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It’s a tool for hitters that barely gets noticed by fans and the media alike: the gooey pine tar that gives batters a better grip on the handle of baseball bats. We couldn’t find much information on pine tar products best for baseball play, so we dug into it and offer our findings here.
Pine tar is an extremely sticky, brownish-black gloop basically squeezed out of pine wood, and used for a number of purposes for centuries. Sometime in the late 19th century, someone figured out that it helped wet or sweaty hands to securely hold onto the (then quite thick) handle of a baseball bat.
The popularity of pine tar in baseball remains to this day, and several companies including some very well known ones package their own special mix. Here are the best we found.
- Tiger Stick Professional Hand Grip tops our list of the best pine tar products for baseball for a number of reasons, among them seriously strong user reviews.
- The pine tar product we found with approval by MLB players was the Franklin Sports MLB Gator Grip Pine Tar Stick, a fine product from a company that usually caters mostly to kids.
- You get the quality tackiness that you’d expect from this manufacturer; and the Marucci Pine Tar Stick delivers superb stickiness in a neat lipstick-like application tube.
- The Rawlings Pine Tar Stick is our choice for those who want the extra stickiness, but not at a great cost. This is an affordable offering from a trusted brand.
- For players who like to ease the tackiness on their bat handle with a rosin bag, there’s the Pelican Grip Dip Pine Tar and Rosin Blend and its blend of the materials that results in extra thickness.
- Those who want to gob it onto a rag and then cake it onto a bat like the old days should like the Rawlings GPT16 Genuine Pine Tar ~ and its huge 16-ounce packaging.
Who Needs Pine Tar for Baseball Bats
Pine tar is an optional tool for baseball players, typically for older athletes who play more often, and sweat more, than the little tigers in youth ball who play for fun.
Why is pine tar even around? Well when baseball started in the mid-19th century, the bats were made of wood of course, but the handles were much thicker than today’s sticks. Any moisture on the contact point, and players swinging with all their might had a hard time keeping a grip on the bat.
It’s the same today. However, it’s not a case of making sure the bat completely slips out of the hands and flies away, as was the concern originally. Much of it has to do with the hitter’s confidence that the grip will not slip through all the stress and torque of a swing.
It’s hard to hit a round ball coming at you at a high velocity with a round bat, so every tiny fraction of an inch on the bat barrel makes a big difference.
In hitting, a seemingly little thing that went wrong in the swing, like a foot losing grip in the dirt of the batter’s box, or the hands slipping even a millimeter down the bat, can mean all the difference between a hard liner over the shortstop’s head, and a grounder right at him.
In early baseball, pine tar was something that was around and available. The process to heat the tacky material out of pine wood was somewhat common for other purposes (like sealing planks together on large wood ships), so baseball players familiar with the stuff most likely brought it to the diamond.
Who doesn’t need pine tar to play baseball? Pitchers. It’s completely illegal for a pitcher to use pine tar to improve grip on the ball, or to apply to the ball to change its aerodynamics in flight.
These rules exist for a couple of reasons, among them an issue in recent years where hurlers tried to increase their “spin rate” ~ how fast the ball spins after leaving the fingers ~ to gain an edge over batters.
Pine Tar and Baseball Bat Advancements
Eventually, players and bat makers tinkered with other tools to maintain the grip, namely adhesive tape. In the modern game there are numerous products to achieve the same purpose, including roll-on gels and sprays, and all kinds of funky grip tape ~ but pine tar remains, even in its raw form.
It should be noted that pine tar is preferred a lot for brand new wood baseball bats, that is, sticks where the handles are smooth with nothing else on them.
While pine tar certainly can be used on any type of bat, most metal baseball bats come with a handle grip to achieve the same purpose. Pine tar can be applied to handle grips or tape, but then that grip or tape underneath loses its quality.
Our Choices: Best Pine Tar for Baseball for the 2023 Season and More
Note: For the purposes of our list, we looked at every product to apply to a bat handle, with the intent of improving grip, whether or not it actually contains real pine tar. The term “pine tar” today is used for anything sticky to help with baseball play. Some products use other ingredients which have proven cleaner and have less of the strong pine odor.
1. Best Pine Tar for Baseball Overall ~ Tiger Stick Professional Hand Grip
It’s super sticky almost to the point where too much might make it hard to get your hands off the handle, so say its users, so you know Tiger Stick Professional Hand Grip does what it’s supposed to. And those vocal users have left remarkable reviews for this hand grip helper.
That a single stick of this stuff lasts a long time is a bonus, really. Applying it properly, meaning pressing it above the grip, ready to tap down on with the hands right before the at bat, means not a ton is needed and the mess can be limited. Lack of the pine tar smell is attractive to some players, too.
- Packaging: Wrapped stick
- Weight: 0.02 lbs.
- Special Feature(s): Easy to use paper-around-stick wrapper
What We Like
- Ease of use, including cleanliness in storage
- Super-duper tacky, without the strong pine smell that usually accompanies that
2. Best Pine Tar for Baseball Runner-Up I ~ Franklin Sports MLB Gator Grip Pine Tar Stick
This manufacturer is known for its focus on the youth element of the sport, but with its Franklin Sports MLB Gator Grip Pine Tar Stick this company produced something appreciated all the way up to Major League Baseball.
That MLB players have indicated a preference for this pine tar is, of course, the focus of its marketing attack. As it should be. They have to like the non-toxic formula, for health reasons, and a formula designed to last through the rigors of big league play.
- Packaging: Twist-at-bottom sick
- Material: Synthetic
- Weight: 2 oz.
- Special Feature(s): Odorless, and the Hi-Tack formula minimizes staining
What We Like
- Twist bottom and apply is about as easy to use as possible
- MLB players’ endorsement ensures at least acceptable stickiness and durability
3. Best Pine Tar for Baseball Runner-Up 1 ~ Marucci Pine Tar Stick
This brand is building a reputation for applying modern advancements into its baseball products, and it’s no different with the Marucci Pine Tar Stick. This black pine tar product is exceptional, and application is as simple as using a huge lipstick tube.
Marucci seems to solve long-standing baseball challenges with simplicity. That’s the case here, with the tube design and cap that snaps on very tightly (trust us, storage inside gear bags is a big deal with pine tar!).
- Packaging: Tube
- Weight: 0.05 lbs.
- Special Feature(s): Tube and cap
What We Like
- Marucci-quality pine tar
- Ease of application and storage
4. Best Pine Tar for Baseball on a Budget ~ Rawlings Pine Tar Stick
If I was new to pine tar and saw an item made by this brand at this price, it would be a no-brainer. The Rawlings Pine Tar Stick is available at a superb low price. That it’s made by the same people who make MLB baseballs makes this product that much more attractive.
This container is cool, too, acting like your everyday deodorant stick. Simply pop off the top, adjust the level of product at the top, and apply like a roll-on. This particular product is engineered to maintain its tack even with big moisture, and to last upon each application.
- Packaging: Retractable stick tube
- Material: Synthetic
- Weight: 0.07 lbs.
- Special Feature(s): Deodorant-like push-up tube makes it especially good for young players
What We Like
- Rawlings brand trust
- Low pricing
5. Best Pine Tar for Baseball for Thickness ~ Pelican Grip Dip Pine Tar and Rosin Blend
A lot of upper-level players choose to “tamper down” pine tar on a bat by tapping it with a resin bag. The idea is to slightly reduce the tackiness (and mess) by applying the white powdery resin? So for more advanced players, look into the Pelican Grip Dip Pine Tar and Rosin Blend.
Aside from the unique pine tar-resin blend right out of the can, there is the can itself ~ resembling those that hold chewing tobacco, only larger. This product is thicker than regular pine tar alone, and as such, a little goes a long way.
- Packaging: Flat can with screw-on top
- Weight: 4 oz.
- Material: Pine tar and resin
- Special Feature(s): Also includes pine oil, for a different texture
What We Like
- Blend of resin and pine tar right in the can
- Neat, different packaging
6. Best 100% Pine Tar for Baseball ~ Rawlings GPT16 Genuine Pine Tar
Looking to go real old school and use a rag stained heavily with all the goo of real tar, then go with the Rawlings GPT16 Genuine Pine Tar. It offers a lot at 16 oz. ~ way more than most products on this list ~ and comes in the old-fashioned can to glob it onto a rag.
Some players just like the look of the dark-stained rag lying around the on-deck circle, or just appreciate the way using a towel feels overall. A big plus of 100% pine tar is how it stays tacky under any weather or atmospheric conditions.
- Packaging: Can
- Weight: 16 oz.
- Special Feature(s): No frills, all pine tar
What We Like
- Large amount of product
- Ability to maintain tackiness in excessive moisture
Question: Have any MLB players been penalized for improper use of pine tar?
Answer: Yes, many in fact. The rule is no foreign substance on a bat above 18 inches away from the knob. A lot of players use the pine tar rag at the top of the handle area, and not directly where their hands go, so they can just tap the gobs when they feel like it for on-the-spot stickiness.
Q.: Any famous problems with pine tar?
A.: The most famous incident has to be what is now called the Pine Tar Incident, where Hall of Famer George Brett was called out after slugging a home run in the last inning to put his team ahead. (The league later reversed the call, and Brett’s Royals eventually won the game resumed from the point of The Incident).
Q.: How do you get pine tar off a bat?
A.: Any type of stiff stick can scrape pine tar off. Some companies make specially designed little tools with a circular cut-out resembling the curvature of the handle. Others suggest using a professional-strength remover like Goof Off[LINK https://www.amazon.com/Goof-Off-FG653-Professional-Strength/dp/B002MPPYYS/ ].