Can anyone tell me what the deal is with the trademark on a baseball bat? When I used to play, the manager/coach would always say not to hit the ball on the trademark. Supposedly, it would split or crack the bat because the trademark was placed on the grain of the bat.

However I have watched players on TV and they don’t seem to care. Announcers though, make remarks every once in a while about a player “hitting in off the trademark”.

So what’s the deal?

Charlie

If you’ll look, the trademark is usually burned with the grain, not across it. Therefore, by putting the trademark up or down (facing the sky or the ground), you’re hitting the ball with the grain perpendicular to the ball, which makes the bat less likely to split or crack and break the bat.

MLB players are less concerned because they have a supply of bats (and often get them free or at minimal cost) and therefore are less concerned about cracking one, unlike kids who probably have to make one bat last for several years.

Well, I understand, but would hitting the ball with the grain of the bat make the ball go further, not pop-up or have some other effect on the ball?

Charlie

It should transfer less energy to the ball, since the bat would be flexing in the direction of the grain, as opposed to perpendicularly (meaning less flex and more energy transferred to the ball.)

I’m not so sure about this. My Resistance of Materials book doesn’t differentiate between modulus of elasticity with the grain and across the grain. This would inticate that the bending for a given load would be about the same.

I admit to being a little surprised at this so I made some crude tests with basswood (linden) of 3/8" square cross section. Using a cantilever of about 12" I measured about 9/16" deflection for the same load in both directions relative to the grain.

The yield point for a load in the direction of the grain is twice that for across the grain for hickory and in fact, most woods. So if you hit the ball with the trade mark facing or opposite to the catcher your bat will be more likely to break.

I can’t give you any scientific explanations, nor can I offer you rock-hard statistics, but I can give you the experiences of a player.

I’ve noticed through playing and watching the the most likely place to crack, shatter, or split a bat is when contact is made with the section of the bat immediately above where the hands are placed. This seems to be obvious, as the wood is much thinner there.

Hitting the ball on the trademark is a little different. I was never taught anything about the trademark itself, but the area of the bat where the trademark is typically placed is usually referred to as the “sweet spot.” Again, I don’t know if the ball actually goes farther, but the main incentive for consistently hitting the ball on this spot on the bat is that the vibrations from the contact tend to be a lot less severe. The difference between hitting a ball on the sweet spot and an inch closer or farther from the trademark is astounding! Again, not in distance necessarily, but in the soreness of the hands afterwards!

For what it may be worth, I have never broken a bat by hitting a ball on the trademark.

Baseball announcers struggle to keep the narrative fresh, so that today’s game doesn’t sound exactly like last week’s. They have developed an arsenal of different ways of saying the same thing. When a hitter smacks one “in off the trademark,” it means he has managed to hit a pitch close to his chest, and frustrated the pitcher again. Any phrase with “the trademark” in it will resonate with anyone who played the game as a kid. Close-in hits are also called sawed-off, swarm-of-bees, and dozens of other things. Modern bats, by the way, have thin handles (some players even shave them further) to concentrate the weight in the barrel, and when they break, it’s usually below the fat part.

Bat makers, cooperating with Major League Baseball, are collecting all broken bats this year to find the causes of breaks. There’s a slew of new batmakers in recent years, some of them using maple instead of ash, Nonetheless, broken bats’ numbers continue to rise.

Top hitters order bats by the dozens, and they weigh them to cull the off-weight ones. They also select favorites according to closeness of grain and indefinable stuff. The rejects are sent to the minor leagues and charities.

Plus, the bending moment during contact is highest there. Highest stress + weakest location = failure point.

Engineering texts call it the “center of percussion” - the point of contact which does not put a bending moment into the bat. Less energy lost to vibration = more energy into the ball.

David, does that reference show any ductility for wood worth mentioning, or is failure effectively brittle? Even if the wood “takes a set”, it night still tolerate a higher load in one direction than the other, not that it would be easy to take advantage of.

I’m not really an expert on the failure mode for wood and the text is pretty elementary. My suspicion is that in bending failure it is really the shear along the grain and I get a feeling that it is sudden. However, bending failure can’t really be called “brittle” because there is considerable deflection before failure.