The Significance of the Ink Dot

Sandlot Stiks customers can now rest assured when they order a game bat from us, they will receive Major League Spec Hard Maple bats 100% of the time. All Sandlot Stiks “stock” and “custom” bats are produced from the same quality MLB Spec, ideally processed “baseball bat specific” Hard Maple timber.

2008 marked the year of the broken bat for MLB; specifically maple bats. Maple bats were breaking violently and at an alarming rate during the 2008 season for reasons which were not yet completely understood. MLB decided to find out why and hired a team of forestry experts to examine over 2000 samples of broken bats collected throughout the season.

For roughly 10-12 years prior to 2008, Maple bats were viewed as the new “sliced bread” of baseball among players. Hard Maple is a dense “diffuse porous” North American hardwood with characteristics which lend for making a fantastic baseball bat…If processed correctly.

Modern technology usually enhances or leads to advancements in the products we use in all aspects of our lives including the wood baseball bat. However, as was discovered, it may also lend to taking steps backwards.

While the advancements in kilns for drying hardwoods have allowed the once difficult to season Hard Maple wood to become the leader in wood choice for baseball bats; little was it known, modern log milling methods and a lack of understanding of wood characteristics led to the excessive and violent manner of breakage in Hard Maple baseball bats seen in MLB and elsewhere in 2008 and years prior.

Baseball bat blanks were traditionally split from Ideal hardwood logs in the forests of New York and Pennsylvania by expert lumberman in the early years of bat production. It was a method learned by skilled furniture makers over 150 years ago to maximize the strength of load bearing parts for chairs and tables.

When a log is split, the wood splits along the tangential axis with the direction of the wood fiber, thus simply creating the strongest possible grain alignment ideal for withstanding impact for items such as hammer and axe handles and of course…baseball bats.

Sandlot Stiks has once again adopted this method for all the bats we produce for game use. (As seen in picture at left)

Modern sawing methods have been developed for the maximization of clear timber from a log and not necessarily for grain alignment.

With the steady decline in the US furniture industry which lost much of its business to the cheaper labor force of China over the past 20 years or so, US sawmills quickly adapted to the growing baseball bat market. US Mills once producing furniture parts began to produce billets for bat manufacturers to make up for the decline in the furniture dimension stock business which was once prevalent in many of the northeastern US states.

While the timber was exceptional in quality, the process which was in place for making the bat blanks being produced in those mills, was not correct or consistent.

Beautiful maple bats were being produced from the lumber but with a terribly sloped grain structure at times. That led to the creation of bats with very low resistance to breakage upon impact with a baseball.

This caused maple bats to sheer off diagonally across the poor grain slope and fly apart with sharp spear like points. After much concern from MLB, bat manufacturers and the fans alike; it was determined by forestry experts that the poor slope of grain was indeed the cause of the breakage.

MLB now insists that all bats used in professional play must now pass a slope of grain requirement. A simple test is now performed at the 12″ mark on the tangential face of all Maple and Birch or any other approved diffuse porous woods for the manufacture of baseball bats.

A simple ink dot is applied to the bare wood then lightly sanded in order to reveal the grain fiber alignment. The fiber must now be within 3 degrees of parallel to the longitudinal axis of the bat. In addition Maple and Birch bats must be labeled on the radial grain side instead of the traditional tangential face used on Ash, Hickory and other ring porous wood bats.

It has been determined by the MLB forestry experts that Maple and Birch are up to 30% more resistant to breakage upon impact simply by striking the ball on the tangential face rather than the radial face. Add to that ideal grain and fiber alignment and Sandlot Stiks ideal wood density to bat model matching and some other trade secrets for processing bats and lumber; the bat becomes as strong as it can be on a consistent basis.

There are other factors involved in producing high quality game bats for baseball as mentioned. However, at Sandlot Stiks our process for producing superior hardwood bats is considered a trade secret and highly guarded.

The ink dot you now see on all Sandlot Stiks is specifically for the inspection of grain alignment for us and our customers.

It’s your assurance of our commitment to providing you the customer with the best solid wood game quality baseball bat available.