Executing a Google search on “how to pick a wood bat” tenders a ton of results. Browsing a few of them, there is a common theme of detailing the type of wood and the pros and cons of swinging a model made out from ash, maple, birch, etc.. Some articles illustrate a chart of player height/weight-to-bat length/weight ratio. All this information is interesting and gives you something to read, but I think they are not concrete.

So I will give you my theory on “how to pick a wood bat”, based on experience as a player. I will briefly list common thinking, questions I get from parents and players and the advice I give. Some background first, when I was a kid.

Growing up, most of the models available where signature models. Forget about the quality for now. These wood bat models were mostly thick handle models (1”+ handle diameter) with a regular barrel and the weight varied. We could play a game with one bat and over time everyone was swinging that one bat, no matter the players’ stature, and became stronger physically as well as making good, hard, contact. When metal bats started showing up we were mesmerized by new distances attained. These new bats had smaller handles and were lighter than our wood bat, and a lot of players were hooked, I was not.

“Andre, my son will be using wood bat for first time on a new team. I want to get him something similar to [brand name] aluminum bat.
 I want something with 2 5/8th barrel,  a drop -3 and a skinny handle.”  My answer is “no way”. 
 I explain, the making of a bat like this will hurt the player more than helping their development.

 Continuing, "to get within the requirements are near improbable", aka “I’m not turning that.”

 Just because you are a baseball player, doesn’t mean that you can use any bat and yield the same results, similar to getting a new drivers license and purchasing a Kenworth truck immediately after passing the test. The same applies to wood bats, there are many wood bat models out there but without a base, model choice will just depend on popularity and not ability, resulting in hitting woes.

What model to choose from?

Louisville Slugger made available the c271, p72, t141, m110, r161 models to sporting goods stores.  I can only guess as to what their intent was, selling these specific models from their 500+ model library. I'm guessing they choose these models for two reasons: 1. The mass quantity of overweight billets. 2. These models are baseline shapes for all players to develop wood bat hitting skills.  These models offer a mix of shapes for different type of hitters. The small 3 (271, 72, 141) gave choices of a thin handle, flare knob with medium handle and a well balanced longer barrel model. All of these models are designed with barrel sizes that do not exceed 2.48”.  In the pro game, AROD/Griffey Jr (retired) utilize the c271, Jeter uses the p72 and Carlos Delgado used the t141. Players described are an excellent mix of power and average hitters, who do not rely on the biggest models in the rack.

 Players with bigger hands turned to the 110 and 161 as a perfect compliment to their hitting goals. Models with bigger handles are rated sturdier than thinner handle models. But there is a caveat, the small 3 (271, 72, 141) are made from heavier/denser billets, thus can be characterized as strong models. It is commonly known that smaller (dimensions) models are turned from the better quality of wood. I firmly believe that all players first use wood bats should pick from these 5 models when buying their first wood bat.

 What size bat should I buy?

A lot of parents bring their kids to my shop, send videos and emails for me to evaluate their swings and pick out the best model. I encourage this for 2 reasons:  1. I’ve experienced a lot of baseball and I want the players to succeed by picking the right bat. 2. Its great for the NYStixs brand. Sure I can just send customers the bat they choose, but this would be a disservice if the player is constantly breaking bats and not know why.

When it comes to picking the right length to use, my formula is (metal length - .5”- 1” inch), if transitioning from metal. If you are strong enough to main the same length, I suggest a model with a thicker handle to start out or apply tape or wrap to thinner handle model. Hitting with wood, the approach must change. It’s no more swinging at any pitch that you can reach. The consequences will be a broken bat, where with metal, well you know.  Plate discipline comes into play, you have to train yourself to learn the strike zone better and identify what pitch locations you can and cannot handle as well.

Lastly, concerning the weight of the wood bat, the emphasis -3 -5 -10 metal bats have done a fair amount of damage. NYStixs tries to achieve -1.5 to -2.5 depending on the model. When asked the weight during delivery, I counter with, “how does it feel? The common response is “it feels good or great”. I reply good, now go and hit. A good wood bat needs to have some weight. Why, you ask? Well, you want a durable bat and you want the ball to jump at contact. Lets break it down with this example. Try hitting a baseball using the yellow wiffle-ball bat, ball did not go very far, in fact the bat bends at contact. Now let’s start adding some weight to the bat, at about 1.0 lbs, the waffle-ball bat is not bending anymore and the batted ball is starting to go further out. At 2lbs the ball is jumping off the bat. The same goes for wood bats, the heavier the bat results in greater jump off the bat. I know you have to be able to get bat into the zone to get results, if the bat is a touch heavy, how will this happen. Well do what I’ve done for years, take 200 swings a night with the heaviest bat I got. I did not feel the weight after a while and when I made contact, I smiled.

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