Pre-Clinic: Wood Bats
Introduction: I’ve created this pre-clinic because I will assume many of you have little or no experience with wrapping tape on a baseball bat. Let’s make sure you do it right.
Here we’ll get you ready to wrap your bat in the next clinic. Let’s make sure we have everything you’ll need to before you wrap your bat handle.
First, find yourself a comfortable place to sit. It’s next to impossible to get a fault-free wrap on a bat if you’re standing up or leaning against the wall—believe me, I’ve tried.
Next, arrange all your wrapping materials so they’re within arm’s reach. Use a TV tray or similar platform to hold your stuff.
For seating, I like using a small swivel stool on wheels which allows me a bit of movement while I work. A stool is typically more comfortable because the seat is level with the floor, and you can adjust the height. A small stool makes it easy to sit directly over the bat as you work. Don’t use a chair with arms as you’ll be bumping your elbows into the armrests. And chairs can be awkward because the seat reclines to the back, which forces you to pitch uncomfortably forward as you work. Something like a piano bench works great, too. In any case, use whatever works best for you.
Here are the things you’ll need to start:
- Bat tape
- Bright light
- Goo Gone (optional)
- Paper towels or lint-free rags
- Piece of bone, wood rolling pin, or another wood bat
- Rubber gloves (optional)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Sand paper 150-180 (fine)
- SoftScrub or other cleaning liquid
- Utility knife with retractable blade
Now, let’s look at your bat. If tape is still on it, let’s take it off now.
Step one: Remove the old tape. Place the bat on a level surface and find a starting end of the tape. If needed, use your utility knife to lift a corner to get it started. Be sure to use your knife carefully to avoid injury (don’t use the knife if you’ve got the bat across your knees!) and don’t cut through the tape into the bat wood beneath. If you manage to get the tape off in one piece, put it aside, you can use it as a rule to measure out a length of new tape.
Step two: Check your bat’s condition. Look closely at your bat. What condition is it in? Are there any obvious cracks, missing flakes or chips visible? Do you see any small cracks? Run your fingertips along the bat and across the grain of a suspected crack because you can sometimes feel the margin where one side of the crack has lifted from the surface of the wood. Check it thoroughly. Beware of using a bat you even suspect is cracked—you risk hurting yourself or others if it breaks. If you have any doubt about the soundness of your bat, don’t use it!
Step three: Clean your bat. Let’s prepare your bat to receive the new tape. After you’ve removed the old tape and you’re sure that your bat is sound, you’ll want to clean it from the knob to the end of the barrel. Let’s follow these steps:
- Clean any remaining tape stickum, pine tar or other grip products from the bat. Pour a liberal amount of rubbing alcohol on a soft rag and rub the bat from end to end. Sometimes, the sticky grime can be difficult to remove. If you can’t remove it all with alcohol, use Goo Gone or another similar solvent. I like Goo Gone because it uses natural ingredients and it won’t harm most surfaces. However, if your bat is painted, use care as it may remove the finish. A small amount of solvent on a rag goes a long way towards cleaning your bat down to the wood. If you do use a solvent, follow it up with a clean towel and alcohol to remove any residue. You might want to use gloves.
- One way to clean the grime and scuffs in the finish of your bat is to use a cleaning product like Softscrub, which removes stubborn stains and marks, and polishes the finish without removing it. Again, follow this up with a clean wipe-down with alcohol. Let your bat air dry.
- Now is the time to take care of the dings and dents and scratches that any bat acquires after play. Using an animal bone, another wood bat or rolling pin, rub the surface of the bat to smooth the surface and rid your bat of rough spots and blemishes. This may take a bit of effort, so be patient.
- With your bat clean and dry and smooth, let’s do a final prep by sanding the handle. Using a fine sandpaper (150-180 grit) lightly sand with the grain up and down the handle until the wood gain has a whitish appearance. Don’t sand too hard or remove too much wood as you may weaken the bat. You should end up with just a bit of dust, which you can wipe away with a damp rag.
That’s it! Your bat is ready for the new tape. Let’s go to the first tape wrapping clinic.