Let’s talk about the lumber for a second. The bats, the wood, the sticks, the tree, the weapon, the seal beater, the tally whacker, wonder boy, maple or ash.
I used a whole bunch of different brands of bats. Coopers when I first came up, then Sam bats, then Rawlings. From day one, I used Louisville Sluggers too. I’m sure just about every big leaguer from every era used or uses Louisville Sluggers either as their number one brand or just as a supplement to the one’s they normally use.
Regardless of the manufacturer, the model pretty much comes off a Louisville Slugger template. So I basically used C271 or M110 models. In other words, I may have been using a Cooper bat, but it was the shape of a C271 Louisville Slugger.
For the most part, I liked my sticks cupped (the end of the barrel cratered out-decreasing weight and changing the area of the sweet spot) and 34 inches/31.5oz.
The weight was always an issue. I’d order em 31.5 oz and they would come anywhere between that weight and 33 oz. Now an ounce may not seem like a lot to you, but it seemed like ten pounds to me.
Bat manufacturers would say that the more weight you had in your bat, the better the wood. In general, they may be telling the truth; however, I saw Ken Griffey Jr.’s 30 oz bats and they were the hardest bats I’d ever seen.
The fact was and probably still is, that the best players get the best wood. Its as simple as that. Heavy, light, doesn’t matter. Ichiro is getting WAY better lumber than Brent. Period. But then again, 10 billion people in Japan flip on the tube every night to watch Ichiro hit and I bet there aren’t fifteen folks over there who know who I am.
Speaking of Ichiro, his sticks are crafted by a master bat making monk high atop the mountains of Japan in a cave in a panda bear reserve. Just kidding, I made that up. His Mizuno bats are made by a man named Isokazu Kubota. By the way, Mr. Kubota is the same guy who made Pete Rose’s bats…so I guess it’s safe to call him a master after all. Click here to read a nice Time magazine article on the man.
I also liked my bats either brown or lightly flamed and finished. Once in a while I’d go for them unfinished. The only problem with the unfinished models was they had a tendency to take on weight/moisture as time went on. I also found you had to “bone” them to make the grain lay down. (Boning is the practice of rubbing the barrel of the bat on a big bone to keep the bat’s grain from flaking). On the upside though, they started out lighter.
I don’t know for sure, but I think I went through about 25-35 bats per year. Most of that was in the first few weeks of spring training when I’d routinely snap 2 or 3 a day. When I got in the groove, I might be able to keep a bat for a couple months before it flaked out or got sawed off by a Mariano Rivera cutter. Rivera might be a bigger threat to the environment and the forests than global warming. Al Gore should be on a crusade against him. That guy can snap a bat or two.
It was hard to tell by looking at it if a bat was a gamer or not. For me it boiled down to a combination of the following. The weight, the space and straightness of the grain, the sound, and just the way it felt when it struck a ball. I’d usually use it in batting practice for a day or two, get a feel, and then make a judgement on if it were game worthy or not.
The teams pay for the bats. I’d generally order through my club’s equipment manager. At about $70 per bat, that’s probably a pretty big expense for the teams when you factor in all the players. Especially if you happen to be in the National League and you’ve got the pitchers hitting and breaking bats like toothpicks.
What else? I loved pine tar. Not as much as George Brett loved it, but I definitely felt no bat was complete without a good slathering of the stuff. I don’t think I ever taped a handle to get grip a la Ken Griffey Jr. I just preferred the tackiness of the tar. I also wore batting gloves. That’s all I got. If you want to read more, click here here for a good article I found on bats.