It's no secret that baseball players are a superstitious lot. Watch any game, be it professional or amateur, and you won't have to wait long to see a player perform a specific routine. It might be something as small as jumping over the foul line or tapping his bat a certain number of times before going up to the plate. Other times, as in the case of Nomar Garciaparra, it was a very well orchestrated dance with his batting gloves. To say it a little more simple, ball players are very stuck in their ways.
I was one of them. From the time I was a child playing youth sports, all the way through advanced baseball, making the high school team, and finally as a slow-pitch softball player for the local town league, I used a metal bat. Obviously, as I grew older and stronger the bat size changed, but they were always metal.
Then, after a few seasons in the slow-pitch league, the town made the switch to wood bats only. I had dabbled with wood bats over the years but never played an actual game with one. Suddenly, I had to make the transition. As a lifelong baseball player, I didn't expect it to be a very difficult change. I was wrong. Wood bats have a lesser weight to length ratio as well as a very different feel when connecting for a hit. Needless to say, it took some getting used to.
For those who are being forced to make the switch, an increasing number due to the popularity of towns moving to wood bat leagues, here is a quick how-to on making the change as easy as possible.
First, don't rush out and buy a wood bat. Assuming you can swing a 34 inch wood bat because that's the size of the metal bat you use is a mistake. Metal bats have most of the weight in the handle, closer to the body, making it easier to move. Wood bats have the weight in the hitting zone, making it feel heavier. On top of that, the weight to length ratio of metal bats is usually around -8, meaning a 34 inch bat only weighs 26 ounces. Wood models generally go no higher than -4. It will take a little while to get used to the heavier bat.
Go to the batting cages in your area. Most will have a selection of bats you can take some swings with. After you've found a weight and length you're comfortable with, you can start to shop around for a bat of your own. Most sporting goods stores have a large selection if you need one in immediately. If you have a little time, however, look online. There you can find countless websites that sell an array of bats. Most will have different choices of woods, such maple, ash, or bamboo as well as various weights and lengths.
Some companies and websites will even build a custom bat based on your choice of wood, weight, length, and color scheme. One such company, Whalen Sticks, also offers to tailor a specific handle or barrel size to fit your needs, as well as adding a cupped barrel to reduce the weight. If you want your signature or a custom logo, they can even do that.
Once you buy your bat, you'll have to break it in before you use it in a game. Go back to the cages or out to a field and hit often. Before long you'll find the most comfortable way to swing the bat to make the best contact. Focus on how much harder you need to swing the bat without interrupting the smoothness of your motion.
Once you follow these easy steps, you'll have made the transition from using a metal bad to a wooden one seamlessly.
Allen Orien Avery is a lifelong sports fan as well as a passionate supporter of the New York Mets. He is also a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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