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Baseball Played the Wood Bat Way

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"Baseball Played the Wood Bat Way"
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Hitting a baseball can be difficult, and it requires a perfectly timed combination of complex movements. Similarly, building a house is a complex task. The key to a solid, well-structured building relies on its foundation. Don Mattingly believes that a sound baseball swing also is dependent on a solid foundation.
There are five elements that make up what Don Mattingly calls the "foundation" of hitting:
The tool (i.e. the bat)
The grip
The stance
The stride
The weight transfer

If you can find consistency and comfort in these five areas, you will be well prepared to execute a strong, fast, sound swing. Let's take a look at each of these building blocks in more detail.
The Tool: Your bat
A carpenter owns and uses his own hammer – one with a weight, balance, and handle that is comfortable for HIM. Likewise, a hitter should use a bat with which he or she feels comfortable, and in control. The bat you use is dependent on your preference and your comfort level – how you feel with it in your hands and throughout the swing. It shouldn't be too heavy, nor too light – but rather, "just right". The length should be enough to cover the width of the strike zone, but not so long that it feels unwieldy. It should feel balanced, rather than top-heavy. Finally, the handle should feel comfortable in your hands – not too thick, not too thin. Obviously, this is where the V-Grip comes into play – there is no other bat handle that feels as "natural" in your hands.
The Grip
A fluid, loose swing with a whipping or "snap" action is only possible with the proper grip – that is, with the handle of the bat placed in the fingers and not in the palm of the hands. But if you use a V-Grip, you don't have to even think about this – your hands are automatically placed in the correct position for optimum "snap" and bat speed.
The Stance
Your stance should be comfortable, balanced, and put you in a position of control, athleticism, and power. Being from the hoop-happy state of Indiana, Don Mattingly likes to compare an ideal batting stance to defending a basketball player. Your weight should be balanced on the balls of your feet, feet spread about shoulder-width apart, knees bent, chest slightly bent over the waist, head up. In this position on the hardwood, a basketball defender can easily and quickly move in any direction to defend an opposing player. Similarly, that exact stance puts a hitter in an ideal position to hit the ball.
The Stride
The stride starts a chain reaction throughout your body. If you step "in the bucket" (a lefthanded hitter toward first base; righthanded hitter toward third base), your front shoulder will fly open too early, leading to the hips turning prematurely, and therefore less than your optimum power will be applied to the ball. Striding too long and/or too "heavy" will cause your swing to be long and your weight to transfer too early – prior to the swing instead of with the swing. To keep yourself in line and in control, follow the three "S's" when you stride: short, straight, and soft.
A short stride keeps your body balanced and in control, and keeps the swing short as well (short = fast). Striding straight toward the pitcher keeps your entire body in line, and sets you up for a short, compact swing. A soft stride – in other words, stepping "light", as if on to an egg – keeps your weight back, and "loaded" for a powerful swing.
The Weight Transfer
Ideally, your bat and your weight work in unison. When your bat is back, your weight should be back also. Or as Donnie says, "you have to go back to go forward".
Before you start your short, soft, straight stride, you should lean back – on top of your back foot – just a bit to transfer your weight. As you move your weight back, your bat should also move slightly back and up into the "launch" position – your hands right around, or slightly behind, your ear. By first getting your weight back, you are in the perfect position to then bring it forward, with your swing.
So that's it – the foundation of the swing. If you practice the above five elements, you will have laid the groundwork for an efficient, consistent swing. Good luck and good hitting!


What is the BESR Certification?
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations ( the BESR Certification can be explained in the following:
In Rule 1-3-5, the Baseball Rules Committee addressed the altering of bats and incorporated the Ball Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) performance standard language into the body of the rule.

The requirement of the BESR certification mark on all non-wood bats, which originally was approved by the committee in 2001, took effect in high school baseball January 1, 2003. The BESR mark denotes that non-wood bats have a maximum exit speed of 97 miles per hour (under a set of laboratory conditions) and they have met moment-of-inertia requirements, as well as a maximum diameter of the bat and a minus-3 differential between the length and weight of the bat. The rule now states that bats may either be wood or non-wood, rather than listing various compositions of non-wood bats.

Although the rule requires non-wood bats to be labeled with a silk screen or other permanent certification mark, in some cases manufacturers have used a label, sticker or decal to denote BESR certification. However, effective January 1, 2006, no BESR label, sticker or decal will be permitted on any non-wood bat.

How does a bat become BESR Certified?

Each bat must pass testing in the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell (  “The Baseball Research Center serves as the official certification center for all baseball bats used for NCAA and NHFS.”

What are the specific rules for Adult Baseball bats?

According to the 2007 NFHS Baseball Rules Book the following rules pertain to the use of bats for high school and college play.


Rule 1-3-2

The bat which may be wood or non-wood product shall be a smooth cylinder implement with a knob that is permanently and securely fastened.  All non-wood bat shall meet the Ball Exit Speed Ratio (BESR) performance standard, and such bats be labeled with a silk screen or other permanent certification mark.  No BESR label, sticker or decal will be accepted on any non-wood bats.  There shall be no devices, attachments or wrappings that cause the handle to become flush with the knob.  Molded grips are illegal. 


Rule 1-3-4

A wood bat may be roughened or wound with tape not more than 18 inches from the handle end of the bat.  No foreign substance may be added to the surface of the bay beyond 18 inches for the end of the handle.

Each bat shall be:

In diameter at thickest part: (wood) 2 3/4 inches or less

In diameter at thickest part: (non-wood) 2 5/8 inches or less

In length: 36 inches or less

In weight: A bat shall not weight, numerically, more than three ounces less than the weight of the bat (e.g., a 33-inch-long bat cannot be less than 30 ounces).


How does BESR Certification differ from Major League Baseball?

According to Major League Baseball and the Official Rules.  The following explains the rules required for a Major League Baseball bat.


Under 1.00 Objectives of the Game, Rule 1.10:

a)      The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2 3/4 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length.  The bat shall be one piece of solid wood.

NOTE: No laminated or experimental bats shall be used in a professional game (either championship season or exhibition games) until the manufacture has secured approval from the Rules Committee of his design and methods of manufacture.

b)      Cupped Bats.  An indentation in the end of the bat up to one inch in depth is permitted and may be no wider than two inches and no less than one inch in diameter.  The indentation must be curved with no foreign substances added.

c)      The bat handle, for not more than 18 inches from its end, may be covered or treated with any material or substance to improve the grip.  Any such material or substance, which extends past the 18 inch limitation, shall cause the bat to be removed from the game

NOTE: If the umpire discovers that the bat does not conform to c) above until a time during or after which the bat has been used in play, it shall not be grounds for declaring the batter out, or ejected from the game.

d)      No colored bat may be used in a professional game unless approved by the Rules Committee.

How was the University of Massachusetts – Lowell selected for the Baseball Research Center?

The program was found in 1998 by MLB and Rawlings.  “The purpose was to establish an independent lab for completing science and engineering research as it applies to MLB.”  Then in September 1999 the NCAA took notice of the work being done and begins to work with the lab in cooperation.  The NCAA was looking to establish bat performance standards.  Currently the Baseball Research Center does all the testing for the BESR Certification for all manufacturers. 

Read more information regarding the History of the Baseball Research Center.


Ron Polk breaks the game of baseball down not only position by position, but all aspects of the game off the field. A veteran college coach and one of the most respected men in the game, Polk gives excellent tips for coaches of all levels, from the first day of practice to the final game of the postseason tournament. The former Mississippi State coach is still a popular speaker on the clinic tour and after reading the book, one will understand why. Not only does Polk discuss teaching fundamentals and game strategies, but also gives excellent ideas and points on the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of the game - everything from organizing tournaments and field maintenance to dealing with the local officiating associations, fans, and bringing in support staff to help run a smooth program. Polk even includes ready-to-copy charts and forms for player information, public address announcers, game schedules, equipment managing, and setting up and enforcing team policies. If you're looking for big-names and shiny pictures, forget it - this book is for serious coaches....and Polk doesn't leave any aspect of coaching in an organized baseball league uncovered.
TO ORDER  The Baseball Playbook - Baseball instructional video with Ron Polk  Also check out My Coach Online

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