By Coach JP @
Most wood bats today are made from Northern
White Ash generally harvested in Pennsylvania and Upstate New
York. It is graded for quality with straight grain being the
most important criteria. (Southern Ash grows too quickly and is
not as dense). Major League grade is of course, the best and is
also in short supply. Most of what you see that's labeled or
sold as Pro-Stock or some similar name is actually Minor League
wood or a lesser grade and generally is found for around $40. Of
course, there are other levels of quality down to the $20 range.
They are known by grades called high school; trophy and retail
(don't expect to see the grades labeled). Generally, they are
not of very good quality and only worth purchasing if money is
Here is another material that has recently
gained some Major League notoriety. They cost a bit more, but
when made properly AND from the right material known as Rock or
Sugar Maple, it is absolutely worth the extra money simply
because it tends to outlast ash bats many times over. So in the
long run, because they last longer, they're less expensive.
So why don't all major Leaguers use maple?
Actually, as they are becoming better known, more players are
now using them. Just like in your own dugout, players will try
out each other's new bats. And since they have such good "feel",
some players will switch while other players having the
superstitions that many ballplayers tend to have, will never
change even the color much less the type of bat that they use.
Also, since Major leaguers aren't concerned with saving money on
bat breakage, economy is not the issue that it is for the rest
Here's a warning when considering a maple bat:
Because of it's recent good press, too many new companies have
jumped on the bandwagon making bats out of inferior material
such as red or silver maple, a soft maple that just won't hold
up well enough in my opinion especially keeping in mind that
they cost more than ash bats to begin with. So, don't buy unless
you are sure you are getting a hard maple bat! (remember the
names rock maple and sugar maple.)
It's a great "stick", with some players saying
that the ball just jumps off the bat a bit quicker. It doesn't
flake (outer layers or pieces that chip off in flakes) like ash
either. If there's a downside, it just costs more than many ash
Here's another of the exotic materials that
are now on the market. I like the fact that it seems to take a
lot of miss-hits without breaking. It has a good sound, doesn't
require being taped at the barrel for BP (batting practice) or
cage work (batting cage practice) as it just doesn't flake or
split easily. Ours even has a fiberglass boa wrap covering the
lower 15 inches of the bat to further prevent breakage at the
By Coach JP @
Here's the stuff that too many players and
coaches don't know. . .
(but would rather do it the wrong way than admit it!)
Handling and Care
Extreme temperatures are probably not a good
idea. Wood bats should be stored in the house and not the
garage. Simply store them in the back of your closet to keep
them out of the way in the off season.
Breakage and Prevention
The reality of wood bats is that any one of
them can be broken. However, with some knowledge and the right
bat, they have been known to last a long, long time. The first
thing to do to reduce breakage is to understand that the
placement of the trademark is not by accident. As no two trees
are alike, no two bats are alike either. The trademark is placed
on an area which has the greatest possibility of failure. The
exact opposing side of the trademark is also a place where bats
will more likely to fail too. Take a close look and you will see
how the grain runs and why this is true. So the simple rule of
prevention here is…Bat with LABEL UP OR LABEL DOWN. While
holding a bat with two hands extended across the plate, make
sure the label faces up to the sky or down to the ground.
Secondly, understand that movement of your hands will always
start the swing. (Ok technically, it's the hands and the front
knee). With wood, it generally takes a bit more to get the bat
through the contact zone, so start your swing earlier (sooner).
This is great training for many reasons; one being that you'll
be even quicker with your aluminum bat!
Know that around 70% of all bats break when
hit off the end of the bat, not off the fists (hands). Your
first thoughts might be that this sounds crazy because when the
breaks you notice it tends to be near the handle, not the
business-end of the bat, right?
But check out this reasoning. . .
Most hitters are right handed. Most pitchers are right handed.
Pitchers in the aluminum bat era (since 1972) know that you
can't pitch inside and saw off an aluminum bat so they live on
the outside corner not having been taught to pitch inside. (I
hear guys say that they will come inside, but really, not many
do. Who wants to hit the guy and put him on base anyway). Also,
what's the second pitch that you see so many guys throw? The
hard, hopefully for them, late-breaking curve or maybe the
slider. And which direction do these break? Away from the right
handed hitter!!! Many of them making contact on the end of the
bat. And where does the bat tend to break? Near the thinner
part, the handle!
Repairing Broken Bats
I learned this from Dave Cook of Hoosier Bat
Company (and NY Yankee scouting fame). In the old days a broken
bat was brought back to life with whatever you could find in
dad's toolbox. A combination of nails, screws, electrical tape
is all that it took. Of course, some breaks being worse than
others. You tried to make it last the best you could.
Well, now that you are player-enough to
understand the value of hitting with wood, lets see if you to
can learn the value of fixing rather than throwing away (and
coughing up another $49) and replacing your wood bat.
First, you place one hand on either side of
the break and over the corner of a work table, attempting to
open the wound. If it's a small or hairline fracture you can try
to enlarge the wounded area by sliding the side of a knife down
into the affected area.- BE CAREFUL AND DON'T FORCE THE SHARP
Now that you have enlarged and opened the
area, fill the crack by squeezing some Elmer's woodworking glue
or something similar (even the plain old Elmer's glue if that's
all you've got).
Clamp it with whatever you've got handy. A
wood worker's vice would be best but whatever kind of clamp or
vice you have will do.
Let it completely dry, then take it out to
Note: Now that you know to hit with either
"label up or label down", you may want to change the label
direction that you normally hit with so if you hit label-up, try
it label-down. Good luck… and quit swinging at balls that are
too far inside or outside!
Why Hit With
when the rest of the world seems to hit with aluminum?
By Coach JP @
Wood Bats Correctly Teach the Strike Zone
When you hit an outside pitch with an aluminum
bat, you can very well hit it beyond an infielder even though
you swung at a bad pitch. On an inside pitch, you can manage a
flare-single over the 2nd baseman's head. With wood you learn
the strike zone and which pitches you should lay-off.
In the old days (before 1972) every bat you
bought was wood and you sure didn't want to break the only bat
you owned, so you learned to lay off bad pitches (Not to mention
the "bees" you felt in your hands when you swung at bad pitches
on cold spring days)!
Maybe you will now begin to learn the strike
zone and the value of pitch selection. You just might gain one
more weapon in learning to become a better hitter! Remember, if
you learn these great lessons by hitting with wood, think about
what a powerful and smart hitter you can become when swinging
A wood bat will train you to hit with good
mechanics and will tell you right away when you are dragging it
through the zone with incorrect mechanics. The sweet spot is a
bit smaller and the barrel diameters tend to be smaller as well,
so to be successful you start the hands early, select good
pitches to hit and accelerate right through the ball with a
flat, level swing. It just won't let the bad swings turn into
Why Some Players Struggle With Wood
We covered many of the reasons in the
paragraph you just read, but the bottom line is that the sooner
you begin training with wood, the sooner you get over whatever
it is that makes some good hitters struggle. Keep in mind that I
am not limiting this potential problem to youth league and high
The rookie leagues are littered with 1st year
pro players who have been extremely successful in high school
and the college ranks but 30 days into camp are ready to jump
off buildings because of the wood bat transition (relax…it's
just an exaggeration).
But it doesn't necessarily have to be this
You start now, training with a wood bat, not then. You start
your swing with what the scouts call live-hands and avoid what
they call appropriately enough, dead hands You learn the strike
zone; I mean really focus on good pitches You aim at the art of
perfecting the flat swing. Not sure how? Check out Coach Rob
Ellis's Complete Video Series or even begin with reading his
article found on this website entitled, "The Lost Secrets of
The earlier a player begins training with
wood, the better hitter he will become. Likewise, the more he
trains with wood the better hitter he will become. You can cheat
with aluminum. Instead of breaking the bat of a hitter who
swings at an inside pitch; the aluminum hitter gets a flare just
over the 4 or 6 guy's head (2B or SS). Outside pitches end up
grounders which split the infielders for cheap singles.
Baseball in general is not rocket science but
is rather the dogged pursuit of learning the correct mechanics
and then duplicating them hundreds and then thousands of
times…correctly. This fact alone may be the biggest reason why
so many of the best Little League age players that you know did
not turn out to be the best players as they got older.
help selecting a wood bat? Click here!