Warmer weather, blooming flowers and singing birds signal that spring has returned. But for the baseball junkie, the true sign that winter is in the rearview is the unmistakable crack of a wood bat connecting flush with a cowhide-covered ball. Since the 1970s, though, that familiar crack has been slowly drowned out by the resonant pings of metal bats as amateur baseball and softball hitters have eagerly replaced their classic twigs with bats crafted out of a material—aluminum—which has some advantages over what’s traditional. Hitting a round ball with a round bat, after all, is arguably the hardest thing to do in sports, so why not opt for a little advantage?
Compared with wood, an aluminum bat is more durable even while offering a fatter barrel (2 5/8" as opposed to 2 1/2" for wood). Additionally, an aluminum bat’s barrel is hollow and slim-gauge, meaning hitters reap the benefits of the “trampoline effect.” When the ball collides with an aluminum bat, the thin walls react similarly to what the face of a titanium golf club does, flexing in and then pushing out to maximize the amount of energy transferred back to the ball.
For those looking to add some pop to their swing, we recommend three bats Japanese-based Mizuno has introduced for 2015 (mizunousa.com). For the contact hitter, Mizuno has created Generation ($200), a bat with a balanced swing weight for better control as you punch the ball at intended targets on the diamond. The wall-thickness of the barrel varies, too, to create a larger sweet spot—that place on the bat where energy transfer is maximized, thus reducing the “stinging” sensation to the hands.
For those who hit the long ball, Mizuno’s MaxCor ($400) is a great option. Surrounding its aluminum core is a viscoelastic polyurethane sleeve that, through friction, causes the ball to deform less on impact, giving it more backspin. More backspin equals more carry; more carry means more distance and a better chance you’ll only have to trot around the bases, not run them at full speed.
Mizuno also has not forgotten about softball players. The barrel of the Blackout Shadow ($175), manufactured out of Black Array Carbon, balloons to the maximum softball barrel diameter of 2 1/4" just above the handle and is 13" long. Its balanced feel encourages a smooth swing, ensuring you’ll knock the cover off the ball. Just be sure there’s a fresh beer awaiting your arrival at home plate.