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Most casual fans think baseball bat and they think wood, maybe ash or maple. In recent years the game has grown to include bats made of other types of wood, even a certain grass considered to be woody. Which we get asked about sometimes: Why are bamboo bats illegal in baseball?
Bamboo baseball bats are illegal for play in Major League Baseball games, because they are not constructed from 1 piece. Bamboo bats are a composite of long strands of bamboo pressed and glued together, which means the bats are made of several pieces.
That means bamboo bats are illegal in the minor leagues and some high-level professional leagues. Manufacturers keep producing them for all levels of play, for a number of reasons. Primary among them are: durability, light weight, pop, and environmental friendliness (believe it or not!).
- 1 What Are Bamboo Baseball Bats?
- 2 Why Are Bamboo Bats Used in Baseball?
- 3 Final Words on Bamboo Bats
- 4 Related Questions
Of course, bamboo bats are baseball bats made of bamboo, which is not officially a wood but a woody grass. Anyone familiar with bamboo knows that it is light, used for centuries by primitive societies to build boats, hunting tools like bows, and other items.
However, bamboo does not grow solidly like an ash, maple, or other type of tree usually used to whittle away into bats. A reed of bamboo has a hollow core, and while the exterior is hard to the knock, it doesn’t seem like the solidness of bat wood. So why even try it for a bat?
At the cellular level, bamboo is structured differently than wood, ending up lighter ~ hence use in the construction of rudimentary boats. It also is stronger. Believe it or not, bamboos are part of the grass family of flora, by far the largest single member of that family of plants!
While it’s true that bamboo reeds are hollow and not as solid as regular wood, bamboo at the cellular level is lighter than most woods ~ and actually can be stronger. Think about how bamboo reeds can bend in the wind, and think of that in terms of a bamboo bat striking a baseball. Or, the bending of a bamboo bow as it pulls an arrow. Bamboo is flexible.
Bamboo bats surfaced around 2000 or shortly thereafter, when designers figured out how to use lengthy strips of bamboo to glue and hard-compress them together to create a bamboo billet, or a long tubular piece of wood.
From there the billet is lathed and sculpted into the form of a baseball bat.
These bats worked well, but it’s impossible to make a bat from a single piece of bamboo, because the shoots are hollow. So they are illegal at the professional level of play.
- Bamboo bats are usually more durable than regular wood bats, a reason they are preferred for use in practice whether or not they’re legal.
- It’s cheaper than wood.
- It grows faster than wood (hence the lower price).
- They feel lighter through the swing.
- Superior weight distribution.
- They tend to have more pop on impact, more than regular (ash or maple) wood bats, but not quite as much as metal bats.
Because bamboo grows faster than wood trees it is more easily replaced. Add to that the fact that fewer bamboo bats break and require replacement, and you get what amounts to an environmentally friendly alternative.
The primary reason bamboo bats are actually used is durability, especially for leagues that require use of wood bats, or at least allow the option of wood bats.
Since bamboo bats break less frequently, those who use them save money on bat replacements.
Their lightness makes for easier swinging, and a larger sweet spot on the barrel making for easy contact, great for batting practice.
Quite a few players and coaches believe firmly that bamboo bats add a few feet of power to hit balls compared with ash or maple bats. From what we understand, that pop can increase over time, which we explore in the next section.
Bamboo bats are kind of like a wood version of composite bats, in that they are made of more than one piece. And, just like with composite bats, bamboo bats perform better after a period of breaking in.
That’s right: to use a bamboo bat in competitive play, it’s best to whack quite a few balls with it first. This compresses those bamboo shafts squished together, to form a harder barrel, better overall for lengthier hits.
Bamboo bats are not the only type of wood bat made of more than one piece. Some small manufacturers are experimenting with making bats by compressing wedges of (non-bamboo) wood together long-wise from handle to barrel tip ~ and they claim they break less than 1-piece wooden bats.
In summary, bamboo bats are used more and more often by players, but not in the professional baseball leagues including Major League Baseball because they are not made from a single piece of wood.
They fall into a category that has grown for many years in contemporary baseball: experimental bats. Since the late 1980s, we have seen the growth of many different types of bats, including maple for wood and ceramic for metal bats. Bamboo is just the latest material to be tried, and so far those who use bamboo bats like them.
Bamboo bats have larger sweet spots on the barrel. Using wood bats, hitters need more precision to strike baseball well. Not so all the time with bamboo. Officially, bamboo bats are classified as a “variant” of wooden bats.
Their biggest use today is for training, because hitting practices demand so much contact with baseballs, and bamboo bats are more durable than regular ash or maple wood bats. Plus, bamboo bats are lighter through the swing so hitters are not prone to tired muscles after numerous repetitions.
Question: Can you use bamboo bats in high school or college games?
Q.: What are young players saying about bamboo bats?
A.: That bamboo bats are more affordable; and that they can be “stronger than steel.”