Baseball bats were made out of a strong wood known as hickory when the game came into existence. However, original bats were quite heavy. Players preferred lighter bats for quicker bat speed, so the manufacturers started to use maple and white ash to produce lighter bats. The preferred wood is white ash, and baseball bats require cutting down of white ash trees for the required wood. Production requires healthy ash forests, a tree common to the Northeastern US. Currently, however, there’s an epidemic of Emerald Ash Borers that has been spreading, and recently crossed east of the Hudson River in New York. The beetles bore out the center of ash trees and leave the tree to die. Combined with the appetite for ash baseball bats, the beetle infestation is putting increasing pressure on ash forests.
Apart from wood, which is exclusively used in the Major Leagues, amateur adult and youth baseball bats are also made out of aluminum. Materials such as titanium, scandium, and granite have made them more durable. Players who use aluminum bats experience less vibration when hitting the ball. Aluminum also has environmental complications, as the extraction and production process of aluminum baseball bats is highly energy intensive, but the product is durable and highly recyclable.
Here are a few key differences between the two major baseball bat types:
- Research shows aluminum bats are lighter than wooden baseball bats, and the balls come off faster when hit by an aluminum bat. The walls of aluminum bats deform after the ball makes contact. The energy bounces back, which doesn’t happen in the case of a wooden bat.
- With aluminum bats, the players are able to hit to a greater distance due to the bigger barrels compared to wooden bats and the speed of swing. They allow for a trampoline effect, while wooden baseball bats rely 100 percent on the player’s power and energy to hit the ball, so the distance doesn’t match up.
- The sweet spot for both aluminum and wooden bats is the same, but the ball speeds are lower in wooden bats.
- Aluminum bats have fewer chances to break during a game. Additionally, wooden baseball bats deform after several hits. This means that the production material required for wooden bats is greater because they’re not durable, requiring more white ash and maple wood.
Pertaining to the details and differences, aluminum bats are ‘greener’ than their wooden counterparts, as they’re strong and don’t deform after a single game. Furthermore, aluminum rates higher than wood because it can be recycled, preventing the extraction of new resources. As a result, aluminum bats are less intensive on the environment. Globally, 75 percent of the 1 billion tons of aluminum ever produced are a result of recycling.