For his first 10 ½ seasons in professional baseball, Brian McCann had sworn by maple bats. But something changed after he felt a little uncomfortable at the plate one night last week against the Giants and he picked up an ash bat, like the one Chipper Jones swears by.
The result was a game-tying two-run home run to the opposite field off Santiago Casilla. McCann was convinced.
“I’ll never go back,” he said.
He gave Jones an affable shove on his way into the dugout that night, acknowledging that Jones had been trying for years to get him to swing ash. McCann went on to hit three more home runs in his next seven games entering Saturday’s game against the Phillies.
“He’d been using maple for a long time and hasn’t been able to hit the ball out of the ballpark to left field and center field,” Jones said. “Now all of a sudden he’s doing it, since he made the switch. I’m sorry; I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
Maple is a denser wood with a harder surface than ash. Ash is more porous, but Jones points out that it allows grooves to form in the wood after repeated compression, unlike maple which stays smooth. Jones compared it to a driver in golf, which has grooves to create better backspin.
“If you were to hit a golf ball with a driver that had no grooves on it, you wouldn’t hit it as far,” said Jones, whose game bat has grooves through the sweet spot that are obvious to the touch. “That’s why the faces of clubs have grooves on them, so it creates backspin. You have an opportunity with ash to be able to let those grooves work for you.”