Baseball players naturally rotate their hands while swinging, attempting to generate power, even if the rigid nature of the bat and knob fight against them. Easton wants to turn that natural desire into a natural movement by creating a bat with a rotating handle.
The California-based company released its new Mako Torq bat to college athletes during the spring, and to the best Little League players in the world during the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
The new bat, available to the public in September, frees the bottom four to five inches of the bat handle to rotate 360 degrees—the length of the rotating piece depends on the size of bat. The bat’s knob remains permanently in place and connects all the way through the barrel, but a permanently affixed self-lubricating washer allows the shell of the handle to rotate.
The concept was born from an Easton bat engineer who, after taking hundreds of cuts in the company’s batting cages every day, injured his hand’s hamate bone (the small wedge-like bone in the outer part of the wrist) on a bat’s knob.
“He felt the knob of the bat was acting as a speed bump,” Calin Thomas, Easton spokesperson, tells Edge. “The friction of the knob was what caused him to break his hamate bone.”
The engineer then started playing in Easton’s machine shop and pretty soon had a crude form of a rotating bat mechanism. Two years later the Mako Torq aims to generate power for batters, as well as keep the hamate bone safe.
When playing around with the Torq outside the batter’s box, the rotating handle is very obvious. But the movement during a swing isn’t noticeable.
Thomas says hitters with a “weak grip,” in which they start with knuckles lined up, often keep that grip through the entire hitting zone and don’t experience any rotation. Hitters holding the bat deep in their palm in a club grip can have the Torq handle rotate as much as 30 to 45 degrees.
“When you start with your knocking knuckles on your left hand lined up with your top knuckles on your right hand, you see how much your hands need to rotate,” Thomas says. “We found out hitters are trying to get into position and their hands were moving on the bat.” The Torq does the work for them now.
“The bat’s rotating handle allows hitters to be shorter to the zone and longer through the zone in a more ideal hitting position,” he says.
UCLA head baseball coach John Savage says “the barrel is staying on the ball longer.”
During the Little League World Series, players could chose from any of three Easton bat models, including the Mako Torq. While Thomas couldn’t disclose the exact usage of the bat, he did say it received “some good on-field play during the tournament,” equaling plenty of rotating bat handles.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.