A baseball bat that is perfectly fine for future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to use is illegal in the hands of a Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado.
Pujols gave a batch of his custom-made AP-5 bats to Maldonado when they were teammates with the Los Angeles Angels back in 2017. Maldonado had been using them on and off ever since, though not with the prodigious success enjoyed by Pujols, who during his final season last summer became just the fourth player to top 700 career home runs. But after Game 1 of the World Series, Maldonado learned he had to choose another piece of lumber.
“A rule is a rule, and I have to follow the rule,” Maldonado said after going 0-3 in Game 2. “That’s why I didn’t use it today.”
Tom Verducci just casually told everyone that Maldonado used an illegal bat last night AND that Albert Pujols has been using that model for 12 years because it was “grandfathered” in
Ok then pic.twitter.com/kMz17JK9z5
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) October 30, 2022
So why was the bat legal in the hands of Pujols and illegal when wielded by the light-hitting Maldonado? It is made of maple, and deemed more likely to splinter into multiple pieces, posing a risk to batter, catcher, and umpire. Pujols’ use of the bat model was grandfathered in because his career began before the 2011 rule change. Maldonado made his debut in 2011.
Maple bats are still legal, but not when designed to the specifications Pujols demanded.
It was unclear how often Maldonado used the Pujols bats in recent years. Over the 2022 regular season, he hit 15 home runs – a decent total for a catcher, but sported an anemic .186 batting average. Maldonado, who is considered one of the Major League’s top defensive catchers, went 1 for 3 in the Astros’ Game 1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Major League Baseball stated that Maldonado gained no competitive advantage by using the Pujols bat, and it appeared the mix-up was an honest mistake.
Bat maker Jack Marucci told The Associated Press the AP5 was “one of the original models I worked with Albert to design.”
“He was the first player to give me a bat to replicate,” Marucci said.
Any bats remaining in Pujols collection should be delivered to Cooperstown, N.Y., the home of baseball’s Hall of Fame. The slugging first baseman just wrapped up one of the greatest careers in baseball history, finishing with 703 home runs to trail only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and the tainted total of suspected steroid cheat Barry Bonds.