4,000 Variations: Manufacturing the Perfect MLB Bat

Advanced Manufacturing is often meticulous.

MLB regulations dictate that bats must be one piece of solid wood, no more than 42 inches long, with a maximum diameter of 2.61 inches. That leaves plenty of room for variation: Some players prefer an end-weighted bat, while others like a balanced bat.

Louisville Slugger manufactures about 6,000 models of wooden bat and offers about a dozen different finishes.

Walking into a Major League Baseball clubhouse, James Sass knows what every player wants from him before anyone utters a word.

“They’re all looking for the same thing,” he says. “The biggest barrel they can get with the lightest swing weight.”

Mr. Sass, 50, is head of professional baseball sales for Louisville Slugger. He’s on the road at least once a week visiting clubhouses in the major and minor leagues, checking in with players who use his bats and hoping to convert others. During spring training, he’s away from his Kentucky home for a month.

He carries anywhere from five to 20 bats of different models. “The key is to get samples into their hands, for players to be able to check out different knobs and handles and barrels until they find one that fits them,” Mr. Sass says. Sometimes he carries batting gloves.

His company travel bag can hold two dozen bats. When he flies, it always goes in checked luggage, even if he’s carrying a custom delivery for a star player like Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays or Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals. “You can’t take bats on planes,” he says.

Click here to read more in the Wall Street Journal about the work of James Sass and Louisville Slugger’s meticulous manufacturing.


Baseball Bats

The Louisville Slugger wooden bats used by professional players are manufactured at its Kentucky factory. Photo: Jessica Ebelhar for The Wall Street Journal