Choosing the right wood bat can be trickier than most people think. Wood bats come in a wide variety of shapes called a “turn”. The most common turn is a model 271. Some companies choose to give each turn it’s own name, just to make things more confusing.
Here is just MY OPINION on what to buy for the type of player. This is not the rule. IF YOU NEED HELP CHOOSING A BAT, PLEASE CALL AND I’LL HELP THE BEST THAT I CAN.
Young kids, figure up to age 11, go with ASH. Models 271 and 141 will do nicely.
Youths from 11 to 14, Birch is my favorite. Birch swings a bit lighter and has great pop and flexibility. Models, 271, Cut22, CU26 and 110 are great options in birch or ash, with the 271 and Cut22 good in maple.
Teens typically want maple, which is fine. The trick is to find the model that suits them. If they like a big barrel bat, you are better off with Ash or Birch. Maple is best suited for small barrel bats (2.5″ or less) For contact hitters, look to the 271, Cut22, or the 141. For strong, power hitters, the JM8, 243, AP5, or the popular i13.
Ash is far less dense than maple. This is evident by the thick grain lines visible on an ash bat. Birch and maple have a finer grain that’s more compact. Ash bats provide more whip as they are more flexible than maple. That whip effect provide much of the bat’s pop. (ball jumping off the bat) Ash is used by pros looking for maximum bat whip, and is great for kids because it feels lighter and more controllable. Ash is easier to get to a drop 3 swing weight.
Birch falls right between the two. Good flexibility, yet almost as dense as maple. The grain is tight like maple and our birch bats will have the ink test for slope of grain. The straighter, the stronger. If a birch bat lasts long enough, it will become close to maple in performance as the wood will become more compact with time.
Maple is more rigid, it will not flex as much and utilizes the density of the wood to provide pop. Maple bats are used by a great deal of major league players, as is ash. I’ll usually steer young players or “new to wood” players to ash or birch as maple feels a bit heavier to swing. Due to it’s density, maple is difficult to get to a drop 3 on big barrel bats.
NOTE: To get the most dense maple bat, choose a small barrel (2.5″ or less diameter) bat. Bat manufacturers will weight the billets before using them. The heavier billets get turned into the smaller diameter bats. Usually.
Bamboo is actually grass, not wood and falls under the “composite” bat category. Many wood bat leagues WILL NOT ALLOW BAMBOO for that reason. However, some leagues will allow a bamboo bat as long as it has the BBCOR stamp on it. You will want to check on that. Bamboo does make a great practice bat because it is extremely durable.
Bats vary in 4 places, the barrel, the taper (middle), the handle and the knob. A bat with a longer barrel will have a short, quick taper to the handle. If the barrel is shorter, the taper can be longer and not as steep.
Pictured are 3 popular wood bat models. Note the length of the barrel and taper. The handle thickness is not visible, but plays a big role in how the bat feels, and reacts.
You can see how changing the turn (or shape) of the bat generates positives and negatives. A thinner handle produces more whip, a long or short taper effects barrel length, and barrel length and diameter effect balance and weight.
Larger knobs offer a counter balance. Flared knobs tend to feel more comfortable in the hand, while a Standard knob provides a bit more security, and feels more like alloy bats.
You may also notice most bats are “cupped” on the barrel end. One inch of wood is about 1 oz. of weight, so cupping the bat will slightly reduce weight, but mostly helps to balance the bat. Of course, it also makes the bat weaker on the end and more susceptible to breakage.
The last thing I’ll mention is the “extras” that you may consider. Things like Finish, Hand Split Wood, Bone Rubbed or Flame Treated.
The Bats Finish adds to it’s pop and durability. Basically the harder the finish the better. Dream Bats uses a two part epoxy finish that’s super hard. Other places may just be using a brush on poly.
Hand split wood allows the wood the split more naturally along the grain. The result is a stronger bat, because you are getting the strongest part of the wood.
Bone rubbing a bat helps to compact the grain, producing a “harder” hitting area.
Flame Treating looks good, and is also supposed to harden the wood a bit by crystalizing the sugars in the wood. CMK will offer all these services to you.
If you have the ability to swing a few different models, do so. If not, at least try to hold as many as you can. Get a feel for the knob style, the balance, and the feel of the handle (too thin or thick) Figure out what type of hitter you are, power or contact. Research the different turns or models offered based on the balance you are looking for. With all that information, you should be able to figure out the best bat for you.
Thank You for reading.