Should you swing maple or ash? Both maple and ash make for an excellent bat choice but it is important to understand that either selection affects how the ball behaves on contact in a unique way. So, when it comes down to it, what are the practical differences between a maple bat and an ash bat? It’s all about the grain of the wood.
Maple wood has a visibly dense grain structure, just check out the ink dot test on any maple handle and you can see it for yourself. This density contributes to the increased weight of maple bats as well as the harder hitting surface. This density can also prevent the barrel from flaking following long-term use. The dense grain structure of a maple bat causes a higher energy transfer and an extremely responsive feel on connection. Since maple is dense and allows for little flex, you can feel the ball jump off the barrel following contact. As compression cannot occur on the surface of a maple bat, it occurs on the surface of the ball instead. This results in a greater velocity hit and greater distance.
Ash, in contrast, has a wide grain structure, so it is often said to be “soft”; but don’t let that phrasing fool you, ash is still a tough, durable wood choice. The benefits of ash’s grain structure are exemplified in the weight and behavior of the bat. Ash bats are lightweight which allows for a higher swing speed, and can enable a player to use a larger barrel bat without that top-heavy feeling. The space between the grains actually allows for more compression to take place on the surface of the bat upon contact resulting in a trampoline-like effect as the ball leaves the bat's surface. If you watch a player hit with an ash bat in slow motion, you’ll be able to see the wood flex at the moment of contact then snap back and launch the ball into the air.
Like all good things, both ash and maple bats come with their own drawbacks. The catch for maple bats is that the tight grain structure, while providing a powerful contact surface, also makes the “sweet spot” on the barrel smaller than other wood bats. This smaller “sweet spot” can mean more mishits and a bit more vibration on impact. Likewise, the catch for an ash bat lies in its loose grain structure. Since ash is “soft”, time and heavy use can lead to separation of the wood surface resulting in chipping or flaking.
Now that you have a better understanding of how each wood functions, and know what to expect from each you can better weigh the pros and cons before selecting your wood. Ultimately the decision comes down to your personal preference. No matter which wood you prefer, you can be certain that Marucci always delivers the highest quality and craftsmanship in the game.