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There isn’t a better feeling in baseball than squaring up a fastball with a wood bat. The sound is synonymous with the game and represents the tradition of the sport. Wooden bats have evolved with the game of baseball and now players have many options when it comes to choosing a wood bat.
Whether it’s the pop of maple, durability of ash, or versatility of birch, the type of wood can greatly influence a player’s preference when choosing a wood bat. Each type of wood presents different qualities and performance and comes with its own pros and cons.
In this article, we break down the different options for choosing a type of wood bat to use, and what to consider. We start by looking at the most popular wood types of maple, ash, and birch and then discuss the more exotic options out there.
The 3 Major Types of Wood
Maple and ash bats have been the industry standard for many decades, but birch has recently gained a lot of popularity and has become an equally suitable option. Most major bat manufacturers produce many models in all three of these types of wood and can be seen at every level including the major leagues.
The density of maple provides a lot of pop. Maple bats are the most popular in professional baseball for this reason. The close grain of maple compacts over time creating a dense and durable bat, which a lot of players prefer. It’s this density that makes maple the preferred wood for most power hitters looking to maximize how hard and far they are consistently hitting the baseball.
Because of the density of maple bats, it can create a feeling of rigidity when balls are not hit on the sweet-spot. Maple bats are not as forgiving as ash or birch and typically have a smaller sweet-spot. Maple also tends to hold moisture, so it is not uncommon for players using maple bats in high humidity climates to experience their bats becoming slightly heavier over time.
|Most pop and power||Less forgiving|
|Doesn’t flake||Smaller sweet-spot|
|Hardest wood||Lighter options are limited|
Most popular among gap-to-gap and singles hitters, ash is a durable option for players looking for a lighter weight and more forgiving bat than maple. Ash is a wider-grained wood that provides strength while also allowing for a larger sweet-spot without the need for additional weight.
Since ash is a lighter and less dense wood, pop is sacrificed slightly in comparison to maple. Even though it has less pop than maple it’s worth mentioning that because ash is a lighter wood, it may translate to faster bat speed and ultimately become an equalizing factor. Due to the nature of the wood, ash bats are often prone to flaking, and are more susceptible to breaking if the grain is not aligned properly (tip: for ash bats, always face the logo up to ensure contact is being made on the side of the bat where the grains are tight and close together).
|Larger sweet-spot||Less pop|
|Lighter weight options||Prone to flaking|
|Very forgiving||Weak if not aligned properly|
Players that can’t choose between maple and ash often consider birch as an alternative. Birch is continuing to grow in popularity, largely due to the fact it possesses many benefits of both maple and ash. While not quite as light as ash, and with slightly less pop than maple, it is a great starting point for players who are still figuring out their preferences in wood bats.
Birch is durable and provides strength against miss-hits on both the end and handle of the bat. The medium density does add some weight in comparison to ash, but does have more pop. We recommend birch for a lot of first-time wood bat swingers, but that’s not to say birch can’t perform at higher levels. Birch is even becoming popular in the major leagues.
|Versatile||Less pop than maple|
|Great for younger players||Heavier than ash|
|Good all-around wood||Softer wood that needs time to harden|
Other Types of Wood Bats
There are a few other types of wood bats that are commonly used for training bats or in certain leagues primarily due to their increased durability. While the MLB doesn’t allow composite or bamboo bats, these are popular options for younger players and can be used in approved leagues.
Tradition wood baseball bats are made out of one solid piece of wood, while composite wood bats are made from multiple pieces of wood glued and pressed together. The sole purpose is to provide players with a more durable option for a wood bat that will last much longer than a real wood bat. Some bat manufacturers produce BBCOR composite wood bats, meaning they are approved for high school baseball.
Demarini has been producing a very popular line of composite wood bats for a long time that we have used and recommend. These are great training bats as well as game bats in approved leagues. A common practice for players consistently using wood is to purchase a composite bat in the same model as their preferred game bat to train with, without the risk of the bats regularly breaking.
While not technically a wood, bamboo is another popular option for training bats due to its incredible durability. Again, not all leagues allow bamboo bats, but they still serve a great purpose by providing a durable option that mimics the feeling and performance of wood.
For players looking for a bamboo option, we recommend Mizuno’s Bamboo Bat. We have had different models of these bats that are still sitting in the garage after years of training because they never broke.
Hard to find, but some players rave about European beech. Only produced by specialty bat manufacturers, beechwood is a natural wood that is even denser than maple. Beechwood has popped up occasionally in MLB games and has started to gain more traction, but it is unlikely that these bats will be seen in the local sporting goods store anytime soon.