One thing is certain: you can’t customize a metal baseball bat. Yes, it’s evenly balanced, has a state-of-the-art handle wrap, flashy colors, a big sweet spot, and is made out of high-tech materials, but if you want a flared knob, a narrower handle, a heavier barrel, or you want to name your metal bat, forget it. You pay your $300 or more and you take it or leave it. Will you hit better with it? According to the pro-metal organization “Don’t Take My Bat Away,” no. But many baseball experts know that’s not true. Metal bats are certainly more powerful than wood bats. But that may be the only advantage they have over wood ones. There are so many virtues simply to the wood bat buying experience that mass-produced metal can seem like shopping for laundry detergent or frozen pizza.
Traditional wood bats come in a number of sizes, shapes, wood types, and colors. The discerning player can go online and have a blast figuring out the perfect specs for his or her next bat purchase. You can often ask for barrel and handle widths down to a thirty-second of an inch, and you can even have your signature laser-burned onto your bat just like the pros.
Xbat made their name providing options to customize colors, shape, etc. plus allowed you to brand the bat with a special signature or name — even a flag. There are many companies out there now that let you do virtually anything to create your own bat. Some of the better website offerings are run by Marucci, Xbat, Superior Bat Company, and Zinger Bats.
A relatively new, up-and-coming bat company, Zinger Bats offers a very simple array of customizing options for personalizing bats. Zinger is located in Montreal, Canada — close to the source of a lot of great maple. Company president, Fred Leiberman, takes pride in his company’s ability to offer high-quality products exactly to spec for their customers. When Leiberman and his partner bought the company two years ago the business came with a $160,000 state-of-the-art computerized lathe manufactured in Spain. They also purchased a $30,000 laser burner and high-tech sanding equipment as well.
Zinger is making in-roads these days with the pros. A number of major league players swing Zinger bats including Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla. Bobby Abreu, Carlos Pena, and now even Jason Giambi. Zingers are in the hands of numerous players in the minors as well. And at the company’s website they list other great players who have ordered bats like Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa, Maglio Ordonez, and Khalil Greene.
The Zinger Bat customization process is more basic and down to earth than many of their competitors, but Leiberman wants his customers to know that the most important elements to bat making are in their guarantees. “Bat buyers need to be careful,” he notes. “There are a lot of companies that let you choose the length of your bat, but they don’t guarantee weights. Good companies will always let you choose your weight, and somewhere on their websites they’ll tell you that weights are guaranteed.”
Indeed, bat connoisseurs (i.e., serious hitters) will tell you that if you put in an order for a dozen bats at the beginning of the season with companies that don’t guarantee weights, your bats can vary by as much as three to four ounces from each other. “It’s all in the wood,” says Leiberman. “Only about a third of the wood billets we buy are good enough for our pro-stock bats.” Besides guaranteeing weights, Zinger also allows their customers to choose lengths down to the half-inch.
Another factor in your search for bat excellence is whether or not the company you’re buying from makes their own bats or has an “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM) do the manufacturing. There’s nothing wrong per se with a reseller, especially if they work closely with the OEM on specifications and quality control, but Leiberman points out that the customer is still two steps away from the person turning the wood. “People need to ask that question when they go online, or even call up the company: do you make the bats right there or do you have someone else ship them to you for resale?”