Baseball is an amazing game with a rich history. From its humble beginning in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839, it has come a long way. And in its journey to what it is today, a lot of things changed. Rules were polished, the skill floor was raised, and most importantly, the gears got a massive upgrade.
Back in its early days, baseball bats were not regulated all that much. In fact, the hitters had complete freedom in choosing the type of bat they would use. As a result, you would see all sorts of wood types being used in baseball bats. However, as different manufacturers started getting into the business, the choice of wood became a lot more limited.
So, are Baseball Bats made out of Hickory? While Maple and Ash wood is mostly used for wooden baseball bats these days, during its early years, most manufacturers would go with hickory to make professional baseball bats.
Yet, using a hickory bat these days is practically unheard of. Although hickory bats are a part of baseball history, these days, almost no one uses a hickory wood baseball bat.
I will take a deep dive through the history of baseball bats and help understand if baseball bats are made out of hickory even to this day. So, let’s get started.
What is Hickory?
Hickory is a pretty common tree in the North American regions. It’s part of the walnut family and is known for its exceptional strength, durability, and shock-absorption capacity. Because of these features, this hardwood is suitable for a wide range of applications.
In fact, hickory wood is still used to manufacture all sorts of tool handles and furniture pieces. And for a time, hickory wood was the primary material that was used to manufacture wooden baseball bats. It has an impressive combination of stiffness to drive the ball hard and flexibility to make it easier for the batter to wield.
However, the hickory wood baseball bat shouldn’t be confused with the Old Hickory Baseball Bats brand. I’m saying this because I see many young players make this mistake. Old Hickory Baseball Bat is a brand that caters to many MLB professionals with their high-quality maple bats, but I’ll talk more about it later.
Now, hickory used to be the wood of choice for many bat manufacturers. But these days nobody uses them. And I’m sure you have this question circling your mind –
Why are there no hickory baseball bats?
Well, with the introduction of other wood species to the game, such as birch, maple, and ash, hickory wood lost its popularity. You see, hickory is a pretty stiff wood, and the flexibility it offers isn’t really as much when you compare it with other species of wood that are used in bats these days.
And while hickory wood is pretty strong, it’s prone to shattering when you use it in a baseball bat. Whether you’re an MLB professional or an amateur league player, you wouldn’t want your baseball bat to break in the middle of the game.
Because of these reasons, hickory bats were slowly pushed out of production. And today, watching a hickory bat in action is pretty rare, to say the least.
How Long Have Old Hickory Baseball Bats Been in Business?
As I said earlier, Old Hickory Baseball Bats – the brand, isn’t the one that’s responsible for all the hickory baseball bats out there. And they are still in business manufacturing high-quality baseball bats for many MLB pros and amateurs alike. It’s a common mistake to make, so I won’t blame you.
Now, the Old Hickory Baseball Bats was established in 1999, and they have a pretty exciting legacy on its own. And I’m not going to let a good opportunity to talk about a top baseball bat brand go to waste now, am I?
Like so many other brands, the Old Hickory Bat Company started out in their garage. From their humble beginning as serving bats to a handful of local players, today, they have 6500 square feet of manufacturing and showroom space in Nashville, TN.
Hundreds of players throughout the world use Old Hickory Bat Companies baseball bats. The brand takes pride in its excellent quality control and customer service.
What makes the brand truly special is that they only work on orders to ensure the customer/player gets a fresh bat that’s made entirely for them. They don’t cut the wood for a new bat until they receive an order. This means if you buy a new baseball bat from them, you’re getting one that’s made pretty recently.
They mostly work with maple wood, though. So, if you were thinking that you would get a hickory bat if you bought their baseball bats, you’re out of luck. But if you want a truly high-end, premium baseball bat, it’s not a bad brand to go with at all.
Do Any MLB Players Use Hickory Bats?
While hickory baseball bats used to be the definitive choice for MLB pros, today, no one uses them. There are a couple of huge downsides to using hickory wood over more popular wood species such as maple, ash, or birch.
And MLB professionals need to be equipped with the best gear to ensure they don’t fall behind the competition. That means they need the best baseball bats, and also the best other pieces of equipment to keep them relevant in the game. So, you can’t really blame them for switching to a better material for their baseball bat.
But if I had to name a Pro that’s known to use hickory wood baseball bats, there’s only one that I need to mention – the legendary Babe Ruth. While many claim that Babe Ruth was a fan of Ash bats, during the 1925 season, his primary axe of choice was made of hickory wood.
That should give you an idea of how good these bats were.
However, in MLB games, these days, the wood species that most players go with is maple. It’s a stiff wood type with little flexibility, allowing the player to transfer the highest energy on contact. About 70 percent of MLB hitters use a maple bat.
Ash wood baseball bats are next in line for popularity, with about 25 percent of MLB hitters using them for their professional games. These bats are lighter and have a nice bit of flex in them, allowing for faster swing speed and control.
Finally, the remaining 5 percent of players go with birch wood baseball bats. This species of wood is softer than the other two, but it’s naturally a lot more durable. In terms of bat feel, it sits somewhere between what you would get with maple and ash wood baseball bats.
So, are Baseball Bats made out of Hickory? Do They Make Baseball Bats out of Hickory Wood?
Not anymore. You see, hickory wood was once a very popular choice for baseball bats. They offer amazing strength and durability and can also absorb impact pretty well. However, with the emergence of other wood species, the strength that hickory wood possessed slowly became irrelevant.
Though it is strong, hickory wood is pretty stiff and inflexible. That means, compared to maple and ash, swinging a hickory wood baseball bat would require more effort, and the energy transfer will also not be as efficient.
In addition, hickory woods break pretty easily compared to other top-tier wooden baseball bats these days. Because of these limitations, hickory wood is not used to craft baseball bats any longer. It’s a chapter that’s better left to the history books.
The Bottom Line
If you search around the pages of your baseball history book, you’ll find many fun little facts. You’ll notice how things changed and shifted with time and how people found better ways to make the game more exciting. While the shift in the material for baseball bats isn’t a big thing for a casual player, for the Pros, it made a lot of difference.
Baseball, at its current state, is extremely competitive. The skill difference between the top hitter in the league and the one surfing the bottom of the board isn’t all that much when you think about it. And if a player decided to start using hickory wood baseball bats all of a sudden, it might hamper his skill pretty significantly.
Still, it’s a fun thing to wonder about. If you search around your local stores, at least ones with a bit of heritage, you might still be able to find a hickory wood baseball bat. So, if you want to mess around with it to get the feel of it, be my guest. But using it in a competitive game won’t be the best idea.
I hope my in-depth look into whether baseball bats are made out of hickory gave you something to think about. Good luck!