Production's Blog — baseball bat


What is a B-1 bat?

One of the things that make B45 such a unique bat manufacturing company is that in addition to the dozens of the most popular models of baseball bats (like B271, B243c, MS12, for example), B45 also makes a wide variety of customized, or specialized bats, for our clients.

It’s not surprising that many pro baseball players choose to customize their bats to fit their comfort level.  After all, a craftsman is only as good as his tools. So what does customization of bats have to do with B-1 bats?  

B-1 bats, or blem bats like we used to call them, are created when our yellow birch bat does not meet the exact qualifications of the client. That could happen a couple of different ways. First, the physical dimensions of the bat may not be the same as the client’s specifications.

For example, the flare in the knob is slightly bigger or smaller than the bat being ordered, or the circumference of the handle at 12 inches from the knob is supposed to be .93 inches, but measures .945. These may be small and less significant differences, but to the professional player, it makes all the difference.  

The second and most common reason blem bats are created is due to Big Leagues’ ink dot requirements for bats made for professional players. For those unfamiliar, the Big Leagues require an ink dot to be placed between 11 and 13 inches from the knob of the bat.

The ink dot will highlight and measure the fibers within the wood, and each fibre has to be straight (within 3 degrees). Testing shows that when a batter hits the ball off the end of the bat or gets jammed, that area is where the bat is weakest and tends to break.

A bat that passes the ink dot test is not immune to breakage, however. But the stronger the bat, the less chance of the bat splitting in two, with the bottom piece potentially flying into the stands and causing injury.

So, when a customized bat is made to exact specification, but the ink dot fibres measure 4 degrees instead of 3 (a very very small variance by the way), the bat fails. And since the bat is customized, and cannot be sold to another client because of the specifications, it becomes a B-1 bat.

B-1 models are not uniformly shaped. It’s not impossible to come across two B-1 bats with the same exact specifications, but your chances are pretty slim. They come in an assortment of shapes because each individual bat was made to different exact specifications.

I would argue, however, that these bats offer the best value for clients because they are generally made from our premium quality wood and therefore are at or very near Big Leagues’ strict requirements, and at a fraction of the cost of premium pricing.


Where on the bat to hit - face side or grain side?

With the Big Leagues’ regulations for bats made for professional players, many people are a bit confused about what side of the bat to hit on. In the old days, everyone knew to adjust their bat at the plate to make sure that the bat makes contact with the ball on the grain side of the barrel. 

The grain side of the bat is the side with the vertical lines, or ‘grains’.  Bat companies put their logos on the face side of the bat. But with Big Leagues’ rules, companies are required to put their logos on the grain side, encouraging hitters at the pro level to hit with their bats making contact with ball on the face side.

Two questions: Why did the Big Leagues set this new rule, and why does it matter which side I hit on?

The answer to the second question is simple. For amateur players, it doesn’t matter which side of the bat makes contact with the ball. The rules have not changed for non-professional players, so they are free to hit on whichever side they prefer. Bats made for players at the amateur level still have company logos placed on the face side of the bat. Most players, like me, are accustomed to hitting against the grain side of the wood, and it feels a bit strange to hit on the face side.

So what’s the reason for Big Leagues’ new regulations on which side of the bat to place a company’s logo?

The answer is a bit complex, but it has something to do with Big Leagues’ desire to reduce the number of bats that splinter into multi pieces when they break. Studies done by the league have found that the fibres in bats, at the point of breakage (between 11 and 13 inches from the knob of the bat), were 12 percent stronger on the face side of the bat as opposed to the grain side.

They wanted to encourage players to hit on the stronger side of the wood, the face side, so they instructed bat manufacturers to place their company logos on the grain side.  

In the end, it’s a question of preference. At the professional level, pitchers throw harder and hitters swing harder. The combination of the two causes bats to break, and bats that are weaker sometimes break into multiple pieces and can cause harm to players and fans.

There are no laws, either at the professional or amateur level, on which side to the bat to hit. They would simple like to encourage players to hit on the side least likely to break. Furthermore, there are no indications that hitting on one side or the other (face or grain side), will result in more pop.  


The Difference Between Premium and Pro Select bats

B45 manufactures three types of bats. All bats made for professional players, i.e., players playing in the Big Leagues or affiliated baseball, are called Premium bats. Bats used in game situations for non-professional players, or amateurs, are called Pro Select bats. The bats made for non-baseball purposes are called Promotional bats.

Premium bats have two special requirements, imposed by the Big Leagues, on all bat manufacturing companies. The first requirement is the ink dot. Between 11 and 13 inches from the knob of the bat (where the bats is weakest and most likely to break), an ink dot is placed in the fibres of the wood. The lines created by the spreading of the ink have to be straight with 3 degrees to pass the Big Leagues’ regulations. These fibres indicate the strength of the wood used to make the bat. These bats are less likely to splinter into multiple pieces if broken.

The second requirement is that bat manufacturing companies must place its logo on the grain side of the bat as opposed to the face side, as before. Studies have shown that the fibres on the face side of the wood are 12 percent stronger than fibres on the grain side, and therefore less likely to break.  Even though players are not prohibited from hitting against the grain side of the bat, they are encouraged to hit on the face side.  

Pro Select bats are bats made for non-professional players. They don’t require ink dot testing, and company logos are placed on the face side of the bat. Promotional bats are bats made for non-baseball activities. These consist of trophy and baby bats. These bats are not safe for game activity either because of the density of the wood, or blemishes in the logs used to make the bats.  These blemishes make the bats very weak in key areas of the bat, and can cause major harm if used improperly.  


The idea behind training bats

Training bats are excellent tools for practicing fundamentals. Whether you are an experienced pro, or justing starting to play the game, it’s always important to practice good baseball fundamentals. Training tools such as fungos, one-handed bats, and heavy bats are used in all levels of the game. More importantly, they are an essential part of an individual’s, and team’s success.

Fungo bats for practicing

Coaches use fungos to practice hitting ground balls and fly balls. Fungos are slightly longer than normal baseball bats, has a smaller barrel, and are extremely light. With fungos, one is able to more easily manipulate the ball and hit it in a more precise manner in order to allow the fielder to work on specific aspects of their defense.  

One-handed bats are great for isolating a hitter’s swing, using only one hand, in order to work on the small details. These bats are much shorter in length and weigh less than regular bats, but with a bigger barrel. 

The idea of the shorter length is to allow the hitter to swing the bat with only one hand, in a fluid way, with the balanced feel of using two hands.  Hitters are able to do hitting drills using either top or bottom hand, or work on the feel of a short, quick swing using both hands.  

Heavy bats can be used as a strengthening tool, to practice balance, and as a warm-up before your at-bat. These bats are much heavier than regular bats. 

They can help hitters improve their strength and bat speed through repeated use in practice, as well as help players work on problems with balance at the plate. 

Hitters often use heavy bats right before their at-bat by swinging it as a warm up.  This helps them to increase blood flow in the hands and wrists, and make their regular bat feel lighter.

Training bats are an important part of baseball, and are essential for successful players and teams. These bats, however, should only be used as a practice tool. 

They should never be used game action or live batting practice.  And remember that good players practice until they get it right, but great players practice until they can’t get it wrong!

Why bats with smaller barrels are better for younger players

Why bats with smaller barrels are better for younger players

In the last decades, there's been a trend with Big League players for bats with larger barrels. I suppose this is a natural trend, as players are getting bigger and stronger. Big Leagues pitchers are throwing harder and harder, with more pitches clocking in at above 100 mph than ever before.

Hitters, on the other hand, have tried to combat the increased velocity by gravitating towards smaller handle and large barrel bats. This is done in order to create more bat speed or ‘whip’ in their swing.

Obviously, there’s a bit more to a professional baseball player’s ability to generate bat speed than using a big barrel. These players have been honing their skills for a very long time. Their physical conditioning, mental preparation, as well as a highly advanced hitting technique have enabled them to perform at the highest level of their profession.

From the smallest players, like Houston’s second baseman Jose Altuve, to physical specimen like New York’s outfielder Aaron Judge, these guys have been working to perfect their craft for many years, starting from their youth.

They also know that they have limitations, and working inside those limitations in order to reduce them is a big part of the process of becoming their best. It’s a process, and the process takes time and patience. But it also involves understanding your body.  

As a youth growing up in Texas, my favourite hitter was first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. I was infatuated with the effortless and efficiency of his swing. So I watched him and tried to mimic his approach, from the time he stepped into the batters’ box to his follow-through after each swing. But I never knew the model, length, and weight of the bat he swung.

Nowadays, it’s easy to find your favourite player’s game bat. But as a youth, do you actually need to use the exact model of the bat? Remember, these guys have been training for a long time, and they know how to use a wooden bat. 

It’s a bit different from metal, as the wooden bat is, shall we say, less forgiving! I would argue that developing and perfecting your technique with a wooden bat is a lot more important than hitting your favourite major leaguer’s bat model.

Smaller barrel bats are better for youth in that they offer a more balanced feel and therefore similar to metal, and they use higher density wood, which helps to offset the lack of bat speed for the physically less-developed youth.

Switching from metal to wooden bat can be a very daunting task. It’s altogether not the same feeling.  Not to mention the hitting area of the wood bat is much smaller than that of the metal, and the consequences of not finding the sweet spot with the wooden bat is more “pricey”!

So it’s important to have something that feels comfortable in your hand.  Something you feel you can swing with confidence and not worry about finding the sweet spot.

Bigger barrel bats, like the B243c or CarGo5, even with the same length to weight ratio of smaller barrel bats, feel a lot different because the weigh distribution is different.

With most of these bats, the weight is more felt in the barrel, which can make the bat feel heavier. When the bat feels heavy, there’s a tendency to over swing or abandon your hitting technique because you feel less confident about your ability to find the sweet spot.  

The player’s physical development is another factor in choosing what type of bat to use. The higher density wood used to make smaller barrel bats offer two advantages:

  1. More pop (compared to less dense wood at exact same bat speed)
  2. Stronger bat (less chance of breakage if ball is not hit on the sweet spot).

A less physically developed youth would find it more difficult to develop the kind of bat speed required to effectively use a bat with a bigger barrel due to the low density of the wood used to make the bat.

As a young player, it is more important to use a bat that fits comfortably in your hands, with the durability to withstand more of the mistakes that will no doubt happen when making the leap from metal to wood bats. The key to being a great hitter is the ability to generate bat speed.

But until your body is mature enough physically to combine bat speed with a bigger barrel, the higher density wood used to make the smaller barrel bats is the perfect tool.