There are several species of wood that can be used to make single piece wood bats. The most common wood used is Northern Ash, followed very closely by Hard Maple ( also known as Rock or Sugar Maple). To a lesser degree, Yellow Birch, European Beech, and a mix of less common hardwoods occasionally make their way into the game.
Ash is chosen over most other hardwoods due to its availability, good long grain structure, and is a good blend of medium density yet durable. Maple has a closed grain structure, slightly more dense than ash, but has a much harder surface rating and is more durable.
When choosing a hardwood for a baseball bat, one has to keep in mind, density (for weight), grain type (long, straight is best), surface hardness, shock resistance, and workability. For example, according to most physical attributes Orange Asage is a great hardwood to make bats out of, however, the dust is very toxic so it is not practical to turn bats out of it.
Below are some commonly used hardwoods and their properties to compare:
Northern Ash Hard Maple Yellow Birch
Fraxinus americana Acer saccharum Betula lutea
Density = 39.38 lbs/cu. ft Density=42.40 Density=41.70
Strength=109 Strength=106 Strength=98
Hardness=108 Hardness=115 Hardness=86
Shock Resistance=139 Shock Resistance=138 Shock Resistance=171
Red Oak Hickory European Beech
Quercus borealis Hicoria laciniosa Fagus sylvatica
Density=41.02 lbs/cu ft. Density=51.21 Density=45.00
Strength=92 Strength=123 Strength=94
Hardness=103 Hardness=142 Hardness=96
Shock Resistance=139 Shock Resistance=292 Shock Resistance=135
These are basically the hardwoods we use commonly in baseball. Obviously others are out there and every so often someone stumbles out of the jungle in South America or some other distant place and claims to have found the perfect hardwood for baseball bats. Unfortunately, even if someone had found a great wood in Madagascar, we still have to consider it’s availability, cost of shipping and processing, and whether or not it’s a protected species. The best sources for baseball bats are right here in the U.S.A.