Everything you need to know about how to use a wood bat

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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.

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 wood baseball bat in the correct place to hit the baseball on the side of the bat where the grains are straight and the strongest.

So take your swing but stop at the contact point.  Make sure your bat label is facing up or down.  And that’s it!  Pretty simple.

This video will show you what I mean.

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.

Do NOT use glass bottles, I have seen people try to use them and if they break your hands will be a bloody mess. Compressing the wood will give it the best chance to last as long as possible by not flaking too quickly.  Click here for more details on how to bone a baseball bat.

Also, Louisville’s new Prime model bats come with a coating that makes bone rubbing uneccesary

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.

There are 3 basic options for grip (1) athletic tape (2) Lizard skins and (3) Pine tar.

I personally prefer pine tar, because I like to feel the wood. Below we’ll talk more about all those options.

1. 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.

2. Lizard Skins – These are a grip for your bat that have gotten very popular.  They eliminate the need for messy pine tar, and you can add all sorts of color options.  You can use our 10% off coupon code ” insider10 “ to get yours from Phoenix bats (yes the code works on bats too), or Amazon has Lizard Skin grips on prime

tips for how to use a wood bat

You can use our 10% off coupon code ” insider10 ” to get yours from Phoenix bats

3. 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.

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 and birch bats, not on ash.  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

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About Author

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 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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16 Comments

      • I’m not sure about extreme age. With birch bats, they get compressed and get better/harder with the first 50 or so hits. But after that I’m not sure. I’ll ask some of the bat companies we work with and see if we can get an answer.

  1. For the logo and the hardness subject, do i want to hit the ball with the logo up or down or start with the logo up or down and rotate like normal and hit the ball with the logo on the side. A guy i know says to start with the label facig you before the swing. Then when you swing you automatically rotate your hands and hit the ball with the logo to the side. Please explain

    • Hands should not rotate until after contact. Don’t “roll” your hands through the zone. Rolling is only on follow through.

  2. Hi Doug,

    What is your opinion on bats made from bamboo? Some people have told me that they make great cage bats due to their durability, but that they’d never use one in a game in the place of maple, ash, or even birch because it lacks a decent sweet spot. Thanks

    P.S. – It would mean a lot to wish my team luck in the NABF Major League season this year!

  3. Hey Doug I have an ash bat and I’ve seen this around before but was wondering if you think this might help. Will putting tape on the barrel or sweet spot of the bat make it more durable? The main reason why I say this is because I train with wood in the offseason but swing with metal during games still so when I’m in the cage I hit a ton of balls and durability can sometimes be an issue, especially with ash.

  4. hey doug I have an ash bat and I’ve seen this around before and just wanted to know what you think. Will putting tape on the barrel or sweet spot of the bat increase its durability and help it last longer because I train with wood during the offseason in the cages so when you are hitting repeatedly during and extended amount of time durability can sometimes be a problem especially with ash.

    • Ryan,
      Thanks for your question. You are 100% correct, taping the barrel will increase an ash bats durability. Eventually the tape won’t help because the barrel will start flaking too badly. But before it gets to that point taping the barrel of a wood (ash) bat will make it last longer. Most leagues won’t allow you to use a bat that has its barrel taped during a game but it is perfect for batting practice.
      Doug Bernier

  5. Doug,

    I know your a great INF and have played the game for a long time and admire your love for the game. I disagree with your offensive drills and tips and I will tell you why.Frame by frame video proves everything you say to be wrong. Show us a front view of hitters hitting a double or bomb in frame by frame motion of any hitter including yourself and show me the evidence of the front shoulder not flying open at contact. Thanks

    • Jim,

      Thanks for your comment. I watch a lot of video and there is some truth to what you have to say. First of all you, and I both know that it is physically impossible for your shoulders not to open up at contact just because of the how our bodies work, but there is a big key that you may be overlooking.

      Where in the swing sequence are the shoulders opening up? Are your shoulders starting your swing by opening up and pulling your backside through bringing the bat into the hitting zone? If this happens you loose about half the plate coverage you would be getting if you start with your back hip and through the swings natural swing progression – meaning the last thing to fire and open up would be your shoulders. I believe and I have been taught (for example, this point was really stressed by Carney Lansford, my hitting coach with the Rockies) that if you teach opening up your shoulders at contact there is a tendency to use them to help pull your swing along.

      Opening up your shoulders is something that doesn’t need to be taught because it is physically impossible to swing without them opening up at contact, but teaching it can lead to bad habits. Also, the amount your shoulders open up depend on the location of the pitch. You will need to open up your shoulders more on an inside pitch (this happens naturally because your hips need to fully open up) in order to correctly hit the inside pitch. On an outside pitch your shoulders don’t need to open as much because your hips don’t need to fully open up to hit this ball well. If you start your swing by opening up your shoulders you will not be able to drive through a baseball in different locations, you may become a guess hitter or be susceptible to an outside pitch.

      In my experience if I think about keeping my shoulders closed as long as possible they will open up when they have to, but if they open up too early that is where my swing starts to fall apart. I hope this gives you a better explanation of what I mean by keeping my shoulders closed. Thanks for the comment.

      Doug Bernier

  6. Terrific insight; still curious about the bat ink test. Also interesting that someone would bone their bat with a glass bottle. Thanks Doug; keep up the good work. db

    • As stated on this site, the manufacturers of maple bats are required to check the SLOPE OF GRAIN of such bats to ensure that grain does not deviate more than 3 degrees from a straight line that runs lenghthwise along the bat from middle of the knob to the middle of the top of the bat. the ink is applied before the bat is varnished and shows the grain more clearly as the ink settles into the grain. measurements are taken from this area to determine if the wood meets specifications. the truer the slope of grain, the less likely it is to break into two pieces. if you watched enough baseball, you surely have seen maple bats break in two, and fly onto the field or into the stands with it jagged edge endangering those near its path. when maple bats break in two pieces, you will see an oblong shape of the exposed bat interior where the two pieces were previously joined. Ash bats usually do not break like this. instead, most ash bats will splinter, but not break into two (or more) pieces. Hope this helps.

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