Why hit with wood?
In 2004 my son Chris' high school team this year is a good example of learning to hit with wood.
Eight seniors that year hit with wood in practice. That year the team set school records for single season hits, single season doubles, single season runs scored. The seniors hit a combined 425ba. One player missed the home run record by one. Watching their approach at the plate was great! Their hitting was definitely more consistent after practicing with wood. They also hit the ball harder every time. (they finished 4th in their state)
Wood Bats Correctly Teach The Strike Zone
When you hit an outside pitch with an aluminum bat, you can very well hit it beyond an infielder even though you swung at a bad pitch. On an inside pitch, you can manage a flare-single over the 2nd baseman's head. With wood you learn the strike zone and which pitches you should lay-off.
In the old days (before 1972) every bat you bought was wood and you sure didn't want to break the only bat you owned, so you learned to lay off bad pitches (Not to mention the "bees" you felt in your hands when you swung at bad pitches on cold spring days)!
Maybe you will now begin to learn the strike zone and the value of pitch selection. You just might gain one more weapon in learning to become a better hitter! Remember, if you learn these great lessons by hitting with wood, think about what a powerful and smart hitter you can become when swinging with aluminum!
A wood bat will train you to hit with good mechanics and will tell you right away when you are dragging it through the zone with incorrect mechanics. The sweet spot is a bit smaller and the barrel diameters tend to be smaller as well, so to be successful you start the hands early, select good pitches to hit and accelerate right through the ball with a flat, level swing. It just won't let the bad swings turn into cheap hits.
Instant feed back . Wood will let you know if you hit thee sweet spot or now. A good hit with wood you won't even feel. A bat hit will sting the hands or break the bat.
Why Some Players Struggle With Wood
We covered many of the reasons in the paragraph you just read, but the bottom line is that the sooner you begin training with wood, the sooner you get over whatever it is that makes some good hitters struggle. Keep in mind that I am not limiting this potential problem to youth league and high school players.
The rookie leagues are littered with 1st year pro players who have been extremely successful in high school and the college ranks but 30 days into camp are ready to jump off buildings because of the wood bat transition (relax. it's just an exaggeration).
But it doesn't necessarily have to be this way.
You start now, training with a wood bat, not then. You start your swing with what the scouts call live-hands and avoid what they call appropriately enough, dead hands You learn the strike zone; I mean really focus on good pitches You aim at the art of perfecting the flat swing. Not sure how?
The earlier a player begins training with wood, the better hitter he will become. Likewise, the more he trains with wood the better hitter he will become. You can cheat with aluminum. Instead of breaking the bat of a hitter who swings at an inside pitch, the aluminum hitter gets a flare just over the 4 or 6 guy's head (2B or SS). Outside pitches end up grounders which split the infielders for cheap singles. With a wood bat you will become a complete hitter
Baseball in general is not rocket science but is rather the dogged pursuit of learning the correct mechanics and then duplicating them hundreds and then thousands of times. correctly. This is called mussel memory. This fact alone may be the biggest reason why so many of the best Little League age players that you know did not turn out to be the best players as they got older.
Ash Wood Bats
Most wood bats today are made from Northern White Ash generally harvested in Pennsylvania and Upstate New York. It is graded for quality with straight grain being the most important criteria. (Southern Ash grows too quickly and is not as dense, uneven grain lines). Major League grade is of course, the best and is also in short supply. Most of what you see that's labeled or sold as Pro-Stock or some similar name is actually Minor League wood or a lesser grade and generally is found for around $40-$50. Of course, there are other levels of quality down to the $20. Range. They are known by grades called high school, trophy and retail (don't expect to see the grades labeled). Generally, they are not of very good quality and only worth purchasing if money is an issue. (Better than not having any wood at all). You won't find these on our site. We only work with quantities in straight ash.
Here is another material that has recently gained some Major League notoriety. They cost a bit more, but when made properly AND from the right material known as Rock or Sugar Maple, it is absolutely worth the extra money simply because it tends to outlast ash bats many times over. So in the long run, because they last longer, they're less expensive.
So why don't all major Leaguers use maple? Actually, as they are becoming more well known, more players are now using them. Just like in your own dugout, players will try out each other's new bats. And since they have such good "feel", some players will switch while other players having the superstitions that many ballplayers tend to have, will never change even the color much less the type of bat that they use. Also, since Major leaguers aren't concerned with saving money on bat breakage, economy is not the issue that it is for the rest of us. Most Maple bats are heaver than ash and need to be made correctly to have the right weight.
Here's a warning when considering a maple bat: Because of it's recent good press, too many new companies have jumped on the bandwagon making bats out of inferior material such as red or silver maple, a soft maple that just won't hold up well enough in my opinion especially keeping in mind that they cost more than ash bats to begin with. So, don't buy unless you are sure you are getting a hard maple bat! (Remember the names rock maple and sugar maple)
It's a great "stick", with some players saying that the ball just jumps off the bat a bit quicker. It doesn't flake (outer layers or pieces that chip off in flakes) like ash either. If there's a downside, it just costs more than many ash bats.
Available lengths: 32", 33", 34" Weights are -1 & -2 oz.-3
This is going to be a "next-great" alternative in my opinion. It's as hard a piece of wood as it gets, the inherent problem being its weight. However, with today's improved air kiln-drying methods, new ways are being uncovered to remove more of the moisture which in turn means more of the weight. It may become a reality on the major league circuit very soon. It will be a potent & maybe hardest-to-break bat than most anything else you could find. Stay tuned. The biggest trouble is finding a hickory supplier. We have used several and a consistent supply is not available yet.