Wood For Baseball Bats
It's another wonderful day at the ball game. You're dressed in your best jersey with your base umbrella. You're sitting in the best stadium seats you could find, and you are in full view of the game. You see everything and a thought comes to you, "why do ballplayers even use wood for baseball bats?" or perhaps, "what was the first type of wood baseball bat ever used"?
In my opinion, every hitter should learn how to hit effectively with a wood bat. Whether it's to learn how to make adjustments in your swing to increase exit velocity, train and master their timing, or refine their approach so that when the game starts, they have a foundation - hitting with wood is a non-negotiable.
Ultimately, our ability to take Hell-Hacks with controlled aggression and mechanically sound swings is just another advantage for hitters. Hitting with wood can help hitters get there sooner.
Why Were Wooden Bats Chosen?
Before the 1850s, most baseball players made their own bats. Home carpenters produced "hickory" bats by splitting a solid log into round slabs or cylinders, then tapering both ends and finishing them with a groove down each side. Hitter's used these early "hickory" bats, swinging them without the typical handles, hence the name "handleless bats."
Of course, wood bats didn't last very long, but the design was perfected in 1848 and bat production in America began at the Plough Company, owned by Henry Chadwick.
The earliest known pro bat is displayed at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The bat is made from white ash and measures 36 inches long. The barrel is 28 inches long and three inches wide. The handle is 6 inches long.
Bud Chapman, a furniture maker and inventor, came up with the idea for the first pro bat after watching a baseball game. There was a line drive that landed in the crowd and injured several people. He wanted to create a better way to protect those who attended the games.
Ultimately, wood bats were chosen as the most effective material to use at scale. Wood was already a common medium used during the Industrial Revolution so both distribution and labor costs had already been validated.
The fact that it was relatively durable and cost-effective wood bats was a no-brainer for manufacturers.
How Wooden Baseball Bats Effect Player Performance
1. Wood bats keep you honest.
This is one of the main benefits for young hitters who compete and play in metal bat leagues. Since there is a smaller room for error with wood bats, young ballplayers are able to get more realistic feedback when it comes to how effectively the ball was hit.
Sure there's a benefit in practicing with the equipment you used in the game, which is why wood bats could be used as a supplement to their overall training in the batting cage.
2. Wood bats challenge your feel for the bat.
In many ways, what makes a hitter elite is their "fee" for the bat. In other words, their ability to keep the sweet spot of the bat on the plane of the pitcher as early as possible and for as long as possible. Since the barrel is solid and denser, the hitter is forced to develop the strength and intuition that is required to execute the consistent quality swings.
How Wooden Bats Are Made
Making a bat isn't as simple as it looks. You don't just crave or cut a piece of wood using a mold. The construction of a baseball bat needs to have a balance between weight and thickness. The materials it's made out of can make a huge difference. The type of wood for baseball bats used can even have an impact on the score as per league guidelines and/or regulations.
Fun Fact: In 2001, Barry Bonds cracked a home run record (73 homers). He used a wooden bat during that time that was made out of maple wood and not your typical white ash.
Plenty of materials have been used in the production of wood baseball bats. These include ash, hickory, and maple. Each tree has a different density, which impacts its weight and durability. You'll notice when searching for your next wood bat that the most common is maple. Maple is a lighter-weight material than others, which makes it more aerodynamic than other types of wood.
To determine the best wood baseball bat for your needs, there are several characteristics of each material to consider. While a bat is typically made from one type of wood, some manufacturers offer bats made from two or three different types of wood. The combination of woods and how the pieces are put together can affect the weight, durability, and balance of the bat.
Complete Wooden Bat Creation Process For Pro Players
First Step - Weighing
The first step is weighing to ensure that the wood that's being used really does have the thickness and/or weight it needs to be turned into a stable, balanced, powerful bat.
Second Step - Shaping
In the second step, a pointed prong grips the wood and spins it. As it spins, a carbide cutter rounds it. A carbide cutter is your modern-day lathe i.e. a tool that cuts, drills, sands, deform, polish, face, and turn. All done turn a piece of wood into a long round stick somewhat similar to how a long steel pipe looks like.
Third Step - Specifications & Storage
After the piece of wood has been turned into a long round stick. It is then marked with various specifications such as the model, and the size. It is then stored along with the other models, waiting for their turn to shine in the big leagues. When a pro player sends an order, the blank round wood chosen will be weighed and measured again to ensure that there is no structural damage.
Fourth Step - Modern-Day Lathe (shaping the blank wood)
The blank wood goes onto the lathe and spins. A computer is used to guide the cutter as it moves on rails and craves into the blank wood. It craves or whittles about two and a half centimeters of wood from the blank in order to form a handle. It's quick work. It normally takes three passes for the cutter to do its job. Typically a three-minute process.
By now the blank wood's weight has been reduced by half or 1/4 of its original weight. A caliper is used to measure the end of the bat and uses a square edge scraper to edge out or form the appropriate size. And while it's still spinning, the worker will use another caliper to check the thickness of the bat compared to an already completed bat.
A skew chisel will then be used to cut into the bat's handle. Just above the knob, to narrow the shoulder.
He then uses the skew chisel to shape the slope (the part where you put your hands) of the bat and angles the top of the knob to. He's measuring while he does this to make sure the diameter meets regulation.
The worker continues to shape the rest of it (the knob) with the chisel then he curves the bat's barrel (that's the top part of the bt) using the same chisel. He does this to remove the bat's sharp edges that cause a ball's impact to ripple down and hit you the player. He now uses an electric sander to smoothen all of the bat's rough edges.
It is important to note that this whole process isn't just about transforming the rough blank piece of wood into a smooth bat. The worker is constantly measuring the bat to make sure that its size and weight for the player that ordered it.
Finally, he places the bat's knob in a vice grip where a spinning carbine disc cuts a gentle scoop. An optional step can be taken here. Some players prefer a cupped bat over a typical bat because it balances differently. This is done by simply placing the barrel on a vice grip, and slowly craving it with the same carbine.
Fifth Step - Painting
The fifth and final step ends with the worker applying paint onto the barrel, rubbing stain onto the slope. He then adds a decal onto the bat. It'll often be the brand's name, model number, and distributor. Now, he simply adds a light coat of varnish to finish off the job.
Obviously, wood bat manufacturing will vary from one bat company to the next. For some, the approach is more akin to an art, while for others, the process is about efficiency and productivity.
How to Buy Your Own Wooden Baseball Bat
It's important to note that not all wooden bats are created equal. Like most things, the quality of a product usually is predicated by the ingredients or materials.
This is why Maple and Ash are the two more popular bats in the sport.
If your bat is too long, you probably have a lot of unneeded weight distributed passed the handle of the bat. If it's too short, it'll be a challenge handling pitches on the outer half of the plate.
You want the Goldi Locks effect. Something that's not too long, or short, and not too heavy or light.
Still, a lot of finding the right bat comes down to preference, what your role is in the lineup as well as natural ability.
General Length Suggestion: (age) - (bat length)
5-7 years old - 24'' to 26'' inches
8-9 years old - 26'' to 28'' inches
10 years old - 28''' to 29'' inches
11-12 years old - 30'' to 31'' inches
13-14 years old - 31'' to 32'' inches
15-16 years old - 32'' to 33'' inches
Pro Tip: Hold out your bat in front of you (your body). If you can hold it for at least 45 seconds without the barrel tilting then this means, it's generally a good place to start.
Types of Wood & Materials Used Types of Wood
You can never tell just by looking at maple wood that a chunk of it has what it takes to create a great wooden bat. A popular choice amongst ballplayers for its pop, density, and durability.
Advantages of Maple Wood:
1. Very Dense. 2. Tighter Grain. 3. Most Durable.
A popular type of Maple are bats made out of Rock Maple.
Unlike maple wood, ash wood is way more flexible and light. It's a very forgiving bat that produces a kind of "trampoline" effect when a ball makes contact. This "trampoline" effect will make the ball go much further upon impact. Ash wooden bats are perfect for anyone just starting one or someone who's transitioning from aluminum bats.
Advantages of Ash Wood:
- More flex compared to maple which makes the ball "jump" off the bat with more force.
- Larger sweet spot.
Ichiro Suzuki was a huge proponent of the Ash Bat. He would go on to say, "I used the tamo wood when I played in Japan but when I came here I used both to compare them and I found that with this climate, the ash is more durable than the tamo."
Bats made from birch wood have a similar grain structure to maple but with a bit of flexibility just like ash wood which gives it a unique edge compared to the two as it can withstand unique or uncommon points of contact. Birch wooden bats are perfect for anyone who's just starting out or still a beginner. Pick the yellow birch, it's the most popular material.
Advantages of Birch Wood:
1. Because they combine the density of maple and the flexibility of ash they are perfect for those who are transitioning from metal bats to wooden bats.
2. Durable and popular (which means lots of choices)
Bamboo bats are probably the most unique. Often use as batting cage bats rather than actual bats to be used for baseball as bamboo bats are extremely strong and very, very dense but surprisingly lightweight and offer a fantastic transfer of energy upon wing and/or impact.
Advantages of Bamboo Wood:
1. Very light which makes your swings faster.
2. Very durable and very strong in its build construction quality.
Composite bats are very expensive. They're what I like to call the "custom" edition bats in baseball as they can be built with a multitude of different designs and are generally known to last a lifetime. They are made out of a mixture of various wood materials, and foreign materials to produce the most durable (and expensive) bats available.
A hybrid baseball bat is a mixture of aluminum and composite bats. Usually lighter but very durable. It offers the best of both worlds i.e. aluminum and composite or a mix of choices.
Parts of a Wood Bat
Every wood baseball bat is made from five main sections: the knob, handle, barrel, endcap, and grip. The knob helps keep your hands in place during your follow-through, though some players like Roberto Clemente were known to prefer bats without the knob.
The bat's diameter tapers from the handle to the barrel.
Types of Bat Knobs
Flared Bat Knob: your average, what you see in almost every single bat.
Tapered Bat Knob: there's a smooth transition between the handle and knob.
Bell Bat Knob: essentially a bell-ish shape that acts as a counterweight which creates more swinging power and whip.
Comfort: This type of knob is for the player who has the grip of the bat mostly in their fingers. They like to reinforce a "fee" for the bat head by leveraging their ringers and grip for torque instead of the knob.
Types of Baseball Bat Models
Yes, there are baseball ball "models" often referred to as "turn" bats. In its simplest form, it's just that, a model. A model number or a specific type that its own characteristics from how it was made, how it was designed from the transition style to the barrel's thickness even the handle's thickness. You don't necessarily need to know every single thing although if you plan on competing competitively, well that's a whole different story.
271 Turn Model
The most popular type of bat model. It's not considered to have the largest barrel at just 2.5'' barrel diameter but it offers hitters a go at swinging a 271 that offers superb balance due to it often being denser than others. It's definitely harder and very durable.
110 Turn Model
Similar to the 271 that offers a thick handle with a longer taper. This baseball bat has the same barrel diameter with a 1'' handle in diameter but is even more balanced compared to the 271. Because of its profile, it's fantastic for players who are switching from metal bats to wooden bats.
i-13 Turn Model
Very similar to the structural build of the 271 models. The i-13 key difference it has more end-loaded construction given its extra mass, especially in the barrel. If you're a power hitter, you will love this type of model.
141 Turn Model
Compared to the other models, the 141 model is relatively smaller with a thinner handle at just 15''-16'' that tapes offer into a 2.47'' in diameter medium barrel. It's the most ideal bat to use for players who are swinging a wooden bat for the first time.
Most Used MLB Wooden Bat
Maple is the most commonly used bat in MLB. Ideally used by power hitters, its popularity is due to its extreme durability, strength, and density. It's much harder than other types of wood for baseball bats, giving it more pop when it hits and because of its grain structure, it holds up very well even under high-speed circumstances meaning they don't break easily. The more you use them, the more the grain structure compresses thus giving you an even more compact, tight, powerful bat.
A major downside to maple down is its grain structure because of the way it is created, it's susceptible to moisture and must be kept as dry as possible. Over time, if your maple bat keeps getting wet, the moisture will get sucked in by the wood, making it heavier, and yes, harder but it loses its flexibility and deteriorates to the point that it can more easily break.
As with any tool or person you have, if you want wood for baseball bats to last. It's best to always take care of it. Don't leave your bat out in the open, exposed to the elements. Keep it dry, and keep it safe from harsh sunlight or the blistering cold. If you do these very simple things, the longevity of your bat goes up significantly.
How Broken Bats are Repurposed
Wooden Pens: because of how dense and high quality a broken bat is. It's perfect for making wooden pens. Trims can be black, copper, chrome, gunmetal, or gold. These types of pens often come with a certificate noting from which baseball bat it was made from. If you or someone you know happens to be a big fan of a certain player, this would make the perfect gift.
Kattobshi: in Japan, most of their top players use imported wood for baseball bats such as those made with white ash wood and maple wood. They make the perfect type of wood to be turned into chopsticks.
Wood Craft: Everything you can think of from stools, mallet handles, armchairs, or Adirondack chairs can all be made from broken bats that often still retain their quality.
Souvenirs: Every type of souvenir from beer can openers, tokens, icons, clip art, handles, and many more can all be made from repurposed broken bats.
Most Popular Baseball Brands:
Rawlings: - definitely the brand with the best reputation -
Rawlings doesn't just offer the best baseball products in the market but they're also a manufacturer of baseball equipment from bats, balls, and gloves, and even offer customization on certain products. According to statistics, over 60% of MLB players use Rawlings gloves.
Wilson doesn't just offer baseball products but they also cater to other sports. In the U.S., Wilson is one of the largest manufacturers of sporting goods. Over 27% of MLB use their products and many NCAA baseball teams use their products as well.
Founded by big ex-MLB plysers in 2004. Marucci is known for specializing in exquisite-look bats and offers custom-made gloves. About 23% of MLB players use Marucci from Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, and many others. They even sponsor certain NCAA baseballs teams such as UoM (University of Memphis), LSU (Louisiana State University), and others.
Bags, bats, fielding gloves, batting gloves, and even clothing attire. They sell baseball equipment for all ages and skill levels. Easton is particularly known for making light, very durable aluminum bats. They sponsor multiple professional and collegiate athletes from Coastal Carolina Univesity, and Texas A&M to Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez, the Dodgers' Justin Turner, and more.
Particularly known for their top-quality aluminum bats. Since 1989, kids of all ages have enjoyed using DeMarini baseball equipment for decades. Unfortunately, they don't sponsor professional athletes as the league only uses wood for baseball bats however DeMarini does have sponsorship deals with multiple colleges and universities.
From slowpitch, fastpitch gear, fielding gloves, aluminum bats, and even more baseball equipment. Mizuno has it. Many professional athletes and colleges use Mizuno, not just in baseball but in other sports as well. Quite popular in Europe and Japan. Mizuno is a fantastic choice for all players.
If you have a friend who doesn't know anything about baseball. The phrase "Louisville Slugger" is generally known not just in the States but in other countries as well. It's a catchy name but most of all, for those who do know, Louisville Slugger has been a top baseball brand for decades. They have almost every type of baseball equipment you can think of. And sponsors a lot of top-tier athletes and colleges such as Christian Yelich, Didi Gregorious, University of Miami, University of Tennessee,
What can I say about Nike that isn't been said already? Nike is the #1 go-to sports equipment for any sport not just in baseball, but basketball, football, soccer, cricket, volleyball, bowling, and many, many, many more. Nike has some of the world's most popular and in-demand athletes and top colleges around the world under their sponsorship deals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where's the "Sweet Spot on a wood bat?"
The sweet spot is where you consistently hit the ball. It is the node where the energy of the velocity of the ball is transferred into the bat at the launch angle. Here the speed of the batted ball is highest. Typically, the sweet spot is 2" inches from the end of the bat's barrel to 6-7" inches on the adult bat.
What side of the baseball bat must I hit the ball?
The manufacturer's logo label or ink dot is put in the location that shows the best point to hit on the strongest side of the baseball bat. So when you're swinging with the bat that is perpendicular to your body and you're about to hit the ball, the label must point upwards to the sky or towards the ground. This way, you are in contact with the strongest side of your baseball bat. The is the side where grains are layered.
Is the grip on a wood bat different than the grip on a metal bat?
The grips are typically the same. They vary based on the hitter's preference. However, there are topicals you can put on the grip and taper to adjust how the bat feels in your hands and what the sensation is like during the swing.
- Athletic tape - this is still slippery but it helps you customize the grip that you feel is best for you. The handles become thicker with the tape if it feels thin to you. Or you can add tape to the knob, giving added weight to your hands.
- Pine tar - the handle feels slippery when you first have your bat. Appy pine tar where your hands grip the bat. They put a rosin bag where you put the tar; Rosin makes the pine tar sticky.
- Lizard skins - have become popular grips that hitters use to feel secure with the handle in their hands during their swing.
Is it harder to hit with a wood bat?
To answer this question, let's consider the differences between a wood bat and an aluminum bat. The wooden bats are heavier and have a smaller "sweet spot." This means it is much harder to hit the ball with a wood bat than with an aluminum one. In order to make contact, your swing needs to be more accurate. However, by practicing with a wood bat you can improve your hitting performance and become better prepared when it comes time for game day.
How are you supposed to hit with a wood bat?
The label, or manufacturer's mark, on a wood bat usually lists important information such as the model, weight, and type of wood the bat is made from along with other info. This label needs to be facing up when using the bat so that you can easily see it while batting.
What inch bat should I use?
There are several factors you should consider when choosing an inch bat. Your age and weight should be foremost on your mind, but players under 4'1" should also try the bat for feel to see if it's the right size. Once you've chosen an inch bat that feels good, make sure it's the correct length by measuring from the bottom handle to its tip.
Which wood bats have the most pop?
It is widely known that maple bats have the most pop of any type of wood bat. Maple is denser and harder than other types of wood like ash. Therefore, maple bats are more durable and allow for more power when hitting a ball.
What is the most used wood bat in MLB?
Maple bats have emerged as the most popular species of wood used by players at the major league level. This is due to the hardness, durability, and overall performance of the wood. Maple bats make up approximately 75% to 80% of all bats used at the major league level.
Is maple or birch better for wood bats?
Maple Bats are the most popular baseball bats in the game today. However, Birch has proven that it is a viable alternative for players who prefer a softer feel on contact. A Birch Bat is the perfect mix of a Maple Bat and an Ash Bat, because it has the hardness of Maple, but the flex of Ash.
Which wood bat has the biggest barrel?
The Annex Model 243 features one of the largest barrels. Its medium weight makes it great for younger players just starting out or high school level players looking to improve their game.
What wood bat is the hardest to break?
Hickory is the heaviest and hardest of all bat-wood species. It's very stiff, has no flex (i.e., no trampoline effect) and little feel. That's why it's used for the longest time in making baseball bats (and early footballs).
Are bamboo bats good?
Bamboo baseball bats have been around for a while, but they are still considered by some to be an oddity or curiosity. While their durability remains a topic of debate, numerous companies are using them in the production of their bats and not having any problems. The strength of bamboo is an advantage to anyone who has ever snapped their standard wood bat after hitting a line drive off the wall and off their toe. Bamboo can take a lot of mishits without breaking.
Why do wood bats have a hole on top?
A bat's end must be cupped to give the ball a higher exit velocity when it leaves the bat. The cupped shape of a wood baseball bat also helps to maintain overall balance of a bat. When choosing the best baseball bats for you, remember that different types of baseball bats have different benefits and drawbacks. A cupped end makes for a harder piece of wood during construction, but it also makes it more difficult to make a balanced bat.
What wood bat lasts the longest?
When you are looking for a wood bat, there are two main types: composite and solid. Composite bats are typically some combination of different wood types that have been fused together to make a more durable bat. For this reason, composite bats will last the longest, and will also be among the most expensive wood bats. The other option is to go with a solid wood bat; while these are much cheaper they will not offer as much durability.
What does 271 mean in baseball bats?
The 271 is a balanced bat with end load in the handle. It is similar to the 110, but has a thinner, more durable handle and slightly more end load. These bats have been used by many players at all levels of baseball.
Who uses the smallest bat in MLB?
Rod Carew and Ozzie Smith, both Hall of Famers, used bats as light as 29 ounces. Considering most high school players think 30+ ounce bats are for the big boys, that's impressive. For example, Yadier Molina -- considered one of the best defensive catchers of all time and a two-time Gold Glove winner -- uses a 32-ounce bat.
How do you prevent a wooden bat from breaking?
There's nothing worse than watching your three-hundred-dollar bat snap in half. Many times it can feel like you're hitting the ball hard enough to make a difference, but the truth is that you aren't. Avoiding contact with your barrel will not only increase the life of your bat, but it will also allow you to use that upper hand on every team.
Is maple or birch better for wood bats?
Maple and Birch are both great woods for batting, but each has its own unique properties. Maple is harder than ash, but birch can be as hard as maple or even harder. Although maple has more flex than birch, the extra flex in a birch bat makes it ideal for power hitters who prefer a more flexible feel over the harder feel of maple.