THE HISTORY OF THE BASEBALL BAT
Nowadays when you travel around the world and see different levels of baseball being played you will also see a variety of different bat types being used. Long gone are the days where it was just assumed that everyone would use a plain old wooden bat. Even wooden bat technology has changed significantly over the years. So what are baseball bats made of?
WOODEN BATS – A TIME-HONORED TRADITION
For many years in the 1800’s, it was customary for baseball players to make their own bats any way they wanted. It wasn’t until 1884 that the first standard type mass produced baseball bat came into production. After that, baseball governing bodies starting making rules pertaining to the size and weight that baseball bats could be.
These days’ wooden bats are made of several different types of wood. They are still the only type of bat that is allowed in the upper leagues of professional baseball. Many baseball purists think the distinct “crack” a wooden bat makes when striking a baseball is as much a part of baseball as is a baseball mitt. Here are the most common types of wood bat materials and the advantages of each:
This was the original type of wood that most baseball bats were initially made from. Many professional players still use these types of bats because they are slightly flexible so you get a whipping type of motion with them when striking a baseball.
Long ball hitters often prefer the stiffness of bats made of maple. There is very little give in these bats when a ball is struck with them. This will allow you to get the most force possible when striking a baseball.
Birch bats are kind of hard to describe. Maybe it is best to say they are a middle of the road bat between ash and maple. This is because they have a little flex to them when swinging but they still are much stiffer than bats made of ash.
Bamboo bats were first produced in Asia because of the abundance bamboo is found in there and it’s very durable nature. These bats are not allowed in some leagues.
These are bats that often combine some solid wood features with other wood fibers. They are not allowed in some leagues because they are not seen as a true wood bat and they may give you a competitive advantage over more traditional wooden bats.
METAL ALLOY BATS
One of the big problems with wooden bats is that they had a tendency to break on a frequent basis and this could start to get expensive for many players. Something as simple as turning the bat label a little off center could cause the bat to break; this could happen even in a slow pitch baseball. So inevitably someone came up with a different bat design and that was a lightweight aluminum bat.
The first true aluminum bats were introduced to the baseball world in the mid-1970’s and metal alloy bats have been around ever since. True aluminum bats had one big problem with them and that was that they tended to dent easy. That is why today these bats have evolved by using stronger and lighter metal alloys.
Metal alloy bats can be extremely expensive to purchase too but they will often last a player an entire season or longer. This should offset the cost of you having to buy a large number of wooden bats to help you make it through an entire baseball season.
These types of bats are not allowed in professional leagues because they are seen as giving a batter that uses them a competitive advantage and baseball purists are afraid they would skew the record books because of that. They are however in wide use in little league, high school, and college baseball. These bats are well renowned for the distinctive “ping” sound they make when a baseball is struck with them.
This type of bat is the most modern of all the bat types and they are constantly changing and being approved. It is a bat that burst onto the scene in the mid-2000’s even though they were first introduced many years before that. They use carbon fibers that are bonded together to make what is an incredibly strong and advanced baseball bat. They are only allowed in lower levels of baseball and college and only if they meet strict performance guidelines.
These bats have been shown to give the user a distinct advantage over wood and metal alloy bats because of the way they have a trampoline effect on a batted ball as it comes off the bat. Currently, these types of bats have to meet BBCOR (batted ball coefficient of restitution) which specifies they must be stamped with a BPF (Bat Performance Factor) rating of 1.15 or less in order to be used for baseball.
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THE FUTURE OF BASEBALL BATS
As of right now, these three main types of bats are still in production and still heavily used. Don’t be surprised though if some other new type of bat material emerges onto the scene over the next decade.