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. Bats break (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.
So how do hitters counter this phenomenon?
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 their 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:
- every bat made for professional player must contain a valid ink dot approximately 11 to 13 inches from the knob of the bat;
- 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;
- 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.
Goefrey Tomlinson is the Retail Operations Manager at B45. He played professionnal baseball for 13 seasons, including 4 seasons in the Kansas City organization. He reached the AAA level in 2000. He has 10+ years of experience as a bat maker.