Production's Blog — Baseball Canada

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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.  

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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.  

Multi-piece failures: the enemy of security

Multi-piece failures: the enemy of security

Going to a professional sporting event is fun. Whether it’s professional football, basketball, hockey, or baseball, there’s something magical about being in a crowd of thousands of people coming together for one single purpose.  

Some people may root for the home team, some for the visitors, and some may not even care about the outcome. But they’re all in that same social setting, and for a brief period of time, it brings everyone together.

If you’re a fan of baseball or not, I would argue that going to a professional baseball game is the best. As contrast to the other major pro sports, which have more fast-paced action and rapidly moving players, baseball goes, let’s say, at a more leisurely pace. It provides a more relaxing atmosphere in which you can socialize with the people in your party without worrying that you’re missing the action.

Of course there is the occasionally foul ball or home run ball, and if you’re close enough, a line-drive foul ball. But if you reserve 5 seconds each minute to watch as the pitcher throws the ball and the batter swings, you should be in the clear to socialize with friends, catch up on what’s happening on social media, or just watch the people around you. Whatever floats your boat!

But increased pitching velocity, and the move by hitters to combat this with bigger barrels and smaller handles, has resulted in an increase in broken bats. And parts of those broken bats are making their way into the stands. You can bring your glove to a game to catch a foul ball, but what do you bring to catch a piece of a broken bat with a very sharp point headed for you?

So, Big Leagues are facing a potential problem. Wooden bats breaks (as they tend to do), pieces of bats fly into the stands and cause injuries, and injuries lead to lawsuits. How do the Big Leagues protect its attending fans from injury, and at the same time protect its reputation as the most popular family sporting event?

To solve this issue, they have to go back and find the cause and effect. The answers lie much deeper than the batter gets jammed, or hits the ball off the end of the bat. Bats have been breaking since the game was invented, but never at this rate, and rarely with pieces flying long distances.  

So, what’s changed?  

The obvious answer is that players are getting bigger and stronger, so they throw and swing harder. You’d be hard-pressed to find two pitchers on the same Big Leagues team with an average fastball under 90 miles/hour. The number of pitches thrown above 100 mph rises at an astronomical rate ever year. And that trend will not be reversing any time soon.  

How do hitters counter this phenomenon with their wooden baseball bat?  

By altering the tools with which they use to hit, as well as their approach to the game. Bigger barrel bats, with a smaller handle in order to improve bat speed, has been the increasing trend.  Hitters have been forced into playing the guessing game at the plate. With the increased velocity, hitter are no longer able to ’see the ball, and hit the ball’. They have to become more intelligent hitters, by guessing the type of pitch as well as the location of the pitch. It’s a veritable chess match!  

The end result is an increase in home runs, strikeouts, and broken bats. Home runs and strikeouts cannot be changed, but what about the bats? Would improving the quality of the bats help in reducing breakage rate?

This is Big Leagues’ solution to wooden bat security problem

After numerous scientific analysis, they found that bats tend to break at a certain point (between 11 and 13 inches from the knob of the bat). In testing the fibres at that particular point, if a pitcher throws a ball at 90 mph and a batter swings with the same speed, the vibration from the contact point, if the ball is not hit in the sweet spot, will travel to that particular spot through the fibres between the grains.

If the fibres are straight (within 3 degrees), there will be less stress on the bat, and the result would be that, even if the bat breaks, the likelihood of splintering is substantially reduced.

Certainly, bats will break if not hit in the right spot, but multi-piece breakage rate would be reduced.

The Big Leagues have three guidelines:

  1. Every bat made for professional player must contain a valid ink dot approximately 11 to 13 inches from the knob of the bat.
  2. The company logo is to be placed on the grain side of the bat so that hitters hit against the fibres, as opposed to hitting previously hitting against the grains.
  3. The length to weight ratio of a pro bat cannot be more than -3.5. That is, if the length of your bat is 33 inches, the weight cannot be less than 29.5 ounces. 

Batting gloves or no batting gloves

Batting gloves or no batting gloves

Baseball great Yogi Berra has many famous colloquialisms, one of which states that, ‘baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical’. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the math doesn’t add up, but that’s not his point. The mental aspect of baseball is such that it can, and does, often determine the success or failure of a player.

Before a player steps on the mound or in the batter’s box, that player has to mentally prepare him or herself for success. It can be through practice, doing research on your opponent, anticipating and visualizing success before it happens, or simply being comfortable with your equipment or uniform. I don’t think anyone would disagree that playing catcher without an athletic protector is not a great idea.

You look good, you feel good, you play good! That same concept applies to a batter’s decision on whether or not to use batting gloves.

For many players, the decision comes down to ‘feeling’. This ‘feeling’ could be mental or physical.  How does the bat feel in your hands when you wear batting gloves, as opposed to without? Do you feel more ‘connected’ to your bat without batting gloves? Or do you feel like having gloves gives you more confidence in taking a bigger swing because the gloves will absorb vibrations from getting jammed or hitting a ball off the end of the bat? You may like gloves because they give you a better grip on the bat.

Those decisions can affect a hitter’s success or failure even before stepping in the box. Some hitters like the naked feel of the bat in their hands, and are not concerned about getting jammed. Some players prefer to weave a strip of tape or Lizard Skins around the handle to improve their grip, or add pine tar. Or both pine tar and tape/Lizard Skin. Or neither. Oh, the possibilities! 

Personally, I prefer batting gloves with a nice tape job on the handle to improve grip. No pine tar…too sticky! I can’t explain exactly why. I just like the way the bat feels in my hands with that combination. I feel prepared mentally.

I can remember one occasion when I didn’t wear batting gloves to bat. I was stuck in a huge hitting slump and my manager suggested I hit without gloves. I was struggling at the plate, and had lost my confidence as a hitter. He suggested it as a way of changing how I felt mentally at the plate. It was such a different feeling than what I was used to, but it was nice (for a brief period of time) to worry about something other than trying to tear the cover off the ball in order to break out of my slump.

I wouldn’t say that I broke out of my slump, but I did manage to get a couple hits that game. But more importantly, it reminded me that my mental focus was not properly directed. That was more important to my long-term success.

So, whichever combination you prefer, it’s important to feel comfortable at the plate, both mentally and physically. Your success or failure is largely determined before your step in the batter’s box, so arm yourself with the best tools to insure your success.

And please keep this in mind: good players practice until they get it right, but great players practice until they cannot get it wrong!

Why my softball league should switch to wooden bats?

Why my softball league should switch to wooden bats?

Softball is rapidly becoming one of the most popular summertime sports.  Whether you play fast pitch or slow pitch, in a super competitive league or with friends/co-workers, it's a fun way to exercise, get your competitive juices flowing, or socialize with people you may not get a chance to see regularly.

Depending on your league rules and competition level, the fields are smaller and games often have time limits, making games a bit less stressful than a drawn out baseball game. The rules allow for a more condensed game, which ensures a faster pace with more action, resulting in a more fun game.

With slow pitch, the competition tends to be a bit more serious. Hitting, at the higher level, is more specialized, almost an art form. Players are able to manipulate the ball and place it just about wherever they would like on the field, and often, over the fence. It's very impressive to watch.  For those reasons, rules are set to limit the amount of runs scored in a single inning, except the last, as well as limits of how many home runs can be hit by each team in a game. 

Balls and bats have to be regulated to limit power and distance. Just like in all the professional sports, players are getting bigger and stronger. They can run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than ever before. There's a name for that, and it's not. It's call human evolution. So how do sports adjust to this phenomenon?  We do so by increasing the level of competition to match the pace of human evolution. 

Baseball has implemented the strategy of using the shift; football has enacted rules on where and how players make contact with each other. For the more competitive levels of slow pitch would switching from metal to wooden bats help to level the playing field? Let's discuss some of the pros and cons.

Reasons to use wooden bats:

As mentioned earlier, the evolution of the human body needs to be matched by the evolution of the game. Instead of deadening balls and bats, let’s do like the pros and switch to wooden bats. Look, I get it. Chicks dig the long ball! It’s fun to hit a ball and watch how far it travels. More runs equal more fun. But, just like wooden bats in pro baseball, the best players can still hit the ball far. How about taking it to the next level?

Reasons for staying with metal bats:

If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. The fun part of softball is having the ability to hit the ball wherever you want, and how far you want. Fans don’t want to see a 2-1 ballgame. The ability to manipulate the bat is a big part of being a top level player. Besides, we live in the era of statistics, and that part of the game will not change.