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Label Up or Down – How to Swing a Wood bat

If you are transitioning from using a composite to a wood bat, you will start to hear something like: “always keep the label facing up or you are going to break the bat, “Label up when you swing”, “Make sure the label faces up or down”, “Hit with the label facing away from you”, or “Swing with the label to the sky or the ground”. They all say the same thing but it can get bit confusing so let’s go over what it means.


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The advice relates to an old piece of advice given to baseball players regarding the proper way to hold a wooden bat. The label on the bat, typically found on the face of the bat, is not just for branding; it is strategically placed on the “face grain” of the wood, which is the weaker side of the bat. The idea behind this advice is that when a player swings the bat with the label facing up (or down, towards the ground), they are hitting the ball with the “edge grain,” which is the harder and more durable side of the bat.

This practice stems from the nature of how wooden bats are made. Wood is a natural material with fibers running lengthwise, and the orientation of these fibers affects the bat’s strength and durability. The edge grain is more resistant to splitting compared to the face grain. Hitting the ball with the edge grain can, theoretically, extend the life of the bat and reduce the likelihood of it breaking.


Wood Types

Baseball bats are commonly made from several types of wood, each with its own unique properties, advantages, and disadvantages:


Historically the most popular wood for baseball bats, ash is known for its flexibility and light weight. Ash wood is known for its straight, open grain. This gives ash bats a unique flexibility and a larger, more forgiving sweet spot. The open grain structure allows the bat to flex slightly upon impact, which can enhance the trampoline effect when hitting a ball. However, this same characteristic makes ash more susceptible to flaking and breaking over time as the wood dries out and the open grains can separate.



An innovative choice for baseball bats, bamboo is celebrated for its exceptional durability and environmental sustainability. Constructed from multiple strips of laminated bamboo, these bats boast a high level of resilience, making them less likely to break than those crafted from traditional woods. Bamboo bats are characterized by their lightness and balanced feel, similar to classic wooden bats, yet they differ in performance, often lacking the typical pop sound and power of hardwoods like maple.


Birch serves as a good middle ground between ash and maple in the construction of baseball bats. It is tougher and more durable than ash due to its tighter, closed grain structure, yet it offers more flexibility than maple, providing a well-balanced sweet spot. This flexibility makes birch bats capable of compressing upon repeated impact without fracturing, a property that enhances their durability. Over time, this compressive characteristic allows birch bats to “break-in,” potentially increasing their performance as the wood fibers harden and condense through repeated use. However, this feature also means that birch bats typically require a break-in period before they achieve optimal performance, as the wood needs time to adjust to the impacts.


Maple bat has extremely dense and hard characteristics, which offer excellent energy transfer for potentially longer hits. Featuring a very tight and closed grain structure, maple is less prone to flaking compared to ash bats. However, this tight grain does not allow much flexibility, resulting in a harder hitting surface at impact. While this reduces the likelihood of superficial damage, it also makes maple bats more susceptible to catastrophic failures, such as snapping, if they do break. Additionally, maple bats are generally heavier and less forgiving than ash, possessing a smaller sweet spot and potentially being more difficult to control.

As of recent years, maple has become the most popular wood used for baseball bats, especially in Major League Baseball (MLB). This shift toward maple began in the late 1990s and early 2000s, largely influenced by prominent players who preferred maple bats for their hardness and potential for driving longer hits.

Historically, ash was the dominant wood choice due to its flexibility, lighter weight, and forgiving sweet spot. However, its popularity has declined due to its susceptibility to flaking and breaking, alongside the rise of maple’s durability and performance.

Birch and bamboo have also found their niches, with birch being appreciated for its blend of ash’s flexibility and maple’s hardness, and bamboo noted for its durability and environmental sustainability, though less commonly used in professional settings due to league regulations.

Overall, maple stands out currently as the preferred choice among professional players for its dense, hard characteristics that facilitate powerful hitting.

How to Position the Label Up or Down


When you step into the batter’s box, first position your feet, then extend the bat over home plate to check your plate coverage. At this time, the label of your wood bat should be facing either skyward or downward towards home plate. As you move the bat into the loading stage, it will naturally be in the correct position for contact with the baseball.

Please note that there are elite MLB players who actually have the label face the ball without breaking their bats. Freddie Freeman is one of those elite players who consistently swing his bat with the label face towards (or away) from the ball.


In Conclusion

The advice “Always keep the label facing up or you are going to break the bat,” along with similar phrases, all convey a fundamental guideline: ensure that the label is not on the side that makes contact with the ball. This positioning helps ensure that the stronger, more durable edge grain of the wood absorbs the impact of the hit, thereby reducing the likelihood of the bat breaking.

The type of wood used in a bat significantly affects how it feels and performs. Maple, known for its hard and solid feel, offers less give, making it less prone to superficial damage but more likely to snap under certain conditions. Ash provides more flexibility and a smoother feel, ideal for those who value a forgiving sweet spot. Birch, on the other hand, strikes a balance between the two, offering more durability than ash and more flexibility than maple. Each wood type presents a unique mix of flexibility, durability, and performance characteristics, allowing players to select a bat that best matches their hitting style and preferences.

However, it’s important to note that while positioning the bat with the label facing up can help in using the stronger part of the bat, thereby potentially extending its lifespan, it does not guarantee the bat won’t break. Wooden bats, being natural products, inherently have flaws and weaknesses. The placement of the label is based on a best estimate and is subject to these natural imperfections.

For more information, please read my other post ‘What Should I look for in a baseball bat

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