Grand SLAM! (Slowing Ash Mortality)

August 23, 2021 2:22 pm

Grand SLAM! (Slowing Ash Mortality)

By Lori Chamberlin, DOF Forest Health Manager, and Joe Lehnen, DOF Forest Utilization and Marketing Specialist

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that attacks and kills ash trees in North America. It became established in Virginia in 2008 and has wreaked havoc, killing ash trees throughout the state.

Adult emerald ash borer (Photo credit Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station,

In 2019, DOF was awarded a federal Landscape Scale Restoration grant titled Grand SLAM (Slowing Ash Mortality) in the South. One objective of this project is to conduct education and outreach with minor league baseball teams, as baseball is a sport that utilizes ash wood. To date, DOF has partnered with three baseball teams in Virginia: Salem Red Sox, Richmond Flying Squirrels, and Norfolk Tides.

Since the first ash baseball bat was used professionally in 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky, ash bats have been the go-to for baseball greats, including Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, and countless others. But with the death of ash trees from EAB, fewer ash bats are made each year, and only a small percentage of professionals use them today. As ash trees die, so does a huge part of baseball history. DOF’s Grand SLAM outreach activities bring attention to the emerald ash borer and encourage good practices, such as preventative ash treatment and buying local firewood. This project is a true collaboration between Forest Health, Urban and Community Forestry, and Virginia Urban Wood Programs.

Hit EAB out of the park! (Photo credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Demonstration baseball bats for this project were created by Shaun McKim, with assistance from Duff McCully, both part of the Washington, D.C. Urban Forestry Program. These bats were engraved with EAB messaging and displayed during outreach activities. Six additional bats were produced for bat giveaways during select baseball games at our partner team stadiums. Four of these bats were created by Juan Baret of Baret Bat and Glove Company, a small veteran-owned company that uses a purpose-driven approach to help ballplayers be their best on and off the field. Of course, all bats were made of local ash wood!

On August 6th, DOF staff attended a Salem Red Sox game for in-person outreach. Baseball fans were able to speak with forest health program staff and DOF’s Forest Utilization & Marketing Specialist about EAB and how to protect ash trees. Smokey Bear showed up to throw the first pitch and meet the fans. Every person that stopped by the DOF table went home with miscellaneous outreach material and a reminder to hit EAB out of the park. The emerald ash borer is an aggressive pest that will continue to damage ash trees, but everyone can help slow the spread by not moving firewood and considering treatment to protect healthy ash trees. Let’s slugger that bugger!

Teagan O’Brien (DOF forest health technician) and Smokey hand out EAB information at the Salem Red Sox baseball stadium.

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