Continued from our previous blog post!
WHY DID SAM CHOOSE MAPLE?
When Sam was first tasked to find a better wood than ash for baseball bats by then Rockies scout Bill McKenzie, he wasn’t quite sure what wood could be better. He was great at working with wood and knew the different characteristics of a lot of wood, but had never tried to make a baseball bat.
Sam spent countless hours in the library researching different types of wood from oak, to hickory, to beech, to walnut, and finally to maple.
You cannot just use any type of wood to make a baseball bat. Sure, you can carve a bat out of mahogany or cherry, but the bat would weigh 50 ounces or more. You need a species of wood that is perfectly balanced on the Janka Hardness scale so that it is hard enough to withstand hitting the ball, but light enough to be liked and swung by players.
Maple is the perfect fit. Much harder than ash and birch, but still light enough to be used.
“The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28mm (.444 in) steel ball into wood to half the ball's diameter. This method leaves an indentation.” http://www.audiorax.com/janka-hardness-scale
Figure 1: http://www.audiorax.com/janka-hardness-scale
The three main types of wood now used for bats are the following:
Hard Maple – 1450
Ash – 1320
Yellow Birch – 1260
When Sam was researching he looked closely at birch but then thought “Why would I use a wood softer than ash?” Some will argue that lighter is better, but when it comes to performance, maple is unmatched in the baseball industry.
During all of this research, Sam was also building a staircase at his home. After reading more and more about maple, he realized that it could be the perfect wood. Sam then went home and carved his first maple bat out of a piece of maple that was destined to be a spindle for his staircase.
Later that year, Sam headed down to the Skydome, now Rogers Centre, and was able to convince Joe Carter and Carlos Delgado to try them out in batting practice. Joe liked it so much he took one for the game. In his first at bat with a Sam Bat, Carter belted a grand-slam.
Since being the first pro-approved maple bat in 1998, the industry has completely changed to be dominated by maple. In 2017, over 76% of the baseball bats used in professional play were maple bats.
All started by a bar challenge!
"I like it a lot... The bat doesn't split like regular ash does... when you use an ash bat for practice, after one day, really, it starts to splinter and split on you and become soft. Maple is a much harder wood. It doesn't dent and it doesn't splinter. They're going to be around for a long time."
Joe Carter | Ottawa Citizen, 5/4/98