With all of the recent metal bat regulations affecting practically every age group, many people are turning back the clock and opting for wood bats.
It is important to know how to determine if you are getting the best bat that you can for the money. The easiest way of doing that is to compare bats side by side.
Since ash is what the majority of bats are made out of, the following tips apply specifically to ash wood bats. Here's what you need to look for:
Check the Wood Grain
You need to look at two things when you are comparing the wood grain of a bat - grain continuity and grain count. More than anything, those two factors will play a large role in how durable an ash bat is and its susceptibility to flaking.
First, is the spacing between the grain consistent? The lines of grain running up a bat should be straight with little to no variation in spacing throughout the length of the bat.
Second, how many grains are there across the bat? I have seen this second point contested but it absolutely has a bearing on the durability of a bat. The weakest part of wood is where the grain is because that is where the pores in wood are. I think we can all agree that porous materials are far less sturdy than non-porous ones, so it only stands to reason that the more grain lines a bat has, the more likely it is to break. Grainier bats also will weigh less than bats with few grains, meaning contact with the ball will not be as solid.
Compare the weight
If two bats have the same barrel size and are the same length but have different weights, it's pretty clear which one is the better bat. The heavier one is made of denser wood. Similarly, it they have the same length and weight but one barrel is bigger than the other, take the smaller barreled bat every time - it is made of wood that is more solid. Harder wood not only lasts longer, but it allows for more solid contact with a ball.
How Does Your Bat Roll?
Admittedly, significantly warped bats are rare. It is possible, I suppose, that a bat simply was lathed poorly and if not stored or shipped properly, moisture can also cause a bat to be slightly out of round. The more consistent your bat is from top to bottom, the more consistent your hitting will be.
Checking to make sure a bat isn't warped is pretty simple. Just lay it on the ground and give it a good roll. If it rolls without bumping, you have no warping worries.
What if I'm Buying a Bat Online?
The fact is, most of the best bats are ones that you have to purchase online. Retail stores get "retail" grade wood and online stores tend to have deals with the manufacturers who ship bats made of a specified grade directly to customers. Besides, because most online places don't have inventory costs or retail spaces to pay for, they have better prices. That means you can get a better bat for the money when purchasing online.
It never hurts to compare bats you've purchased online with other bats you already own - especially ones you truly like and have confidence in. It's not as ideal as having your pick of the litter in a store that specializes in wood bats, but there are very few of those within driving distance of most people. Before buying one online, make sure that there is some sort of satisfaction guarantee in place. Any website selling top of the line bats should be confident in their product line and happy to replace or refund your order if you are not satisfied.