THE BENEFITS OF SWINGING A WOOD BAT
Wood bats aren't just for the pros - it’s a sound investment any player can (and should) make to improve their precision, strength and technique at the plate. The earlier you use a wood bat, the better in the long run you can potentially be. There are multiple developmental and skill-based perks that can come with adopting wood bats at a youth level.
Because of wood's natural properties, no two bats are identical, but here are a few basic structural components that can be seen in all turn models:
KNOB: Helps keep the bat from slipping out of a batter's hand; Also helpful for hanging on a bat rack for storage
GRIP: Sometimes covered by tape or a bat gripping aid, this is where a batter will place his or her hands when swinging
TAPER: This section is where the thin handle transiitons into the wider barrel
BARREL: The thickest area of the bat where a batter should look to make contact with a baseball or softball
END: Finishes off the barrel; Some wood bats have "cupped," or concave ends to reduce overall swing weight for a faster, more balanced swing speed that are better suited for younger players. Non-cupped ends may be better for stronger players
The life and performance of a bat is largely determined by the quality of its materials. The are 4 popular wood bat types on the market today:
Maple bats are made from a very dense wood which features a tight grain structure. This structure makes these bats very stiff and is what gives maple bats their higher energy transfers, or “pop.” Also, because of their tight grain structure, maple bats are less prone to “flaking”, which is when the bat begins to separate between the rings of the wood. This durability and added pop is why maple is one of the most popular choices among elite ballplayers
Whereas maple gains its popularity from its density and durability, ash bats are known for their lightweight feel and flex. Ash is a porous wood, which makes it very forgiving and thus creates a “trampoline effect” upon impact. The ball will jump off of the bat with more force because of this springboard effect. Ash bats also have a larger sweet spot, giving a player more positive surface area and making ash a perfect starter wood bat for someone who is transitioning from metal bats
Birch bats are another great option for players making the switch from aluminum to wood. Birch features a tight grain structure similar to maple, giving it a respectable strength, but also flexes slightly, like you would see in an ash bat. Whereas ash or maple might break or flake due to inside pitches or impact on the label or at the end of the bat, birch is able to withstand more less-than-desirable points of contact. This makes birch a popular choice among players who aren’t accustomed to finding the sweet spot of a wood bat just yet
Bamboo bats are very unique in that they are actually constructed from multiple chutes of bamboo. The individual chutes are pressed together to form one billet (the “blank” from which all bats are made) and then cut into a specific model. Bamboo is high in density and extremely strong. They are often used as a batting cage stick because they are far more durable than other wood options, but can be used in league play as well. These bats are light and feature a nice pop and transfer of energy. Adult bats made of bamboo must carry the BBCOR .50 certification mark to be used in high school or collegiate play
Some wood bats are fortified with composite materials to increase the overall durability. Composite-infused wood bats will be the most durable option, but are often more expensive. Some of the most durable composites may even come with a limited warranty against breakage. Check for a BBCOR .50 certification stamp to determine if it can be used in your wood bat league
DICK'S PRO TIP: Notice an “ink dot” above the handle of your ash or birch wood bat? Good news! That's not a cosmetic blemish, but rather guarantees the highest quality of wood you can get. This means the tight wood grain structure of your bat satisfies strict quality standards established by Major League Baseball
DICK'S PRO TIP: Does your bat have a "flame" finish? Some wood bats have a simple clear coat applied to increase durability, but some also are flame finished, in which the barrel is burned over a flame - removing the oxygen cells and "gaps" within the wood
DETERMINING YOUR IDEAL BAT LENGTH AND WEIGHT
Using the right length of bat is critical to achieving proper swing mechanics and results at the plate. Too long, and you can risk compromising bat speed or accuracy. Too short, and you can limit your plate coverage, giving up a portion of your strike zone. Naturally, stronger players will be able to swing longer, heavier bats, but remember that bat speed is pivotal in success at the plate, so finding a balance between length and weight that works best for you is key.
If you're in a store or visiting one of our HitTrax cages, here's a few Pro Tips on how to measure for the proper length:
If you're unable to hold a bat and measure using the above methods, use this size chart as a guide, based on your height and weight:
|YOUTH (USA & USSSA)|
|PLAYER HEIGHT (FT/IN)|
|PLAYER WEIGHT (LBS.)||UNDER 50||26"||26"||27"||28"||29"||29"||30"||31"||31"||31"|
|HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE (BBCOR)|
|PLAYER HEIGHT (FT/IN)|
|PLAYER WEIGHT (LBS.)||4'9"-5'||5'1"-5'4"||5'5"-5'8"||5'9"-6'||6'1"+|
If you don't have access your player's height and weight, here are commonly used bat lengths by age:
|RECOMMENDED BAT LENGTH BY AGE|
DICK'S PRO TIP: the charts above should be used solely as a guide - Ultimately, the right bat length will come down to your preference and other determining factors, such as skill level, strength and others.
DICK'S PRO TIP: To determine if a bat is too heavy, here's one simple trick. Hold the bat handle and extend your arm away from your side. If you can't hold the bat extended for 30-45 seconds, the bat might be too heavy for you.
WHAT IS TURNING MODEL
Be a cut above the rest this baseball season by understanding which turn model is right for your swing. Like metal baseball bats, wood bats begin as a blank of raw material. This piece of lumber is then cut and lathed into the finished product. Wood bat turn models are the blueprints and standards for this process that manufacturers follow. Each wood bat turn model features specific measurements for barrel thickness, handle thickness and taper style. These differences can help line drive and power hitters alike find a bat perfect for their swing. There are a variety of different turns out there, but the four below are the most popular:
Barrel Diameter: 2.5"
Handle Diameter: 1"
More balanced and even weight distribution from handle to barrel, the 110 accommodates of a variety of different hitting styles. Great for contact hitters or those swinging a wood bat for the first time.
Barrel Diameter: 2.5"
Handle Diameter: 15/16"
The 271 turning model is similar to the 110 in that it is very versatile, balanced and suits a variety of swing styles. It has a more defined barrel in relation to the handle, giving it a slightly more end-loaded feel.
Barrel Diameter: 2.5"
Handle Diameter: 15/16"
Though the I-13 has smiliar dimensions to the 271, the key difference being htat the I-13 offers a sharp, quick taper - giving the barrel a more weighted feel better suited for power hitters vs. contact hitters.
Barrel Diameter: 2-5/8"
Handle Diameter: 29/32"
Best suited for experienced athletes and power hitters. The 243 has a thin handle that transitions quickly into large barrel, giving it a more top heavy feel and delivering the most "pop" on contact.
DICK'S PRO TIP: bigger barrels aren't always better, especially if they are paired with a "quick" taper or a thin handle. If you're new to the wood bat game, consider a 110 or 271 before making the leap to more top-heavy models like the 243. Your bat is more likely to break when you're not in control of your swing
DOES KNOB STYLE MATTER?
In addition to the barrel, taper and handle, a bat’s knob can also vary by design. These differences can lend themselves more to different hitting styles:
GET A GRIP
There are a variety of gripping aids available at DICK'S Sporting Goods to help you maintain an optimal hold on your wood bat:
HOW TO GET THE MOST LIFE OF YOUR WOOD BAT
The biggest downside of a wood bat? They are susceptible to breaking. You will rarely find a manuafacturer who will offer a warranty on a non composite wood bat if you break it. Your wood bat can last from one swing to hundreds of swings! But don't fret - there are steps you can take to get the most life out of your bat:
- All wood bats will have a weak side and a strong side. The location of the brand label will identify the weakest part of the wood. Readjust your grip as often as needed in order to hit the ball on the strong side (the stacked grain side) when you swing - the brand logo will face straight up towards the sky
- Wood bats are porous and crafted from natural materials, so prolonged exposure to extreme environments such as high moisture, heat or cold is going to affect its performance and durability. Keep your bat out of places with excess moisture or extreme temperatures, like a basement or garage. Store the bat in a vertical position with the handle up
- Keeping your bat clean, especially for hitters who use pine tar, is important to maintain grip and that polished, clean look. Rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth are often best for wiping down your bat after each day
- To keep your wood bat free from scratches and dents (which is important for making accurate contact with the ball every time), you can rub another wooden bat against the dented portions of your lumber. If you don't have a second wood bat handy, some players use a dog bone, a wood rolling pin, a metal rod or even a porcelain surface
- There’s nothing more frustrating than breaking a bat during batting practice. Taping the barrel of your bat during batting practice can help prevent this from happening. Players can also look to keep a "batting practice only" bat in their bag of the same turn model, keeping your game-ready lumber ready for when it matters most
- Avoid hitting rubber batting cage balls. Batting cages are great for working on your mechanics. Unfortunately, the rubber balls are not so great for the life of your wood bat