Xavier Scruggs & the art of lumber selection

St. Louis Cardinals first base prospect Xavier Scruggs shares his spring training thoughts from Jupiter, Florida. This week's subject is bats.

I wanted to take the time today to talk about something that fans may not know so much about. This special edition blog is about bats. As a position player in baseball, you have two important tools - your glove and your bat.

Professional ball players only use wooden bats, unlike in college and high school where players can use aluminum bats. It's not easy finding the perfect bat. Hitters end up testing different models of bats to eventually be able to stick with one they can call their own.

Bats can range from heavy to light, small barrel to big barrel, skinny handle to thick handle, and ash or maple. There are so many different variations of bats – not to mention how many different brands there are these days.

New brands are coming out each day. Some of you may know the most popular brands which have been around for the longest. Louisville Slugger is like the 'Godfather' of all bats used in professional baseball. Then you have Sam Bat, which helped start Maple bat craze. One of the most popular brands today that a lot of guys are swinging is Marucci.

Some brands are definitely older than others, but just because a brand has been around the longest, does that make it the best? Or just because a certain brand is popular does that mean it's perfect for you? The only way to find out is by testing them. It has taken me awhile, but now I think I have found the perfect model and brand!

In 2008 I was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and was assigned to Short Season Class A ball in Batavia. I had practiced with wood bats all the time in college (UNLV). However, when I reported for my first season of pro ball I was in for a serious surprise.

I had to get used to swinging the wood every day. It wasn't easy. I was used to swinging a 34 inch aluminum bat in college so naturally I thought I should use a 34 inch wood bat. I would soon find out that the wood was a lot heavier than the aluminum. I was consistently getting jammed (hitting an inside pitch in the middle of the bat instead of on the barrel).

I was using the ash bats that the team provided for us. Ash wood bats are known to splinter and break much easier than maple wood bats. I was getting jammed so badly that season that I was breaking bats left and right. I remember guys making jokes and telling me that I'm Louisville Sluggers' best supporter because I was going through so many of their bats. Guys were telling me that Louisville Slugger was going to go out of business because of me.

During this period of time I realized two things: 1. I needed to get myself some maple bats and 2. I needed to get myself a thumb protector because my left thumb was swollen from the effect of getting jammed so much. I needed to switch to maple bats because that way even if I did get jammed, my bat would not break as easily and as hard as maple wood is, I would still be able to hit line drives.

Since that time in Short Season A ball, I have found what has become comfortable to me. The model I use is called a JC1 and the brand I use is Old Hickory. I have done my testing of all types of wood and Old Hickory seems to have the best I have ever used. Every one is different but when I use Old Hickory, I can see and feel the difference when I hit the ball. The shot of the bat has a different feel to it then any other bat I have used. You can tell the difference in the sound, which is music to my ears.

If you don't have an agent or a deal with a professional bat company, bats can be very expensive. Today they cost anywhere between $50 to $120 per bat. That's not cheap when you consider how many a player may go through during the long summer.

I know personally go through about 15-20 bats per season. You do the math. Luckily I have an agreement with Old Hickory that allows me to swing their bats at an excellent rate.

Most guys will tell you it took them a couple of years to find their bat. Everyone is different. Just like a lot of my teammates, I'm always interested to see what other people swing. It's funny because every time a player receives a box a bats, everyone else wants to feel the bats and swing them.

My teammate Greg Garcia told me he prefers to swing ash bats from Louisville Slugger. Another teammate, Niko Vasquez, is swinging the maple of a newer brand called Victus. It just depends on your preference. I'm sure whatever they are swinging is perfect because both of them are hitting the ball hard this spring. That's beside the point though.

I just wanted to give you fans just a taste of what it is like as we hitters try to choose our perfect weapon against the pitchers. It is not easy, but trial and error is a big part of it. I do know one thing, if it wasn't for the Old Hickory bats I have been swinging for the last week, I probably wouldn't have five home runs in spring training. Their bats are lethal, and get the job done.

Spring training is coming toward its end but I will be sure to blog this week about how the past week has gone.

Continue reading, and I'll keep writing about some of the crazy things about this game. I'll keep you in the loop about all the stuff that comes along with this dream I'm chasing. Until next time!

Follow me on Twitter @Xavier_Scruggs.

Link to my earlier reports from spring training and winter ball in Colombia.

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