Maple Bats: Why Barry Bonds Hit 73 Home Runs

In 2001, Barry Bonds set a Major League Baseball single season home run record by hitting 73 home runs.

One of the remarkable aspects of that record setting season was that Bonds broke with accepted baseball tradition in using an ash bat instead of a maple one. This triggered a significant shift in baseball as a whole, as multitudes of players made the same switch in an effort to mimic Bonds’ success.

Maple wood is ideal for baseball bats because it has a specific gravity of 0.63 which means it is dense and hard, ensuring a solid hit and extra durability. The resulting bats are light and strong, and, importantly, have sharply pronounced sweet spots, which speaks to the teaching nature of wood bats.

As with most wood bats, maple bats teach proper hitting skills because they demand that hitters have the proper stance, rhythm and swing. In teaching these proper hitting mechanics, maple bats allow trainers to focus on better development of both bat quickness and bat velocity.

Bat quickness is the time necessary to move the bat head from the ready position to contact with the baseball, while bat velocity is the actual speed that the bat head attains at the precise moment the baseball is struck. Because of a maple bat’s innate qualities related its unique balance of weight and strength, higher bat velocity can be attained during the swing while bat quickness, related to reaction time, can be extended because less effort is required to maintain the swing position prior to the pitch.

Finally, as Bonds and many thereafter discovered, maple bats produce a consistent ball velocity off the bat within a more forgiving sweet spot.