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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 in diameter at the thickest part and no more than 42 inches (1,100 mm) long. Although historically bats approaching 3 pounds were swung, today bats of 33 ounces (0.94 kg) are common, topping out at 34 ounces (0.96 kg) to 36 ounces (1.0 kg).
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, 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 or end 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 bat drop of a baseball 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. Bats with smaller drops create more power.
Baseball bat regulations
In the American major leagues, Rule 1.10(a) states, "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; however this idea was challenged as unlikely on the Discovery Channel series MythBusters.
Both wooden and metal alloy bats are generally permitted in amateur baseball. Recently increasing numbers of "wooden bat leagues" have emerged, reflecting a trend back to wood over safety concerns. Metal (generally aluminum) alloy bats are generally regarded as being capable of hitting a ball faster and farther with the same power, especially problematic towards an unprotected pitcher's head just 60' 6" or less away. Some amateur baseball organizations enforce bat manufacturing and testing standards which attempt to limit maximum ball speed for wood and non-wood bats. Aesthetically, wooden bats are generally preferred to metal, both for their traditional appearance and satisfying traditional "crack", far superior to alloy bats' hollow "ping".
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 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. Barry Bonds used the bats the season he broke baseball's single-season home run record in 2001 and its career home run record in 2007. Recently, maple bats' tendency to shatter has caused Major League Baseball to examine their use.
Within league standards there is ample latitude for individual variation, many batters settling on an their own bat profile, or one used by 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 understandably popular among major-league players, is R43 in the Louisville Slugger archives.
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% 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 several standard colors, including natural, red, black, and two-tone blue and white.
- The bat is not permitted to be more than 2 inches (67 mm) in diameter. 5⁄8
- 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 inches (57 mm) in diameter. 1⁄4 However in many other leagues (like PONY League Baseball, and Cal Ripken League Baseball), the bat may not be more than 2 inches (70 mm) in diameter. 3⁄4
A baseball player may apply 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(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, when Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett was called out after hitting an apparent home run, because after comparing the length of the pine-tar treated area to the width of home plate (17 inches), the umpire determined too much of the bat was covered with pine tar. At the time, such a hit was defined in the rules as an illegally batted ball, the penalty for which is that the batter is declared out according to Rule 6.06. Nonetheless, at the time, the out call was challenged and overruled, and the game was resumed on August 6, starting after the now-upheld home run. Rules 1.10 and 6.06 were later changed to reflect the intent of Major League Baseball, as exemplified by the Commissioner'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.
A fungo bat is a specially designed bat used by baseball and softball coaches for practice. The bat is designed to hit balls tossed up in the air by the batter, not pitched balls. 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.
The widespread use of maple bats has come under fire recently, because maple bats are more likely than ash bats to shatter into multiple pieces. In 2010, bats of silver maple and red maple were banned for new players in the minor leagues.
- "Official Baseball Rules". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- Mythbusters, season 5 (Corked Bat)
- "National Collegiate Athletic Association (USA) Standard for Testing Baseball Bat Performance" (www.ncaa.org/...) Revised October 30, 2006
- "Bat-testing regulations modified" (www.ncaa.org/...) October 8, 2008.
- "(National Federation of State High School Associations) Baseball Rules Committee Focuses on Clarification of Bat Standards and Sportsmanship During Pre-Game Practice" (www.nfhs.org/...) June 25, 2003.
- Canadian Sports Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3, August 2008, p. 8, (Publication Mail Agreement #40993003, Oakville, ON)
- NCHSAA Baseball Information
- The BESR
- Little League Baseball Rule 1.10
- Pony Baseball Rules and Regulations
- Heiss Grodin, Dana (March 7, 2001). "Equipment and product guide". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012.
- Lee, Sandra L. (December 27, 2001). "For now, the mansion stands". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1A. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
- "MLB bans use of many maple bats in minor leagues; safety concerns cited". Sporting News. 2010-03-01. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: baseball bats|
- Physics and Acoustics of Baseball Bats—How baseball bats work, how bat performance is measured, differences between wood, metal, and composite bats
- Woodturning Online—Making a Baseball Bat
- Baseball bats guide
- "Maple, Ash Baseball Bats May Strike Out". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio, July 4, 2008.