It’s officially spring, which means that baseball season is in full swing!
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the country and could even be considered one of the most popular sports in the world. It has gained popularity in other countries over the years, but baseball is still proudly known as America’s Pastime and enjoyed by millions of people each year.
And while you can certainly play variations of baseball without a proper bat, it’s one of the most important pieces of equipment on the field. Without it, the game would not be the same as it is today.
With technology always advancing in sports, it’s no surprise that baseball bats have advanced throughout the years as well. We have a variety of different types of bats to choose from, made up of different materials, different dimensions, and different attributes.
Different bat-types are designed with different types of play in mind. Some leagues don’t allow all types of bats, and Major League Baseball does not allow metal bats of any kind at that level of play.
Let’s take a look at the different types of baseball bats available to players and how a professional MLB wooden bat is made.
Types of Baseball Bats
The wooden baseball bat is one of the most popular types of bats used in baseball today. You’ll find wooden bats being used at the professional level all the way down to kids playing ball at their local park.
Wooden bats offer a traditional feel and sound that a lot of players prefer as well as being a more environmentally friendly solution when compared to aluminum and composite bats.
Wooden bats can be made from all different types of wood including maple, ash, and birch. Each type of wood has its own strengths and weaknesses. Certain woods offer greater flexibility while others offer more strength.
You’ll find most wooden bats these days being used at the professional level as aluminum and composite bats are outlawed for MLB players. Wooden bats require more skill and timing than composite and aluminum bats due to the technology. Non-wooden bats tend to have more of a “sweet spot” as well as more velocity off of the bat than wooden bats do.
Wooden bats also provide more safety for the players and the fans as the ball can come off the bat at extreme speeds that could severely injure a person.
It’s for all of these reasons that the MLB prefers to stick with the historic wooden bat over moving to composite and aluminum bats that you see in little league and school baseball.
Aluminum bats are very popular amongst little league and school age baseball players. These bats are made from a single piece of metal alloy which allows them to be lightweight and durable when compared to wooden bats.
Aluminum bats, since they are lighter, allow for a faster swing which provides more power transfer between the bat and the ball. They also have a sweet spot which is an area of the bat that produces the most power, which allows for longer, harder hits.
Aluminum used to be the most popular material for metal bats in baseball but is quickly being overtaken by new composite materials that allow for even more power.
A composite bat is made from a mixture of materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and resin. This allows them to be even lighter than aluminum while also maintaining the high level of durability needed to ensure the bats don’t break, bend, or crack during use.
Because of the materials used in composite bats, they also have a larger sweet spot than aluminum bats. This means that you don’t always need to hit the ball square on in order to get an immense amount of power transfer to the ball. This means that even softer hits can go extremely far.
Because of the power generated by some of these new composite bats, you may find that some of them have been banned from competitive play for being unfair and dangerous.
If you’re looking for a new bat this season, be sure to check with your local league rules to ensure that your bat is legal and meets the criteria set forth by the league.
They aren’t setting these rules to be mean, there are significant safety concerns when using some of these new composite bats as well, and safety should be the number one priority of everyone involved in the game.
How is a Wooden Bat Made?
Now that you have an idea of the three main types of bats used in baseball, let’s take a look at how a traditional Major League Baseball bat is made.
If you’ve read our previous post about how an MLB baseball is made, then some of the standards and practices that go into making an MLB bat won’t come as a surprise to you.
There are guidelines and parameters that must be adhered to when making a baseball bat that’s going to be used in professional baseball. This helps prevent players and coaches from cheating or modifying their bats to give them an advantage.
For example, hollowing out your bat and filling that hollow area with a cork material will give you more “pop” off the bat which can allow you to more easily hit the ball further. There have been a number of instances of players using corked bats and getting caught throughout the major leagues.
So, how is a wooden bat made so that it adheres to the rules set forth by the MLB?
Choosing the Right Wood
As we mentioned above wooden bats are typically made from certain types of wood, and the MLB actually restricts which wood can be used to make bats used by the players.
The MLB allows for six different types of wood to be used, ash, red oak, yellow birth, true hickory, sugar maple, and Japanese ash. Maple and ash bats are the most popular wood types used in MLB bats.
Cutting and Forming the Bat
Once the wood is selected, the bat maker must cut the wood down to a manageable size and then begin to carve out the shape on a lathe.
A lathe is a wood working machine that spins really fast allowing you to chisel a piece of wood into a rounded shape, which makes it perfect for creating a baseball bat.
MLB bats are required to conform to certain specifications in order for them to be used in the league legally.
- No more than 42” long.
- Must not weigh more than 33 ounces.
- The thickets part of the bat (typically the barrel) cannot exceed 2.61” in diameter.
- Must be made of a single piece of wood.
- Must have the manufacturer’s label indicating the type of wood used.
- The bat must have a knob at the end to prevent the batter’s hands from slipping.
Sanding and Polishing
Once the bat has been cut down and formed to the proper specifications it must be sanded down and polished before it can be used.
Once sanded down until it’s smooth, varnish is applied to the wood to help protect it and make it more durable.
Choosing the Right Baseball Bat
Baseball bats come in all shapes and sizes, materials and weights, so it’s important that you understand the league you are playing in and what the bat restrictions are.
Baseball is not the only sport that has restrictions on bats either. Softball players need to be aware of what bat they are using also. Some composite bats are not allowed in softball at any level of professionalism whether that’s a kid’s league, adult recreational league, college level, or even professional. Be sure your softball bats are all ASA certified and you should be ok, but it’s always best to check the rules.
Baseball is an incredible game and is a great way for our youth to experience working together as a team. Ensuring that you have the proper equipment to play the game safely should be your number one priority, as illegal bats and equipment can cause severe injury if not allowed.