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History of The Wood Bat

History of The Wood Bat

The Wood Bat

By Christina Verrengia

One thing that has always been linked to the great game of baseball is the wood bat. When the game of baseball first started being played most of the players had personally made their own bats. There were many different shapes and sizes to these bats. Some were longer than others; some were quite heavy when compared to another. Due to the fact that bats of all shapes and sizes were being used, in 1859 a rule was implemented that stated bats could be no larger than 2.5 inches in diameter but they could be of any length. Ten years later in 1869 another rule was added that stated the baseball bat could be no longer than 42 inches in length, the same maximum length allowed today. When this rule was put in place it was the only stipulation for a baseball bat. The most prolific name in the wood bat industry today came from a company that was started in 1884. The name of this company is Louisville Slugger. Louisville Slugger started out when one of the early baseball players had broken their bat in a game that was being played in Louisville, KY. A man by the name of John Hillerich offered to use his woodworking skills to make the player a new bat. The first game that this new bat was used in the player who went by the name of Pete Browing went 3 for 3. This immediately created an interest from other players, which turned into John Hillerich and his family starting up their wood bat business. In the 1890's, the rules were changed again. This time they stated that bats could no longer be sawed off at the end, they must be round, and the maximum diameter was increased to 2.75 inches. A few years after 1900, one of the best baseball players in the game, Honus Wagner, became the first player to be paid to have his signature burned into Louisville Slugger bats. Although bats have continued to develop over the years, wood baseball bats today look similar to the bats of 100 years ago. The biggest differences however are that bats today are much lighter and have thinner handles. Also, now there are many more companies that produce wood bats. Some of the more popular names to go along with Louisville Slugger are Rawlings, Easton, BamBooBat, Mizuno, Xbat, and Marucci to name some. These are some of the bigger names in baseball today. Some of the other more private companies are, Old Hickory, Dbat, Vedero, A-Bat and Dinger.

Over the course of time the wood bat industry has evolved into one of the largest segments in the baseball world. With all of these companies, all trying new woods, and new techniques, the wood bats that are produced today keep rising in quality. The most popular type of wood bat is the White Ash bat. The majority of wood bats are made from northern white ash harvested from Pennsylvania or New York. The white ash wood is used mainly because of its hardness and strength. The wood is not very heavy or rough. This provides the players with a good quality bat, with a comfortable makeup of the bat. Trees that provide the lumber for baseball bats are often 50 years old. Another popular wood that was used for wood bats was hickory. This was because hickory wood was extremely hard and durable. That was the main reason that so many players used that wood. In todayís game, many players do not like the heavy weight of the wood and prefer a lighter wood such as the ash or maple.

Every year the prolific companies such as Louisville Slugger, Rawlings, BamBooBat, and BWP, look for the best wood possible to make their wooden bats. In the recent years more of them have been increasing their production in the amount of maple bats they make. One reason that maple bats have become popular in the past few years is due to the result of Barry Bond's amazing 73 home runs hit using maple bats in 2001. For years, maple was too heavy to make an effective bat. Recent technology in drying wood has created bats with lower moisture content, which are light enough to make effective baseball bats. Rock or Sugar Maple bats are preferred. Maple bats cost more than white ash, but they often last longer as a result of their high strength.

In the past few years there has been an emergence of bats made from bamboo. One of the first companies to make such bats was the BamBooBat Company. Since bamboo chutes are hollow the way the bats made of bamboo are made is by taking strips of bamboo and compressing them together. Bamboo is extremely hard, and also extremely flexible. It allows the bat to create a whipping action as it is swung at the ball. Right now there are several companies that make bats made from bamboo. The bamboo bat is one of the newest types of bat in the wood bat world. It continues to become more popular due to its durability and increased performance. As of the writing of this article a new patent pending bamboo composite has just entered the market. The BamBooBat Company has just recently announced that they have a new bat with a patented Fusioncor Technology. They claim the new bat is so durable they offer a one year warranty against breakage on it. Technology at itís best.

In the future with all of the new rules, regulations and feeís that Major League Baseball has implemented for the 2009 season and beyond it is my opinion that there will be a significantly reduced number of bat manufacturers proving products to professional baseball players. It a shame, the small business person who used to be able to operate a mom and pop operation will never be able to compete with the large corporations. Unfortunately the cost of doing business just removed many jobs from the industry.

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