Me And My Bat Pride. Possessiveness. Passion. A belter can have a welter of feelings for his most important professional partner. Just listen to these sluggers

March 25, 2002

SAMMY SOSA, RF, CHICAGO CUBS
MAKES AND MODELS: RAWLINGS AND HOOSIER (CUSTOM); LOUISVILLE
SLUGGER R161
SIZE AND WEIGHT: 32 INCHES, 34 OUNCES

I'm very, very protective of my bats. Look, I keep them at my
locker. I don't like anybody to touch them. I care for my bats
like I would care for my baby--with love and protection. When I
was playing in the Dominican Republic, I used to sleep with my
bat. A bat is something you can trust and love. I don't have a
problem if someone asks to borrow a bat. But if you grab it
without my knowledge--that's a bad idea. A very bad idea.

MARK GRACE, 1B, ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
MAKE AND MODEL: RAWLINGS 256B
SIZE AND WEIGHT: 34 INCHES, 32 OUNCES

I've been boning my bat since the minor leagues. Putting a cow's
femur on it causes the bat to be harder. They've been doing this
since the old days. I'd bet Babe Ruth was doing it. And I
consider myself a throwback ballplayer--no tattoos or earrings
or anything like that. If I'm using a bat, there's usually a
bone nearby.

I don't wear batting gloves, so I use a lot of pine tar and a
lot of rosin, and it makes for a good grip. I just don't like
batting gloves. I'll wear 'em when it's cold, but you can't get
a good feel for the bat. I like the feel of the wood.

I don't sleep with my bat or anything. Some guys don't let
anybody touch their bats. I don't mind, except pitchers. I don't
want pitchers touching my bats. The pitchers will suck all the
hits out of 'em.

I've used the Rawlings 256B since my rookie year [with the
Cubs]. I was using some other bats, and I broke 'em all on a
road trip. And Ryno [Ryne Sandberg] used to use these. I said to
Ryno, "I broke all my bats. Do you mind if I use one of yours?"
I ended up having a real good week with Ryno's bat. I've been
with 'em since.

ROBIN VENTURA, 3B, NEW YORK YANKEES
MAKE AND MODEL: LOUISVILLE SLUGGER C235
SIZE AND WEIGHT: 34 INCHES, 32 OUNCES

Only one thing matters to me: If a bat feels good, I'll use it.
I don't care if it's mine or not. It's all about feeling good at
the plate. My main model is the Louisville Slugger, but I'll use
anything that's sitting around if it feels good. I just pick up
a bat and see how it feels in my hands. And if I'm going good
with a bat, I won't change.

I borrow bats all the time. Once, when I was with the Mets, I
used Mike Piazza's bat. It's heavy. I used it against a
curveball pitcher and hit a home run with it my first at bat.
But that was an aberration. I never got another hit with it. A
couple of times I've had a big hit or home run and the club will
ask for my bat and then they'll say, "Wait, this is somebody
else's bat." I tell them, "I know. That's the one I used." That
grand slam single [that won Game 5 of the 1999 National League
Championship Series against the Braves], though? That one was
[hit with] my bat.

I keep a collection of bats at home. I don't mean autographed
ones. I'll ask guys on my team or even other teams for a bat,
and they'll go, "Do you want it signed?" I tell them, "Nope. I
just want the bat." I have probably 30 to 35 models from guys. I
don't have a wine cellar, so I keep bats stored instead. I'm
always either trying them out or lending them out. Guys tell me
what they like, and I'll see if I have something like it. In
1999 I gave Roger Cedeno one of my own models. He wound up using
that model just about the whole year.

I'm not real particular about my bats. The finish doesn't really
matter to me. I'll use all kinds. Some guys use dark bats for
night games [thinking umpires don't see checked swings as well
and fielders can't read the bat as well]. I don't believe in any
of that.

MIKE PIAZZA, C, NEW YORK METS
MAKE AND MODEL: MIZUNO (CUSTOM)
SIZE AND WEIGHT: 34 1/2 INCHES, 33 OUNCES

I'm very careful with my bats. They have a tendency to walk
away, if you know what I mean. After every game I make sure to
lock them up in the clubhouse. I'll carry my gamer back to the
clubhouse myself after a game, especially when I'm swinging the
bat good. I'll lock it up in a special place in the equipment
manager's room. When we travel, I make special arrangements for
my bats. I won't give away any secrets about those arrangements,
though.

I have to keep close track of my bats because of two things: the
growth of the memorabilia industry and the lack of good wood.
Must be the depletion of the world's rain forests, because good
wood is harder to find. That's why you hate to lose bats. Every
once in a while Mizuno will send me a shipment of bats, and I
can tell the box has been ripped open and taped back up again,
with some bats missing. One time a guy called Charlie [Samuels,
the Mets' equipment manager] and said he paid $1,700 for one of
my game-used Rawlings bats. Charlie told him there's no way it
was a game-used bat. I only use Mizuno in games.

The kind of grain is important, but the most important thing to
me is definitely balance. You know how I can tell if it's the
right balance? I tap the barrel end twice on the ground, like a
tuning fork. The good bats have a higher pitch. If it makes kind
of a dull sound or rattles, it's no good.

To me, it's worth it to take really good care of my bats,
because when I have just the right balance in the bat and I'm
swinging the bat good...man, it's like the pinnacle of pure
hitting. There's nothing like it.

CARLOS DELGADO, 1B, TORONTO BLUE JAYS
MAKE AND MODEL: LOUISVILLE SLUGGER T141
SIZE AND WEIGHT: 35 INCHES, 34 OUNCES

I'm a purist. I keep it simple. I use the same model all year. A
little bit of pine tar. No finish. Pure.

I've got two racks at [the SkyDome]. When I get a dozen
Louisville Sluggers, I'll go through all of them. Maybe four,
five or six--seven, tops--will be good enough to use in a game.
They go in one rack. The others go in the other rack--they're for
batting practice.

I go by feel and also by how the bat looks. I want wide,
straight grain. If the wood is too pink, it's no good. If it's
too dark, it's not good. They are all the same model and
supposed to be the same size and weight, but you can feel the
difference. I'll pick one up, give it a dry swing and put it in
one rack or the other. Simple.

The only thing I do special is I keep my bats away from the black
bats [in the team bat bag.] I don't want my bats all marked up.

I've tried the maple bats. I've used them in batting practice
because they're harder to break. But they don't seem to be
consistent. You can have the same model, but one may feel very
different from another. I want the bat to feel the same all the
time. That's just the way I am.

COLOR PHOTO: ART STREIBER/MONTAGE[T of C] THREE B/W PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ART STREIBER/MONTAGE TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ART STREIBER/MONTAGE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)