the reforestation project is successful over the next half century or so, aodamo will again become feasible for baseball.