Should your child’s first wood bat be Maple or Ash

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The decision to start swinging wood bats, can bring a little bit of uneasiness knowing you are going to pay $70-$110 for a bat that could possibly break on the very first swing.  You want to get your moneys worth and hope that it will last for a while.  There are a few advantages and disadvantages to each type of wood.

Wooden bats more so than aluminum need to hit baseballs on the barrel of the bat.  Hitting on the barrel will give you maximum exit speed off the bat as well as keep your bat in one piece.

So which is a good bat to use for my or my child’s first wood bat.

Ash Bats

Northern white ash is the most common wood bat available.  It has a little flex in the bat (similar to some aluminum bats) which is popular because it may have a little extra whip.

When using ash you need to hit with the grains.  That means you want the grains of the bat to be facing the pitcher.  A good indicator is to take the label on the bat and have it facing straight up in the air, or have it facing the ground.  The label is printed on top of the grains so if it is pointed up or down at contact you will be in the optimal position.  This has been proven to be the strongest part of the bat for exit ball speed and overall bat durability.

Pros for Ash bat
  • Usually a little less expensive than maple bats.
  • Has a little flex in the wood (similar to some aluminum bats)
  • When it breaks is usually stays together, thus keeping flying bat shards to a minimum.
Cons for Ash bat
  • Wood grains start to flake (sometimes after the first use), and your bat will eventually lose all density in its barrel.  So even if the bat is still in one piece, the barrel could be in such bad shape that the bat can’t be used.
  • Ash is softer wood compared to maple
  • Not as durable as maple.

Maple Bats

Maple bats exploded onto the scene about 10 years ago.  Maple is a harder, more dense wood than ash.  It doesn’t have the same flex as an ash bat, but once you get used to using one, it isn’t really noticeable.  Also, a maple bat can be heavier than an ash bat of the same size.  This is good for power but bad for bat speed.

Note about safety:  The label on maple bats is stamped with the grains rather than on the top like ash.  There was a MLB study done in 2008 because so many maple bats were shattering when breaking, potentially causing serious injury.  The results of this study was, when baseballs are hit on top of the maple bats wood grains opposed to with the grains, (like you would with ash) the bat is more durable.  So for 2009 maple bats changed the location of their label, (you still want the label pointing up or down at contact).  They also include a ink mark that will run depending on the quality of the wood.  If the wood does not meet certain specifications it can’t be sold.

Pros for Maple bats
  • Harder, more dense piece of wood, compared to ash, so a perfectly hit ball will travel farther.
  • Doesn’t flake, making it last for ever as long as you don’t break it.  Very durable.
  • Dense wood grains give the bats a “trophy shine”
Cons for Maple bats
  • Usually a little more expensive than ash bats.
  • When it breaks it usually shatters, and you have to deal with flying pieces of bat.
  • Heavier than an Ash bat of the same size

In my opinion if a child is not too big and strong (under 12ish) I would get them an ash bat.  If the kid was a little stronger and hit the baseball with a little authority, I would get them a maple bat.  Even one of each would be ideal to see which works best, and holds up the longest.  Remember that no matter how nice or hard a piece of wood is, it can break in one swing.  It is more likely to break by hitting the ball off the end of the bat than by getting jammed because it takes a pretty fast pitch or a pretty strong hitter to break the bat when you hit the ball close to your hands.

I hope this article helps you choose between maple or ash.  If you have any questions, feel free to add your comment below.

Next, you may like our baseball insider guide to the Best Wood Bats, or check out our free Hitting Instruction articles, written by professional baseball players.

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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