In the world of baseball, the wooden bat has been seriously misunderstood. What was once a staple of the game at all levels has been replaced by a confusing mix of metals, composite materials, and required stamps.
For most young baseball players, wooden bats are pieces of equipment given only to professional baseball players. Very few amateur leagues use wooden baseball bats, which is why wooden bats - especially the elusive maple bats - have developed so many myths over the years.
The wooden baseball bat is as old as the game itself. The bats used by youth players today have only been used for about 40 years when they were first used in the 1970s in college leagues. Throughout all of the confusion with composite, aluminum, and BBCOR bats, the wooden bat has happily remained a staple of professional baseball leagues.
Why People Worry about Using Wooden Bats
One of the biggest reasons that wooden bats are not used in young leagues is because maple bats are expected to break on a regular basis. If you have ever watched a professional baseball game, you can see how infrequently bats break. If you think about how hard professional baseball players hit the ball, especially when compared to youth players, the infrequent amount of broken bats is actually rather remarkable. If a wooden bat was put into the hands of a young player, it would be very rare to see a broken bat.
The reasons why wooden bats break is not necessarily due to the way the ball is hit, but because of weather conditions. The most common times that bats break is at the beginning of the season, when the games are played in colder condition; and, at the end of the year, when favorite bats have been worn down through consistent play. Remember that baseball teams in the major leagues play 162 games - so bats are expected to wear out with the hundreds of at-bats player have.
Youth players have nowhere near 162 games that major league players have, so it is much less likely that any youth player who uses a maple bat would have any problems with breakage. Of course weather can be a factor with maple bats, but it is also a factor with composite bats. In many cases, composite bats should not be used when the temperature is under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is common to see composite bats crack and splinter and in some cases the handle will separate from the barrel. And, composite bats are significantly more expensive than any maple bat.
Maple bats also will break if they are stored in a hot car. When the wood dries out from being in extreme heat, it is more likely to break.
The grain of the bat does not have anything to do with the quality of hits a batter will get. Some people believe that the wider the grain is on the bat, the better the hits will be. This is not the case. Maple bats are so powerful because the wood is dense, which changes the physics of the hit. There is nothing about the grain that will affect the bat and there is no reason to hit the ball with the logo side of the bat, too.
Many people have heard over the years that wooden bats are dangerous. This is usually because of the myths about breakage. In reality, a maple bat is quite safe. The big issue with composite bats is that ball travel farther when they are hit off of a composite bat. Fewer baseball players (and spectators) are injured from balls hit off of wooden bats than those who are injured from balls hit by composite bats. This is also the case with wooden bats that break.
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