A baseball bat is a smooth wooden or metal club used in the game of baseball to hit the ball after the ball is thrown by the pitcher. It is no more than 2.75 inches in diameter at the thickest part and no more than 42 inches (1067 mm) in length. It typically weighs no more than 33 ounces (1 kg). The batter uses the bat two-handed to try to hit a pitched ball fair so that he may become a runner, advance bases, and ultimately score a run or help preceding runners to score.
Although using a stick to hit a ball is a somewhat simple concept, the bat is a complex object. It is carved or constructed very carefully to allow for a quick balanced swing, while providing power. The bat is divided into several regions. The barrel
is the thick part of the bat, where the bat is meant to hit the ball. The part of the barrel best for hitting the ball with, according to construction and swinging style, is often called the sweet spot
. The end of the barrel is not part of the sweet spot, and is simply called the tip
of the bat. The barrel narrows, and becomes the handle
. The handle is very thin, so that batters can comfortably set the bat in their fingers. Sometimes, especially on metal bats, the handle is wrapped with a rubber or cloth grip
. Finally, next to the handle is the knob
of the bat, a wider piece that keeps the bat from sliding out of a batter's hands. Over the centuries, the baseball bat's form has become more refined. During the 19th century, many shapes were experimented with, as well as handle designs. Today, the baseball bat is much more uniform in design.
"Lumber" is a sometimes-used slang term for a bat, especially when wielded by a particularly good batter.
The drop of a baseball bat is its length in inches minus its weight in ounces. For example, if a bat is 33" long and it weighs 30 ounces, then the drop is -3. Bats with smaller drops create more power.
Baseball bat regulations
In professional baseball
, only wooden bats are permitted, but metal bats are also permitted within regulations and they are not allowed to be corked
—that is, filled with an alien substance such as cork which reduces the weight, and is thought to thus increase bat speed without greatly reducing hitting power. In amateur baseball, both wood and metal alloy bats are generally permitted. Recently there have been increasing numbers of "wooden bat leagues" and the trend back to wood seems to be accelerating on the grounds of safety concerns. Aesthetically, wooden bats are generally agreed to be superior to metal bats, both because of their more traditional appearance and because a ball hit with a wooden bat makes a loud "crack" sound, while metal alloy bats have a "ping" sound.
Most wooden bats are made from ash. Other natural materials used include maple tree wood, hickory wood, and bamboo. Hickory has fallen into disfavor because it is much heavier than other woods, while maple bats have become more popular recently. This ascent in popularity followed the introduction of the first major league sanctioned maple baseball bat in 1997, by craftsman Sam Holman, founder of Sam Bat. The first player to use it was Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays. Barry Bonds used the bats the season that he broke Mark McGwire's home run record in 2001. Recently, Major League Baseball has debated whether maple bats are safe to use, due to the tendency for them to shatter into pieces.
Within the standards set by the various leagues, there is ample latitude for individual variation, and many batters settle on an individual bat profile, or occasionally adopt a profile used by another batter. Formerly, bats were hand-carved to a template obtained from a fixed number of calibration points; today, they are machine-turned to a precise metal template: these templates are kept in the bat manufacturers' vaults; for example, Babe Ruth's template, which became understandably popular among major-league players, is R43 in the Louisville Slugger archives. Once the basic bat has been turned, it is then branded by burning, with the manufacturer's name, the serial number, and often the signature of the player for whom it was made: the brand is applied to the hard side of the bat, allowing the batter visual control of the hardness of the surface hitting the ball; the burn residue is then sanded off. (The first player to endorse and sign a bat was Honus Wagner.) The next step is the finishing of the head: bats are more often given a rounded head, but some 30% of players prefer a "cup-balanced" head, in which a cup-shaped recess is made in the head; this lightens the bat and moves its center of gravity toward the handle. Finally, the bat is stained in one of seven standard colors, which include natural white, red stain, black, and a two-tone blue and white stain.
In high school baseball in the United States:
- The bat is not allowed to be more than 2 5/8 inches (67 mm) in diameter.
- Its "drop" (inches of length minus ounces of weight) must be no more than 3: for example, a 34‑inch (863.6‑mm) bat must weigh at least 31 ounces (880 g).
- The bat may consist of any safe solid uniform material; the National Federation of State High School Associations rules state only "wood or non-wood" material.
- In order to be legally used in a game, an aluminum bat cannot exceed a BESR (ball exit speed ratio) rating of .728 because it has been determined that a pitcher loses the ability to protect himself when this ratio is exceeded.
In some 12-year-old-and-under youth leagues (such as Little League Baseball), the bat may not be more than 2 1/4 inches (57 mm) in diameter. However in many other leagues (like PONY League Baseball, and Cal Ripken League Baseball), the bat may not be more than 2 3/4 inches (70 mm) in diameter.
During use, a baseball player may rub pine tar on the gripping end of the bat in order to improve grip. Too much pine tar, however, is illegal: according to Rule 1.10(b) of the Major League Baseball Rulebook, it is not allowed more than 17 inches up from the bottom handle. An infamous example of the rule in execution is the Pine Tar Incident on July 24 1983, when Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett was called out after hitting a home run because the umpire determined he had too much pine tar on his bat. However, Rule 1.10(b) only requires that the bat be removed from the game promptly; it does not necessitate any sort of change to the play. The out call was challenged and overruled, and the game was resumed from the home run on August 6.
A fungo bat is specially designed bat used by baseball and softball coaches for practice purposes. The bat is designed to hit not thrown or pitched balls, but rather balls tossed up in the air. Typical fungo bats are 35–37 inches long and weigh 17–22 ounces. 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.
A number of manufacturers construct a wide variety of baseball bats varying in size, length, style, and composition. Every player who plays at a professional grade is automatically given a standard contract by Louisville Slugger
which he may sign, but is not required to. Other notable wood-bat makers include KR3, Rawlings
(who purchased maple-bat pioneer Sam Bats in 2005), and Brett Brothers. Popular metal bat brands include Louisville's TPX line, Wilson's Demarini
label, Rawlings, Worth, Nike
and market leader Easton
baseball bats used by Major League Baseball
players. Many historic game-used bats are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
, including Roger Maris
's 61st Home Run
game-used bat and Mark McGwire
's 65th, 66th, 67th, 68th, 69th, and 70th Home Run
game-used bats. They have become a very popular collectible
for sports fans
The widespread use of maple
bats has come under fire recently by many parties, since maple bats are more likely to shatter whereas ash
bats simply crack.