Milling about the Mets’ locker room, I’ve noticed that very, very few of the players have ash bats in their lockers — it’s almost exclusively maple. The only two ash bats I’ve seen belong to Nick Evans and Lucas Duda, so I interrupted Evans’ crossword-puzzle work this morning to ask him about it.
He said there are a few more guys on the team who will use ash in games, but that most everyone uses maple for batting practice because they don’t splinter and wear down as quickly as ash bats do.
I mentioned Major League Baseball’s new restrictions on maple bats, and Evans chuckled a little. “It’s dangerous, but no one’s about to tell Albert Pujols he can’t swing a maple bat,” he said.
He added that players know that a) the best place to hit a maple bat is still on the tight part of the grain, not the softer flat part where they are less likely to shatter and b) the league forced maple-bat companies to move the labels on the bat to encourage players to hit with the softer part.
Hitters normally try to strike the ball with the label facing straight up or straight down, because the label is traditionally on the flat-grain part of the bat and the edge-grain (where the lines of the grain are tighter together) is the best place to make contact. Evans suggested that, since it’s no secret the labels on maple bats have been moved, everyone will just turn the label to account for the difference.
As for his choice of ash over maple, Evans said he thinks ash has a larger sweet spot and compared it to the difference between cavity-back irons and blade irons in golf: A maple bat might drive the ball further if struck perfectly, but ash is more forgiving. “And I need that,” he said.
The Mets are off to Viera to face the Nationals again, but I am staying behind in Port St. Lucie. It’s really quiet here with half the team and nearly all of the media out of town, so it’s a good opportunity to get some work done and talk with the players that didn’t travel.