Baseball bat

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Four historically significant baseball bats showcased in the National Baseball Hall of Fame's traveling exhibit "Baseball As America". From left to right: bat used by Babe Ruth to hit his 60th home run during the 1927 season, bat used by Roger Maris to hit his 61st home run during the 1961 season, bat used by Mark McGwire to hit his 70th home run during the 1998 season, and the bat used by Sammy Sosa for his 66th home run during the same season. Fourbats.jpg
Four historically significant baseball bats showcased in the National Baseball Hall of Fame's traveling exhibit "Baseball As America". From left to right: bat used by Babe Ruth to hit his 60th home run during the 1927 season, bat used by Roger Maris to hit his 61st home run during the 1961 season, bat used by Mark McGwire to hit his 70th home run during the 1998 season, and the bat used by Sammy Sosa for his 66th home run during the same season.

A baseball bat is a smooth wooden or metal club used in the sport of baseball to hit the ball after it is thrown by the pitcher. By regulation it may be no more than 2.75 inches (7.0 cm) in diameter at the thickest part and no more than 42 inches (1.067 m) in length. Although historically bats approaching 3 pounds (1.4 kg) were swung, [1] today bats of 33 ounces (0.94 kg) are common, topping out at 34 to 36 ounces (0.96 to 1.02 kg). [1]



A baseball bat is divided into several regions. The "barrel" is the thick part of the bat, where it is meant to hit the ball. The part of the barrel best for hitting the ball, according to construction and swinging style, is often called the "sweet spot." The end of the barrel is called the "top," "end," or "cap" of the bat. Opposite the cap, the barrel narrows until it meets the "handle," which is comparatively thin, so that batters can comfortably grip the bat in their hands. Sometimes, especially on metal bats, the handle is wrapped with a rubber or tape "grip". Finally, below the handle is the "knob" of the bat, a wider piece that keeps the bat from slipping from a batter's hands.

"Lumber" is an often-used slang term for a bat, especially when wielded by a particularly able batter.

The "bat drop" of a bat is its weight, in ounces, minus its length, in inches. For example, a 30-ounce, 33-inch-long bat has a bat drop of minus 3 (30 33 = 3). Larger bat drops help to increase swing speed; smaller drops create more power.


The bat's form has become more refined over time. In the mid-19th century, baseball batters were known to shape or whittle their own bats by hand, which resulted in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and weights. For example, there were flat bats, round bats, short bats, and fat bats. Earlier bats were known to be much heavier and larger than today's regulated ones. During the 19th century, many shapes were experimented with, as well as handle designs. Today, bats are much more uniform in design.


Patent No. 430,388 (June 17, 1890) awarded to Emile Kinst for an "improved ball-bat". Banana bat.gif
Patent No. 430,388 (June 17, 1890) awarded to Emile Kinst for an "improved ball-bat".

Materials and manufacture

Baseball bats are made of either hardwood or a metal alloy (typically aluminum). Most wooden bats are made from ash; other woods include maple, hickory, and bamboo. Hickory has fallen into disfavor over its greater weight, which slows down bat speed, while maple bats gained popularity [5] following the introduction of the first major league sanctioned model in 1997. The first player to use one was Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays. [6] Barry Bonds used maple bats the seasons he broke baseball's single-season home run record in 2001, and the career home run record in 2007. [6] In 2010, the increased tendency of maple bats to shatter caused Major League Baseball to examine their use, banning some models in minor league play. [7] [8]

Manufacturers position each bat's label over the mechanically weaker side of the wood. [9] To reduce chance of fracture, [9] and maybe deliver more energy to the ball, [10] a bat is intended to be held so the label faces sky or ground when it strikes the ball during a horizontal swing. [9] In this orientation, the bat is considered stiffer and less likely to break. [11]

Different types of wood will fracture differently. [12] For bats made of ash, labels will generally be where the grain spacing is widest. For maple bats they will usually be positioned where grain is tightest.

Maple bats in particular were once known (circa 2008) to potentially shatter in a way that resulted in many sharp edges, sometimes creating more dangerous projectiles when breaking. [9] [13] Maple bat manufacture evolved significantly, in cooperation with Major League Baseball, [11] paying special attention to grain slope, and including an ink spot test to confirm safest wood grain orientation. [11]

Based on consistent anecdotal reports of sales at sporting goods stores, maple appears to be displacing ash as most popular new baseball bat material in the United States. Next and rising in popularity is bamboo, which has more isotropic fine grain, great strength, and less weight for a bat of any given size.[ citation needed ]

Within league standards there is ample latitude for individual variation, many batters settling on their own bat profile, or one used by a successful batter. Formerly, bats were hand-turned from a template with precise calibration points; today they are machine-turned to a fixed metal template. Historically significant templates may be kept in a bat manufacturers' vault; for example, Babe Ruth's template, which became popular among major-league players, is R43 in the Louisville Slugger archives. [14] Ruth favored a thinner handle than was the norm in the 1920s, and his success caused most to follow. [14]

Once the basic bat has been turned, it has the manufacturer's name, the serial number, and often the signature of the player endorsing it branded into it opposite the wood's best side. Honus Wagner was the first player to endorse and sign a bat. Next, most bats are given a rounded head, but some 30%[ citation needed ] of players prefer a "cup-balanced" head, in which a cup-shaped recess is made in the head, introduced to the major leagues in the early 1970s by José Cardenal; [14] this lightens the bat and moves its center of gravity toward the handle. Finally, the bat is stained in one of several standard colors, including natural, red, black, and two-tone blue and white.

Environmental threat to ash wood

The emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle imported accidentally from Asia, has killed more than 50 million white ash trees in the eastern United States and in 2017 threatened groves in New York's Adirondack Mountains that are used to make baseball bats. [15] Global temperature rise likely allows the beetle to survive where the climate was once too cold. [5]


In the American major leagues, Rule 1.10(a) states: [16]

The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.

Bats are not allowed to be hollowed or corked—that is, filled with an alien substance such as cork which reduces the weight. This corking is thought to increase bat speed without greatly reducing hitting power, though this idea was challenged as unlikely on the Discovery Channel series MythBusters . [17]

Both wooden and metal alloy (generally aluminum) bats are generally permitted in amateur baseball. Metal alloy bats are generally regarded as being capable of hitting a ball faster and farther with the same power. However, increasing numbers of "wooden bat leagues" have emerged in recent years, reflecting a trend back to wood over safety concerns and, in the case of collegiate summer baseball wood-bat leagues, to better prepare players for the professional leagues that require wood bats. Metal alloy bats can send a ball towards an unprotected pitcher's head up to 60 ft 6 in (18.44 m) away at a velocity far too high for the pitcher to get out of the way in time. Some amateur baseball organizations enforce bat manufacturing and testing standards which attempt to limit maximum ball speed for wood and non-wood bats. [18] [19] [20]

In high school baseball in the United States:

In some 12-year-old-and-under youth leagues (such as Little League baseball), the bat may not be more than 2+14 inches (57 mm) in diameter. [22] However, in many other leagues (like PONY League Baseball, and Cal Ripken League Baseball), the bat may not be more than 2+34 inches (70 mm) in diameter. [23]

There are limitations to how much and where a baseball player may apply pine tar to a baseball bat. According to Rule 1.10(c) of the Major League Baseball Rulebook, it is not allowed more than 18 inches up from the bottom handle. An infamous example of the rule in execution is the Pine Tar Incident on July 24, 1983. Rules 1.10 and 6.06 were later changed to reflect the intent of Major League Baseball, as exemplified by the league president's ruling. Rule 1.10 now only requires that the bat be removed from the game if discovered after being used in a game; it no longer necessitates any change to the results of any play which may have taken place.

Rule 6.06 refers only to bats that are "altered or tampered with in such a way to improve the distance factor or cause an unusual reaction on the baseball. This includes, bats that are filled, flat-surfaced, nailed, hollowed, grooved or covered with a substance such as paraffin, wax, etc." It no longer makes any mention of an "illegally batted ball". In 2001, MLB approved the use of Gorilla Gold Grip Enhancer in major and minor league games as an alternative to pine tar. [24] [25]

Care and maintenance

A Tony Gwynn game-used and autographed baseball bat Tony Gwynn's Bat-2.JPG
A Tony Gwynn game-used and autographed baseball bat

Players can be very particular about their bats. Ted Williams cleaned his bats with alcohol every night and periodically took them to the post office to weigh them. "Bats pick up condensation and dirt lying around on the ground," he wrote, "They can gain an ounce or more in a surprisingly short time." Ichiro Suzuki also took great care that his bats did not accumulate moisture and thus gain weight: he stored his bats in humidors, one in the club house and another, a portable one, for the road. Rod Carew fought moisture by storing his bats in a box full of sawdust in the warmest part of his house. "The sawdust acts as a buffer between the bats and the environment," he explained, "absorbing any moisture before it can seep into the wood." [26]

Many players "bone" their bats, meaning that before games, they rub their bats repeatedly with a hard object, believing this closes the pores on the wood and hardens the bat. Animal bones are a popular boning material, but rolling pins, soda bottles and the edge of a porcelain sink have also been used. Pete Rose had his own way of hardening his bats: he soaked them in a tub of motor oil in his basement then hung them up to dry. [26]

Fungo bat

Hiroshi Narahara holding a fungo bat Narahara hiroshi.jpg
Hiroshi Narahara holding a fungo bat

A fungo bat is a specially designed bat used by baseball and softball coaches for practice. The etymology of the word fungo ( /ˈfʌŋɡ/ ) is uncertain, but the Oxford English Dictionary suggests it is derived from the Scots fung: "to pitch, toss, or fling". [27] A fungo is longer and lighter than a regulation bat, with a smaller diameter. The bat is designed to hit balls tossed up in the air by the batter, not pitched balls. [28] Typical fungo bats are 35 to 37 inches (89 to 94 cm) long and weigh 17 to 22 ounces (480 to 620 g). Coaches hit many balls during fielding practice, and the weight and length allow the coach to hit balls repeatedly with high accuracy. The small diameter also allows coaches to easily hit pop-ups to catchers and infielders along with ground balls due to better control of the barrel of the bat.

As a weapon

Baseball bats are often used as weapons by civilians, [29] criminals, protesters, [30] and mobsters. [31] Factors that made the baseball bat a popular weapon include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">At bat</span> Baseball term for a valid batting attempt

In baseball, an at bat (AB) or time at bat is a batter's turn batting against a pitcher. An at bat is different from a plate appearance. A batter is credited with a plate appearance regardless of what happens during their turn at bat, but a batter is charged with an at bat only if that plate appearance does not have one of the results enumerated below. While at bats are used to calculate certain statistics, including batting average and slugging percentage, a player can qualify for the season-ending rankings in these categories only if they accumulate 502 plate appearances during the season.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hit (baseball)</span> Hitting the ball into fair territory and safely reaching base without an error or fielders choice

In baseball statistics, a hit, also called a base hit, is credited to a batter when the batter safely reaches or passes first base after hitting the ball into fair territory with neither the benefit of an error nor a fielder's choice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baseball</span> Bat-and-ball game

Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each, taking turns batting and fielding. The game occurs over the course of several plays, with each play generally beginning when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball that a player on the batting team, called the batter, tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the offensive team is to hit the ball into the field of play, away from the other team's players, allowing its players to run the bases, having them advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rounders</span> Bat-and-ball team sport originating in England

Rounders is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams. Rounders is a striking and fielding team game that involves hitting a small, hard, leather-cased ball with a wooden, plastic, or metal bat that has a rounded end. The players score by running around the four bases on the field.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Softball</span> Team ball sport

Softball is a game similar to baseball, and it is played with a larger ball on a smaller field and with only underhand pitches permitted. Softball is played competitively at club levels, the college level, and the professional level. The game was first created in 1887 in Chicago by George Hancock.

In baseball, a corked bat is a specially modified baseball bat that has been filled with cork or other lighter, less dense substances to make the bat lighter. A lighter bat gives a hitter a quicker swing and may improve the hitter's timing. Despite popular belief that corking a bat creates a "trampoline effect" causing a batted ball to travel farther, physics researchers have shown that this is not the case. In Major League Baseball, modifying a bat with foreign substances and using it in play is illegal and subject to ejection and further punishment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tee-ball</span> Childrens team sport

Tee-ball is a team sport based on a simplified form of baseball or softball. It is intended as an introduction for children to develop ball-game skills and have fun.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cricket bat</span> Item of sporting equipment

A cricket bat is a specialised piece of equipment used by batters in the sport of cricket to hit the ball, typically consisting of a cane handle attached to a flat-fronted willow-wood blade. It may also be used by a batter who is making batter's ground to avoid a run out, by holding the bat and touching the ground with it. The length of the bat may be no more than 38 inches and the width no more than 4.25 inches. Its use is first mentioned in 1624. Since 1979, a law change has provided that cricket bats can only be made from wood.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Club (weapon)</span> Blunt weapon

A club is a short staff or stick, usually made of wood, wielded as a weapon since prehistory. There are several examples of blunt-force trauma caused by clubs in the past, including at the site of Nataruk in Turkana, Kenya, described as the scene of a prehistoric conflict between bands of hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baseball rules</span> Overview of the rules of baseball at different levels and in different countries

Throughout the history of baseball, the rules have frequently changed as the game continues to evolve. A few common rules most professional leagues have in common is that four balls is a base on balls, three strikes is a strikeout, and three outs end a half-inning.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baseball (ball)</span> Ball used in the sport of baseball

A baseball is a ball used in the sport of the same name. The ball consists of a rubber or cork center wrapped in yarn and covered with white natural horsehide or cowhide, or a synthetic composite leather. A regulation baseball is 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference i.e. 2.86 to 2.94 inches in diameter, with a weight of 5 to 5.25 ounces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baseball field</span> Field on which baseball is played

A baseball field, also called a ball field or baseball diamond, is the field upon which the game of baseball is played. The term can also be used as a metonym for a baseball park. The term sandlot is sometimes used, although this usually refers to less organized venues for activities like sandlot ball.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Batting (baseball)</span> Baseball offensive act of facing the pitcher and attempting to hit the ball into play

In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for one's team. A batter or hitter is a person whose turn it is to face the pitcher. The three main goals of batters are to become a baserunner, to drive runners home or to advance runners along the bases for others to drive home, but the techniques and strategies they use to do so vary. Hitting uses a motion that is virtually unique to baseball and its fellow bat-and-ball sports, one that is rarely used in other sports. Hitting is unique because it involves rotating in the horizontal plane of movement, unlike most sports movements which occur in the vertical plane.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pesäpallo</span> Finnish bat-and-ball sport

Pesäpallo is a fast-moving bat-and-ball sport that is often referred to as the national sport of Finland and has some presence in other countries including Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada's northern Ontario. It is similar to brännboll, rounders, and lapta, as well as baseball.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Corkball</span> Bat-and-ball game

Corkball is a "mini-baseball" game featuring a 1.6-ounce (45 g) ball, which is stitched and resembles a miniature baseball. The bat has a barrel that measures 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in diameter. Originally played on the streets and alleys of St. Louis, Missouri, as early as 1890, today the game has leagues formed around the country as a result of St. Louis servicemen introducing the game to their buddies and comrades during World War II and the Korean War. It has many of the features of baseball, yet can be played in a very small area because there is no base-running.

Composite baseball bats, opposed to aluminum or wood baseball bats, incorporate a reinforced carbon fiber polymer, or composite, into the bat's construction. This composite material can make up all or part of the bat. Bats made entirely of this polymer are referred to as composite bats. Bats which only incorporate a portion of polymer are referred to as composite hybrids.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cue stick</span> A typically wooden shaft used for playing pool

A cue stick is an item of sporting equipment essential to the games of pool, snooker and carom billiards. It is used to strike a ball, usually the cue ball. Cues are tapered sticks, typically about 57–59 inches long and usually between 16 and 21 ounces (450–600 g), with professionals gravitating toward a 19-ounce (540 g) average. Cues for carom tend toward the shorter range, though cue length is primarily a factor of player height and arm length. Most cues are made of wood, but occasionally the wood is covered or bonded with other materials including graphite, carbon fiber or fiberglass. An obsolete term for a cue, used from the 16th to early 19th centuries, is billiard stick.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sam Bat</span> Canadian baseball bat manufacturer

Sam Bat, officially The Original Maple Bat Corporation, is a Canadian company based in the town of Carleton Place, Ontario that manufactures baseball bats. It was the first company to supply baseball bats manufactured from maple wood to professional baseball players. As of 2013, it is one of 32 licensed baseball bat suppliers for Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players. It is also a bat supplier for baseball leagues throughout the world, including Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, Mexico, and the Netherlands. It is the official bat manufacturer for the Australian Baseball League.

Boning is the practice in American baseball of treating a baseball bat with a bone. The bone is run repeatedly up and down the barrel of the bat. The practice has the benefit of slightly hardening the bat by compressing the surface wood cells, and also of boosting hitting on the grounds that bone and hide go together, thus bone attracts hide, and as the baseball is covered in hide it will be attracted to the boned bat.


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