One of the biggest things that hitting with a wood bat can teach a hitter is feel.
Feel. Coaches talk about it all the time. Hitters need to “feel” the movement or "feel" what coaches are trying to teach them in a drill. If they don’t feel it, coaches have to find a different approach to get them to. Not every drill clicks with every hitter.
Speaking of feel, one of the things hitters want to feel is the sweet spot of the bat. A lot of the pro players don’t have the best mechanics and body movements but what they do excel in is the ability to get the sweet spot of the barrel to the ball. That’s obviously one of the most important things to do as a hitter.
Wood Bats Don’t Lie
One of the best ways to teach that “feel” is to hit with a wooden bat. With the sweet spot much smaller on a wood bat than aluminum/composite, it forces the hitters to feel the barrel’s sweet spot more and helps the hitter focus on better mechanics and approach. Wood bats give a hitter much tighter “feedback” on their swing.
The weight is also distributed much differently in a wood bat vs. aluminum/composite. In aluminum/composite bats, because the barrel is bigger with a bigger sweet spot the weight is more end loaded vs a wooden bat.
What are the Benefits of Swinging a Wood Bat?
Hitting with a wood bat also teaches better plate discipline and exposes weak swing movements. Many times, if a hitter swings at an inside pitch with a bad swing with a wood bat they get “sawed off.” This results in either a broken bat or a nice sting to the hands. With an aluminum/composite bat, they don’t get the same feedback. To put it simply, unless you’re a giant, you have to have solid mechanics to hit with a wooden bat.
When should I start using the wood bat?
It's recommended that hitters start hitting with wooden bats as young as possible. Don’t wait until you’re forced to use a wood bat in a game scenario. Training with wood is the best way to get the true feedback and feel involved with making contact in the sweet spot of the bat. The difference is noticeable when younger hitters make the switch back to their aluminum/composite bats.
Younger hitters start to become self aware of how they are making contact and can start to feel what great contact feels like. Switching back and forth between wood and aluminum/composite mean the hitter learns more quickly. Ultimately improving their contact point and unlocking their power.
Need help picking the right wood bat? Read through our complete guide to wood bats, which will teach you everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about the different types of wood, turn models, and how to evaluate wood grain.
Where is the sweet spot on a wood bat?
The sweet spot on a wood bat varies depending on the size, but a general rule for adult bats is the sweet spot starts about 2 inches from the end of the barrel, and goes in towards the handle about 6-7 inches. It will be a great confidence boost for the hitter as they transition back to their metal/composite bat once the hitter is consistently making contact in the sweet spot using their wood bat.
A Few tips when you hit the cage with your wood bat
Plate Discipline – when hitting live in the cage, it’s important to treat each pitch as you would in a game scenario. You’re not going to swing at pitches 2 inches off the plate in a game right? So don’t make it a habit in the cage! Be selective and only swing at strikes. Taking this approach will also extend the life of your wood bat as swinging and hitting pitches off the end of the bat, or on the handle greatly increases your chances of breaking the bat. When taking batting practice we want to focus on the quality of the swings and building good muscle memory. If a hitter gets moving too quickly, fatigue can set in and ultimately teach hitters bad habits and muscle memory that can carry over to game situations.
Hitting rubber balls – if the only cages you have access to utilize rubber balls for their pitching machines, be sure to wrap your barrel with athletic tape or invest in a bat sleeve to protect your bat. Rubber balls are not good for your bats (metal, composite or wood) and most companies will not honor bat warranties that show signs of being used with rubber balls.
"The wood bat hurts my hands!" – this is a common complaint heard from hitters when they first pick up the wood bat. If the hitter is constantly shaking their hands after contact or experiencing “bat sting” this simply means they are not hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat. This is one of the major benefits of practicing with a wood bat, hitters can literally feel when they are not hitting the ball in the sweet spot of the bat.
So grab a Walter wood bat and find the sweet spot!!