America’s favorite pastime has seen some huge changes since the game’s early days. Perhaps the one constant in this time-honored sport is the level of quality and precision that goes into producing truly world-class baseball bats. In Baseball’s early years, bat manufacturers didn’t even exist as players typically made their own bats by hand. Since the advent of mass produced bats, manufacturers have switched up the different types of wood used to makes bats yet the standard of a high-quality bat remains. So, what goes into today’s home run marvels? Let’s take a look at just what goes into making the best baseball bats and how players can keep their bats sturdy and solid.
Which Type of Wood
When it comes down to a bat’s performance on the field, much of its best attributes lie in the type of wood that a bat was made from.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, in 1884, a boy watched Louisville, KY local legend, Pete Browning, break his maple bat during a game. Afterward, the boy offered to make a sturdier bat using his father’s industrial lathe. Using a piece of northern white ash, the boy and his father, who would later found the Hillerich & Bradsby Company, produced the precursor to the world-famous Louisville Slugger.
Since then, ash wood has become the most common type used in bats. It also happens to be among the lightest. With its lightweight feel, many contact hitters prefer Ash bats due to their increased hitting speed. Additionally, ash’s grain structure makes it strongest type of wood that players can choose. Ash features a wider grain than other types of wood, making it feel slightly more “soft” and flexible. This, in turn, translates into additional bat whip through the hitting zone.
Though they’re less traditional than other forms of wood, bamboo bats offer a number of key advantages. They’re generally more lightweight, providing for a more effortless swing. Yet, bamboo actually has a stronger tensile strength than steel. These types of bats are produced by taking raw bamboo strips and pressing them together to form a single billet. Then, it is made into a particular turning model.
A thoroughly modern choice, composite bats incorporate a reinforced carbon fiber polymer. Though they’re not allowed at the professional MLB level, they are allowed for little league and even NCAA teams if they meet the same requirements as their wooden or aluminum counterparts. Composite bats are favored for their “trampoline effect,” named for the physical reaction of a ball repelling from a bat upon impact. When tested against wooden and aluminum, composite bats consistently outperformed. However, bats made from composite polymers tend to be unsuitable for playing in colder weather since they’re prone to cracking.
Since maple is such a dense wood, bats made from it will have highly responsive barrels. This allows players to feel the ball as it leaves the bat upon contact. Its grain structure is much tighter compared to ash, making maple bats much more durable. This density also accounts for their heavier weight compared to other wooden bats.
Maintenance And Care
While investing in a quality bat is vital for all baseball players and their teams, handling and caring for them can help preserve bats for years to come.
When it comes to storage, wooden bats should never be subjected to extreme changes in temperature. Store them in the house instead of the garage to keep bats from cracking or splitting mid-play. If you want to show off your bat collection with pride, then it pays to invest in some high-quality displays, especially if you have an official or signed baseball bat. There are tons of options when you’re shopping online, like California-based Collectible Supplies, which specializes in display cases and baseball gear for fans across the country.
If your bat happens to break, there are a number of ways to fix it depending on the severity of the crack or split. For more routine small or hairline fractures, attempt to open the wound by slowly sliding a knife into an affected area. Be careful not to split the bat even more. Once you’ve opened the area, you can choose from a variety of wood-specific adhesives to fix your bat. Elmer’s woodworking glue can get the job done, but if you’re set on an extra-strength solution, then opt for Gorilla Glue. Use a vice to hold the bat together while the glue dries. Once it’s set, test it out and play ball!
Hit a Home Run
Whichever wood you choose for your next bat, just make sure that it’s tailored for your needs and hitting style. Many players start training with wooden bats in school and little league games, but more seasoned professionals prefer to stick with them for their highly customizable nature. But remember, the bat you choose is just a small part of your success. When it comes to playing ball, your wooden bat is only as good as the hard work, practice, and dedication you put into each swing.