As one of the many quirks in baseball, players often form a sort of love affair with their gloves. It has to sit a certain way on the bench. It has to stay clean. No one else can put their hand in it.
Bats are a different story. Sure, there are some low-key superstitions — Oklahoma State outfielder Gage Green has a religious tape job featuring a Gatorade cap on the end to make for a wider knob, and Oklahoma freshman Austin O’Brien is constantly wearing batting gloves and holding his bat in the dugout. In general, though, bats are less personal.
A glove is like a companion, a literal extension of yourself. A bat is a weapon with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on the opposition.
“It doesn’t matter if you were to throw your bat down, it’s not going to change shape,” said Sheldon Neuse, an OU infielder and the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. “If you throw your glove around or you don’t really take good care of it, then you have to go get another one or it’s not going to perform the way you need it to.
“As for a bat, its job is to go hit things.”
That doesn’t mean players aren’t selective about their bats.
OU has a contract with Louisville Slugger/TPX that provides the school with its pick of the brand’s bats. Some OU players swing the latest TPX models, but Neuse is sticking with a green-and-white TPX Omaha. He said it feels more balanced in his hand.
Most OSU players use the latest version of the DeMarini Voodoo, a two-piece bat with a slick dark barrel.
The Cowboys have an exclusive contract with DeMarini, which coach Josh Holliday said he handpicked.
Zach Fish, an OSU outfielder and the Big 12 Player of the Year, finished second in the conference with 10 home runs in the regular season. He is one of a few Cowboys using last year’s version of the Voodoo, opting for familiarity over newness.
Fish, however, wouldn’t mind seeing another change to college bats. Since 2011, BBCOR bats have been used in college baseball. The switch from composite bats to BBCOR, which are designed to perform more like wood bats, cut home run numbers drastically.
“Hopefully the game can switch to wood here soon,” Fish said. “I love using a wood bat, and I know a lot of guys would like that because a wood bat probably has more pop than the BBCORs.”
Due mostly to cost, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. And regardless of the opinion, BBCOR bats have revealed some universal truths. First and foremost, hitters are focused more than ever on squaring the ball up. To hit one out, that’s now a necessity.
“You can’t just go up there and take ill-advised swings and accidentally hit one out of the ballpark anymore,” OSU outfielder Saulyer Saxon said. “With the old bats you could be off-balance or catch one off the end and it would go out. With these, if you get jammed or catch one off the end, it’s not going anywhere.”
And although power numbers are down, Holliday said that doesn’t mean baseball is less exciting.
“Sure, there are less home runs, but now an exciting play can be a hit-and-run or a double steal, a play you weren’t seeing as much with the old bats,” Holliday said. “It’s not less exciting, but maybe a different type of exciting.”
So while players have their opinions and preferences, most agree success is less about the stick and more about the player wielding it.
“No matter what you’re using, I’m trying to barrel it up, so really it shouldn’t make a difference,” Neuse said.