Inside Pitch Magazine, Fall 2013

The Change Up: Prime Time

Good Wood for the People

Joey Votto

The world's preeminent wood bat company has unveiled its latest line of product. Louisville Slugger's new MLB Prime™ bats features a host of innovative developmental features:

• Veneer quality ash and maple – where Slugger's bats were once picked in the forest and considered "top-grade" ash and maple, the company now chooses hand-selected, veneer quality ash and maple at the mill.

• Amish-style craftsmanship is now utilized to hand-saw square billets, a change from the round billets that were cut from logs by various machine methods. This results in harder wood that is used to make the bats.

• A vacuum drying process that creates more consistent hardness through all of its pieces, and no softness at the center of the billets. This is an adjustment from the kiln-dried method that was once used, which required heat generated by fire, was not an exact process and took much longer (4-6 weeks). The vacuum drying process yields dry product in 4-7 days.

• A one-of-a-kind 360 Degree Compression closes the grain around the barrel in a much more consistent manner than the past. Players themselves (along with the factory) actually had to bone-rub their bats to close the grain in the past; it's a method that prevents flaking of the wood and makes the bat harder, however was an inconsistent process. Unlike the bone rubbing, the 360 degree method guarantees hardness, pressure on the barrel and most importantly, no soft spots.

• An Advanced Finish System is applied through a proprietary process, using filler to close the grain and cavities for a harder feel and appearance. Before, one hand-dipped coat of water-based finish was put on the bats, yielding an impressive 6H on the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). Through the new system, however, the bats are topped with three layers of water-based topcoat seal, and Slugger bats are now rated 9H, which is the hardest rating possible.

2013 marked the inaugural season where the new bats were introduced to the MLB market. Slugger's "Prime 9" (Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Derek Jeter, Buster Posey, Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Jay Bruce, Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria) all swung bats that featured some of these innovations. In addition to having some of the highest-profile athletes in the game, Louisville Slugger has also made strides in amateur baseball, where many travel ball events and summer leagues use wood bats instead of aluminum.

Perhaps the most notable change that Louisville Slugger has made was the availability of its MLB-quality wood. Once reserved only for players that are in the Major Leagues, these new "big-league-player-quality" MLB Prime Wood bats are also available to retail customers. Players at any and all levels of the game today now have the opportunity to swing legitimate big-league wood; MLB Prime bats retail for a competitively-priced $119.95.

As a company that originated in 1884 and has had a long track record of success, Louisville Slugger could have sat on its hands and relied simply on its name and reputation. However their willingness, ability and commitment to new technology and innovation are primary reasons why it will continue its reign as the most well-known brand of our national pastime.

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.