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As a kid during the days of Little League (my last close contact with baseball), we always admonished one another not to hit the ball on the trademark of the bat. You'll break it!

Well, occasionally one of us would manage to break a bat, but we never knew whether the trademark was involved.

Where should the trademark be placed to lessen chances of breaking or does burning a trademark into the barrel weaken the bat?

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    Websearching "broken bat physics" finds multiple description of the mechanism ... Though it's arguably more a material science question. Essentially, the strength of a tapered dowel depends on the grain orientation relative to the impact; hit it wrong and the grain layers can separate, weakening them so they can't reinforce the adjacent layers and producing a progressive catastrophic failure. – keshlam Mar 7 '16 at 18:13
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    Not sure how the actual question and answers here are related to woodworking. While the title looks on topic, the rest obviously isn't. – Tomáš Zato Mar 8 '16 at 14:44
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    Seems more appropriate for Physics.SE. – rob Mar 9 '16 at 3:53
  • I found a couple of places that says both maple and birch should be positioned differently than ash - so you’re hitting on the top of a deck of cards, not like ash on the edge of the deck. Most makers still put the trademark like ash but these jokers say it should be 90 degrees from there. So lemme know which way your maple or birch bat breaks so i can keep a running tally. Me? I’m just gonna swing softer and get a bigger stick. – Aricky Dictate May 23 '18 at 7:34
  • Too bad this thread is 2 years old and everybody already knows all this. Now I know. Thanks for keeping me up to date. – Aricky Dictate May 23 '18 at 7:36
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Is there any truth to breaking a bat by hitting on the trademark

Yes there is. Traditionally the logo or label is located in a specific orientation to the grain in the wood, leading to the guideline that the logo should face the sky or the ground ("logo up or logo down") meaning you would be hitting the ball at 90° to the position of the logo.

As one manufacturer puts it:

There is a proper side to hit on, so be sure to also see the answer to the next question.

...[by orienting the label up or down] you'll be making contact with the area on the "side" of the bat where the grains are layered---the strongest "side" of the bat.

Unfortunately, and as usual, it's not quite as simple as that because more than one species is used to make baseball bats and they have quite different structures. Also there is more than one type of breakage/failure (in the handle area or the barrel). More info here on WoodBats.Org.

does burning a trademark into the barrel weaken the bat?

If it's placed in the traditional location, I doubt it. It's at a right angle to the primary forces the bat is (should be) subjected to, so it should normally have no effect.

A burned-in logo would normally only involve the surface anyway. It is possible that if you burn very deeply it might compromise the wood if the logo is placed atypically, but I think that you'd have to have both conditions met for it to affect a bat's strength — so both burned far too deep and in the wrong orientation to the grain.

  • Might be worth summarizing some of the points from the link. Specifically about the different logo orientation between ash & maple bats. – FreeMan Mar 7 '16 at 20:59
  • One interesting point from the included link is that the placement of the trademark is critical when using ash, but does not really matter when using hard maple due to the different higher porosity of the growth rings in ash. That is, you can confidently hit the ball with any surface of a maple bat, but should only use the part where the growth rings appear closest together on the barrel when swinging an ash bat. – Ast Pace Mar 10 '16 at 0:01
  • Another good point that the link provides is that the information is applicable to other situations - anything that's going to have an impact load, e.g. axe handles, gavel handles, shovels, catapults, etc. – Ast Pace Mar 14 '16 at 19:15
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I've just done a bit of research (OK... I did a google image search, but the results seem to be consistent) and it seems like the logo is always burned into / painted onto the same part of the bat, in relation to the grain direction:

Baseball bat with logo

Notice that the logo is in the same orientation as the growth ring lines of the bat. This makes a lot of sense in the context of the advice "don't hit the ball with the logo side" since the wood will separate more readily between the growth rings than it will at 90° to this.

Essentially what you're trying to avoid is this, which is separation along the growth rings:

Broken wooden baseball bat

So, I suspect it's not the act of burning / painting the logo onto the bat that weakens it, rather that the position of the logo is chosen based on the grain direction, which is what determines the directional strength of the bat. The way I've seen it explained is like the difference between hitting a ball with the edge of a deck of cards or the face.

The broken bat image is from here which is a site which seems to have some good info on wooden bats.

The link above actually has some good info about different wood types etc. and growth ring density affect a bat's performance. Generally though the rule about placing the logo on the flat of the grain, and avoiding hitting the ball with the logo stands.

  • @AstPace, that link is exactly the same one I provided in my Answer. – Graphus Mar 14 '16 at 8:58
  • @graphus So it is, mea culpa. – Ast Pace Mar 14 '16 at 19:16
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That is correct, the trademark side of the bat should not be used to hit the ball. The trademark is stamped on the weakest part of the bat - notice it's always in the same position with relation to the grain of the wood. Hitting the ball with this area has a higher chance of breaking the bat, since it's the weakest point on the bat. That's not to say that any hit on the trademark will instantly shatter your bat, or that hitting off the trademark makes a bat indestructible, but the chances are higher. When going to bat, you should be looking at the trademark when you hold the bat up in front of you, so that the ball hits about 90 degrees from the trademark.

I learned this directly from the manufacturer, at the Louisville Slugger factory in Louisville, KY.

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    Welcome to Wood Working! Your profile indicates you've been around SE enough to know that some sort of evidence/reference is preferred in answers. As it stands, your answer sounds like a very convinced recitation of the myth/legend that is being asked about. Do you have any proof to back that up? Otherwise, it's just the internet taking the place of a kid at the local playground. – FreeMan Mar 7 '16 at 17:45

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