Bat manufacturers have been ink dotting maple bats since Major League Baseball (MLB) changed its rules regarding maple bats in 2009. What does the ink dot mean, though?
The ink dot is required for maple bats used in MLB play, because it helps to better view the tangential slope of grain. The tangential grain is not as visible as the radial grain, which is normally what we think of when we think of the wood grain of a bat. With two-thirds of the bat, starting at the knob, needing to be within the three-degree slope of grain requirement, it is important that we can see the tangential grain to determine if a bat meets the requisite slope. By highlighting that grain through the use of the ink, we can better determine the tangential slope of grain.
To help ensure the straightest grain possible, we use hand split maples billets that allow our bats to to be cut from billets that have been prepared by following the natural grain of the wood. While sawn billets can still achieve the required slope of grain, the hand split billets are produced with that being the primary goal. Extra handling of the materials and attention to detail is required by the billet maker, resulting in higher costs, but we believe it also results in a superior product.
Since we are approaching a decade since this requirement took hold, we know that more people are becoming accustomed to seeing the ink dot on their maple bats, but understanding the information that ink dot provides is still a mystery to many. Hopefully we have helped shed a little light on what the ink dot is, and how we use it in producing the highest quality bats.