Broken bats are an unfortunate fact of life in the sport of baseball. However, there are many ways that you can extend the life of your bat. In this weeks installment “From the Dugout” we bring you 5 easy ways to extend the life of your bat and avoid a fracture.
1) Label Up
With all wood bats, making contact on the proper plane is extremely important. We go into greater detail on this subject in the “Label Up - Fact or Fiction” blog article, but the principle is simple. Wood is stronger along one plane; the interesting fact is that not all woods are stronger on the same plane. Diffuse porous woods (maple and birch) are stronger when contact is made on the face grain surface. Ring porous woods (ash) are stronger when contact is made on the edge grain surface. The bottom line is to swing with the bat label up (or down) and make consistent contact on the proper hitting surface to help extend the left of your bat. This is especially important with ash, but applies to maple and birch as well. This is a habit that you develop over time when transitioning to wood bats, but is a habit well worth focusing on. Examine the ball marks on the barrel and track your progress.
Wood is a natural product, and even after being manufactured into a baseball bat it remains a living and breathing entity. Wood is very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes, even with three coats of finish. Storing your new Leadbury in a climate controlled environment will help prevent a premature failure. When left in a very dry, or humid location, the wood can dry out or take on moisture. If the wood dries out it will become very brittle and become far weaker in bending. A bat that takes on moisture will not become weaker, but it will become heavier and harder to control. This results in less than optimal performance. We recommend storing bats in your house and not in a cold garage, humid basement or the trunk of your car.
3) Model Selection
Another easy, but often overlooked strategy to increase bat life is proper model selection. Many players immediately gravitate to a big barrel bat such as a 243 or 110. While these models perform exceptionally for strong, experienced power hitters, many less experienced or smaller players will struggle with a big barrel bat. The end loaded nature of a big barrel bat, usually combined with a thin handle has a significant effect on the bending strength of the bat. When you “barrel” the ball this is not an issue. But, a ball of the hands or off the end will result in a failure more often than with a balanced bat. The larger volume of wood in a big barrel bat compounds this problem as a lighter, less dense, and inherently weaker piece of wood must be used. Furthermore, a big barrel bat is harder to control making a mishit ball more likely. When selecting your new Leadbury keep these facts in mind. A balanced model like a 271 or 141 will be easier to control, stronger and more durable. Not to say there isn’t a place for big barrel bat, but they do have their weak points.
Another big factor for young players is the drop 5 vs drop 3 option. Many bantam age players who are allowed to swing a drop 5 want to swing the lighter bat. This is great for smaller players, but as you get stronger you will overpower a drop 5 bat and durability will drop off. The sooner you can make the jump to a drop 3 the better as the strength is much greater.
4) Bone Rubbing
Bone rubbing is a common term heard in the wood bat industry, but is often surrounded with a lot of confusion. Bone rubbing is the process of using a bone, or other hard material such as ceramic to surface harden the barrel of a bat. Ash bats with porous growth rings tend to flake after repeated impact. Bone rubbing slows the rate at which the bat will flake by compressing the porous grains. All Leadbury ash bats are bone rubbed during manufacturing, a process which you can continue to maximize bat life. Bone rubbing has very little to no effect on diffuse porous woods although many brands advertise bone rubbed maple and birch bats.
5) Disciplined Approach
The most effective yet most difficult strategy to extend the life of your bat is developing a disciplined approach at the plate. Even if you implement all the methods described above, it takes a skilled hitter to maximize bat life. The transition from metal to wood can result in a lot of broken bats simply because it takes a different swing and more discipline at the plate. A mishit ball can now break your bat. Couple this with pitchers beginning to throw junk at this age, and it can be a recipe for disaster. It takes time, practice and patience to become a great wood bat hitter.
A bonus tip to increase bat life is to vary your wood choice with the weather. Maple is affected by cold temperatures more than birch and ash, and can become brittle. Even though ash is the weaker wood, you will often see players gravitate towards it in colder temperatures. Due to increased flex and the porous grains, ash has greater vibration dampening properties than the others. This can drastically reduce the sting of a mishit ball often experienced in the cold.
Ball players are always asking for a wood bat that is guaranteed not to break. Our premium wood bats manufactured using the highest quality raw materials, proprietary kiln drying processes, and meticulous attention to detail are only half of the equation. To get the best life out of your Leadbury, implement these tips into your baseball routine.