I hear questions all the time about how to use a wood bat and how to care for it properly. Hopefully this will give you all the answers to your questions. If it doesn’t, please feel free to ask your question in the comments section below.
1. I hear people say, “hit with the label up,” what does that mean and why.
The bat companies label is placed on the weakest part of the bat. The reason you hear “hit with the label up” or “hit with the label down” is because that will put your bat in the correct place to hit the baseball on the side of the bat where the grains are straight and the strongest.
Look at the ball marks on your bat. If the label is at a 12:00 on a clock you want your marks at 9:00 or 3:00. If your marks are at 12:00 or 6:00 then you need to adjust the way the bat is in your hands. Using the strongest part of the bat will make the bat last longer if you hit it on the barrel obviously. This video can help explain more about this aspect of how to use a wood bat.
2. How can I make my ash bat last longer?
The sad reality about ash bats are that they will flake away at the barrel until they basically are unusable. This happens if you hit the ball repeatedly in the same spot over and over again without breaking the bat.
It is hard to determine exactly how good each ash bat will be. Some start flaking after one batting practice session and some seem to harden up and last many weeks.
One way to make the wood more durable is to “bone” your ash bat. This means to take your bat to a hard surface and rub it back and forth with some force to compress the wood. Using a steel pole, porcelain sinks, or even an old dried out bone.
3. Should I put a grip on my bat or not, if so what kind?
This is all personal preference. I hear some parents talk about using a grip similar to what you would find on an aluminum bat because it will take away some of the shock or sting. True or not I don’t know, I have stung my hands with and without grip.
I prefer to not use any grip. I like to feel the wood and not add any grip.
99% of the people that put a grip on their bat use athletic tape.
This actually doesn’t give you any better grip (it’s still slippery) but it allows you to customize your grip to the exact way you want it. Tape will allow your handle to be a little thicker if the handle feels a little thin in your hands. You can taper the knob any way you like. Some people even add a lot of tape to the knob to give a little extra weight at the hands to make the barrel feel a little lighter. Play around with it to see what you like.
4. What is the best way to get a grip on the bat and which products are best?
Pine tar is the best way to get a grip. When you first get a bat the handle is slippery even if you put tape on it. Pine tar will give you the tacky feel that keeps it in your hands.
The first thing to know about pine tar is that when applied it may be slick. Smack a rosin bag on top of where you applied the pine tar to give it tackiness. Rosin is essential to making the pine tar the type of sticky you want. (see the video below)
Liquid pine tar is applied to a pine tar rag and then smeared on the baseball bat. Usually pine tar is placed above where the hands grip the bat so you can grab for tackiness and then apply to the handle.
Pine tar sticks are a great option, it is less messy and very easy to keep in your equipment bag. The stick is applied to the handle or just above the handle, but again rosin helps to give it more tackiness. Some pine tar sticks are better than others. I have done some reviews on pine tar and pine tar sticks. Click here to see our recommendations for best pine tar.
5. Why is there an ink mark just above the handle on my maple bat?
Starting a few years ago (end of 2008) bat companies did a lot of research to see why maple bats were exploding differently from ash.
Maple bats breaking would usually lead to a bat barrel that would be flying into the stands or out on the field. The sharp, jagged end would be enough to really do some damage. The ink mark is a result of the research that was done and even though it is really useless to the consumer it means something to the bat maker.
The way the ink runs gives insight to the strength of the bat and if that piece of wood can be sold or not. Bat companies can only sell maple that meets or exceeds the ink test. This ink mark must be visible so umpires, players, and anyone else can see that the ink test was done of that bat. This test is only done on maple bats. Click here to see our recommendations for best wood bats.
I hope this post for how to use a wood bat has been helpful for you. If so, I hope you’ll consider sharing with your friends! I invite you to leave feedback or ask questions in the comments section below. Play hard! - Doug
Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 11 years. After hitting .361 with the New York Yankees this 2012 spring training where he relieved Derek Jeter at shortstop, Doug spent the 2012 season with the Yankees’ triple A team. Click here to get personal, one-on-one instruction with Doug Bernier