Back again with another blog for you. In this article we will be answering some questions related to properly using a wood bat and expanding its lifespan. Hopefully we can answer all your questions but, If it doesn’t, please feel free to ask your question in the comments section below.
Topic 1. Bat label direction
All your life, you may have been hearing people say, “hit with the label up,” but what does that really mean and why hit with the label up?
Many bat companies place their label on the bat in a precise location to indicate the direction of grains. As a hitter, you want to hit with the grain and never against it. Hitting with the grain exposes the ball to the stronger side of the barrel, in other words the reason you hear “hit with the label up” or “hit with the label down” is because that will put your wood baseball bat in the correct place to hit the baseball on the side of the bat where the grains are straight and the strongest.
Next time you’re about to take a swing, stop at the contact point and make sure your bat label is either facing directly up or down. Do this a few times to get the hang of it and then watch as the ball starts jumping off the bat at a higher velocity. Pretty simple.
Topic 2. Ink dot
Why is there an ink mark just above the handle on my maple bat?A few years ago (end of 2008) bat companies and MLB did a lot of research to see why maple bats were exploding and breaking differently from ash. At that time, it was a cause for concern because maple bats would usually break and the barrel would go flying into the stands or out on the field. (This is very common today) The issue was related to the sharp, jagged edges that would be enough to really do some damage. As a result of their research a fairly simple wood grading system was established among bat makers and MLB. (In other words, useless to the consumer!)
The ink dot “grading system” would give insight to the strength based on the slope of the grains and if that piece of wood can be sold or not. Bat companies can only sell maple that meets or exceeds the ink test. Furthermore, this ink mark must be visible so umpires, players, and anyone else can see that the ink test was done on that bat. This test is only done on maple and birch bats, not on ash.
Click here to read the article on how the ink dot test works.
Topic 3. Ash bat longevity
What’s the best way to make my ash bat last longer?An Ash wood bat is like no other, it’s very flexible and as hard as any other type of wood bat. However, they do come with a draw back, over time they will flake away at the barrel until they basically are unusable. This happens if you hit the ball repeatedly on the same spot over and over again without breaking the bat.
Another draw back of Ash bats are that it’s hard to determine exactly how good each ash bat will be. Some start flaking after one batting practice session and some get harder the more they are used, lasting many weeks.
BoningThe most common way to increase the bat’s durability is to “bone” it. This means to take your bat to a hard surface and rub it back and forth with some force to compress the wood. This process was originally done with a dried out bone, hence the name “Boning”. Nowadays, the boning process is done with a variety of different material like a steel pole, porcelain sinks, or even an old bat. Compressing the wood will give it the best chance to last as long as possible by not flaking too quickly.
Click here for more details on how to bone a baseball bat.
TapeAnother very common bat preservation method is to tape the barrel. “Taping the barrel” is not as effective as “boning” as the tape will gradually dissipate each time the ball makes contact on the barrel. However, taping is more effective on fungos, often lasting 3-4 times longer than on a game stock bat. The speed of the ball on contact is the biggest contributor to this longevity, as with a fungo the ball is toss by the hitter as opposed to a game stock where the ball is thrown by a pitcher.
So there you have it, 3 simple but effective ways to keep your wood bat lasting just a bit longer. No matter what you decide to do, just remember that your hitting with a wood bat and despite your best efforts to increase its longevity. That most dreaded day just cannot be avoided. We recommend always having a backup at hand, especially if your in season and it so happens to break during a game.