Precision, speed, and technique – these are the three pillars of being a great hitter in baseball. Achieving perfection in the art of hitting requires patience and hard work. Before you can unleash your fullest potential on the plate, you need to spend countless hours in the batting cage honing your craft.
Now, your skill and hitting power are definitely important, but you know what’s even more important – your grip.
Over the years, hitters have come up with different tricks and techniques to improve their grip on the glove. Adhesive grip strips, batting gloves, and many other different accessories can help improve a player’s grip on the bat. And you know what else helps improve your grip? – Pine Tar.
MLB hitters regularly use pine tar on the handle of their bat to improve its grip when they take their spot on the plate. But what exactly is pine tar? And should you use it on your bat? Are there any regulations you need to be worried about? What Does Pine Tar Do to a Baseball Bat?
These are all valid questions, and if you’re a newcomer to the sport, it’s natural that you don’t have all the answers. Well, that’s where I come in.
In this article, I will give you a complete rundown of pine tar, what it does to a baseball bat, and everything else you need to know about it. So, let’s hop in.
Table of Contents
What is Pine Tar on a Baseball Bat?
First thing first – what even is pine tar? And what does it have to do with baseball bats?
Well, pine tar is, as the name suggests, extracted from pine trees using heating and distillation. Once extracted, pine tar is a dark, thick liquid with a distinct smell. Pine tar is an extremely versatile substance that’s used in all sorts of industries.
In the rubber industry, it’s used as a softening solvent. It is also used as a wood preservative and to manufacture waterproof rope. Some special paints use pine tar as a preservative. And even some modern medicines contain pine tar as a key ingredient.
In baseball, pine tar is commonly used by players to enhance their grip on the bat. The tacky texture of the pine tar can improve grip on different tools and handles, and baseball hitters utilize it to improve their grip on their bat. And since pine tar is water-resistant, sweat and moisture from hand don’t reduce its stickiness.
What Does Pine Tar Do to a Baseball Bat? Why Do Baseball Players Put it on their Bats?
Using pine tar on a baseball bat isn’t exactly a new thing. Almost all MLB hitters coat their bat’s handle with pine tar, and they don’t do that on a whim. It offers a couple of benefits, and in professional games, every bit of advantage counts.
Here are a few reasons why baseball players put pine tar on their bats.
· Improves Bat Control:
The main reason why professional players use pine tar on their bat’s handle is to improve its grip. By having a better grip on their bat, the player will get better control over his swing speed, power, and accuracy.
You see, baseball hitters need to constantly adjust the grip on their bat when they swing. And the buildup of sweat on the palm can mess with your overall control of the bat. The tacky texture of pine tar allows the player to have a more secure hold on the bat’s handle.
The art of hitting is not easily achieved. When you’re practicing on your own in the batting cage, you’re not really under a lot of pressure. However, when you step onto the plate with a stadium full of people watching you, keeping your composure is not easy. Your palm starts sweating, and maintaining a solid grip on the bat becomes all that harder.
With pine tar on the bat, you already have a decent grip. So you don’t need to worry about the bat slipping off your hand. As a result, you won’t have to compensate for a slippery bat, which will make it easier for you to maintain consistent swing mechanics.
· Reduces Hand Fatigue:
Baseball games are physically demanding in all playing positions. The games are long, and the pressure of the game can really start to weigh on you after a while.
Now, I’m not saying that pine tar prevents hand fatigue, but since you have a better grip on the ball, it certainly plays a part in reducing it.
· Nullifies Weather Issues:
Baseball games are played in almost all sorts of weather conditions. And weather effects, such as snow, humidity, or rain, can affect your overall grip on the bat.
However, if your bat is coated with pine tar, the tacky texture will help you keep a solid grip on the ball regardless of the weather conditions.
MLB Regulations on Pine Tar
To ensure fair play and eliminate any chance of the players taking advantage of pine tar, MLB has a specific rule to regulate its usage. Rule 3.02(c) of the Major League Baseball Official Rulebook specifically addresses the application of pine tar or any other foreign substance on the bat’s handle.
Basically, the rule states that, a player is allowed to put foreign substance, such as pine tar, on your bat’s handle as long as it doesn’t extend beyond 18 inches in the handle length from the bottom of the handle.
Simply put, if you want to apply pine tar on your baseball bat handle, according to MLB rules, it cannot extend above 18 inches. To make sure everyone’s following the rules, umpires inspect the bats of either team before the game. Bats that are coated with excessive pine tar are removed from play.
This shows the commitment of the league to upholding the integrity of the game and making sure everyone is playing on an even field.
The Pine Tar Controversy
While pine tar is used widely in Major League Baseball, there are many debates on its legality. Some believe that the usage of pine tar gives some hitters an unfair advantage over others, and it also opens up the possibility of cheating in some situations.
In fact, there have been several incidents involving pine tar that support the claim of the naysayers. But perhaps no other incident is as famous as the one that occurred on July 24, 1983.
On that day, during a game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals, the Yankee’s batter Geroge Brett hit a two-run home run. Now, George Brett was an amazing hitter, and as a hall of famer, his skill isn’t something that’s up for debate.
However, the manager of the Royals, Dick Howser, challenged the legality of Brett’s bat, claiming he used excessive pine tar on the barrel. Upon inspection, the umpire ruled in favor of the Royals, nullifying the home run. However, at a later date, the ruling was overturned.
This event would later come to be known as the Pine Tar Incident in baseball, and it serves as a reminder of how controversial its usage can be. But it’s still legal to use pine tar on baseball bats as long as the player follows MLB regulations.
Alternatives to Pine Tar
If you don’t like the feel of pine tars but still want something to improve your grip on the baseball bat, you have a couple of different options. Here are four simple alternatives to pine tars that you hitters can use for a better grip.
· Grip Tape:
If you’re looking to enhance the grip of your baseball bat’s handle, the simplest alternative to pine tar is to wrap it up with grip tape. Grip tapes have a textured surface. And if the tape becomes too old, you can easily replace it. You could even try out different colors of tape to give your bat a different look.
The downside to using grip tape is that it doesn’t offer the same level of thickness as pine tar. But it’s easily replaceable, and the personalization potential of grip tapes makes it a great choice for any hitter who wants a bit more grip in their baseball bat.
· Batting Gloves:
If you use a nice pair of batting gloves when you take your spot on the plate, you might not even need to use any pine tar. Some high-quality batting gloves offer amazing grips on the bat’s handle. Besides, batting gloves are designed keeping the comfort of the hitter in mind.
Of course, not all players like using batting gloves. Some people hate the restrictive feeling that comes from a batting glove. In that case, you’re better off with a different option.
· Adhesive Sprays:
Adhesive sprays are as close to pine tar as you can get without all the messiness that comes from applying pine tar. It’s easy to apply on your baseball bat, and the thickness is pretty consistent all around. And the grip quality also improves pretty significantly.
However, some leagues have restrictions against the usage of adhesive sprays. If you like this option, make sure the league or organization you’re playing under allows the use of adhesive sprays.
· Adhesive Grip Wraps:
Adhesive grip wraps are pretty similar to grip tapes in design. You wrap them around the handle of the bat, and the textured wrap allows you to get a better grip on the baseball bat when you swing.
However, grip wraps are not as durable, and since it’s coated with adhesive, taking them off your bat often leaves behind a gooey mess.
Should I Put Pine Tar on my Baseball Bats
Whether you should use pine tar on your bats is entirely up to you. Pine tar helps improve the grip of a baseball bat; that’s a fact. But the truth is, there are many players out there who don’t like the feel of pine tar. They prefer using adhesive strips or gloves over pine tar.
So, in the end, it comes down to you. If you ask me, though, I would say a beginner who’s just learning the basics of how to swing a bat shouldn’t worry about the pine tar application at that stage. It’s best to learn the basics with an untouched, unmodified baseball bat.
However, if you’re playing in the amateur leagues, every bit of advantage matters. And if you find that using pine tar on your baseball bat gives you more control over your swing speed and accuracy, go for it.
But if you don’t like the feel of pine tar, the other alternatives I mentioned might be worth a try. As long as your grip on the bat’s handle is good and secure, you will be able to get a good swing speed and power on a successful hit with your baseball bat.
How to Use Pine Tar on a Baseball Bat
If you decide to use pine tar on your baseball bat, it’s important to do things right. You don’t want to go overboard with its application, as applying too much pine tar improperly on your baseball bat will make it illegal for different league games.
Now, each league has different guidelines and regulations regarding how much pine tar you can use or where you can use it. So, it’s best to read up on the rules related to the pine tar application for your specific baseball organizations.
When applying pine tar, start with a small amount and apply it on the handle. Afterward, use a soft cloth or rag to rub it into the handle to create a thin, even layer around the handle.
As I already said, MLB rules dictate that the pine tar cannot exceed 18 inches in length from the handle. So, make sure you don’t go over that line if you’re following MLB standards.
Also, make sure you don’t apply excessive pine tar as it might make the bat uncomfortable to swing properly. A thin coat around the handle should be enough to give you a nice grippy texture.
Frequently Asked Questions
By now, you should have a decent idea about pine tar and how it’s used in baseball. Before I take my leave, though, let me address some of the questions I often get asked regarding the use of pine tar on baseball bats. Hopefully, this will come in handy if you still have some confusion about it.
Do MLB Players Use Pine Tar?
Yes, pine tar is widely used by MLB players as it’s a reliable way to improve their grip and control on the bat. However, the use of pine tar is regulated, and you cannot apply pine tar over 18 inches from the handle of the bat. As long as you are within regulation standards, the use of pine tar is completely legal.
How Much Pine Tar Can You Put on a Bat?
In casual games, there’s no limit to how much pine tar you can put on a baseball bat. However, different baseball organizations have different rules and regulations regarding how much you can apply on the bat.
If you’re following the MLB regulations, according to Rule 3.02(c), a player cannot apply pine tar or any foreign substance to the bat’s handle beyond the 18-inch mark from the knob. In addition, the use of pine tar is strictly forbidden for pitchers or any other players.
This rule makes sure that MLB players cannot use pine tar excessively, which can give them an edge over other players.
Is Pine Tar Cheating in Baseball?
No, using pine tar on a baseball bat is not considered cheating in baseball. However, misuse of pine tar is considered cheating.
For instance, if you apply pine tar excessively, it can alter the performance of the bat, resulting in different trajectories of the ball when you make a successful connection. This will give hitters who use pine tar excessively an unfair advantage over other players.
Is Pine Tar Illegal in MLB?
Pine tar is not illegal in MLB. But you need to conform to the league’s standards. That means you can use pine tar to improve the bat’s grip as long as it’s within the set limit. If a bat is found to contain pine tar beyond the league’s regulation, the player will be penalized.
The Bottom Line
Pine tar, despite the controversies that sometimes accompany its use, is a popular tool among MLB hitters for improving their grip on batting gloves. And frankly, as long as everyone follows the proper regulations, it doesn’t really give any unfair advantage to any hitter.
So, if you want to try it out to see how it feels, go for it. Just make sure you’re not going overboard with it. Also, wipe off the excess from your high-quality baseball bat to keep it clean. Applying too much pine tar can also attract dirt and debris to your baseball bat.
I hope my in-depth explanation of what pine tar does in baseball bats could help you understand it better. Good luck!