For longer than a century, even before Bud Hillerich convinced his father that the future of their Louisville-based woodworking shop was in making bats for sluggers, the design of the baseball bat has remained largely unchanged.
Sure, we’ve seen it made with different materials and metals; we’ve even see rotating handles, bigger and longer barrels and other wacky performance-enhancing features. But, by in large, the shape of the bat has not changed.
The AXE Bat does the seemingly impossible by changing the shape of the baseball bat. Specifically, this revolutionary design sculpts the handle and knob of the bat to reflect the look and feel of an axe handle.
According to the AXE Bat’s website, this handle “is designed for the biomechanics of your swing. With a more natural swing and improved range of motion, you’ll achieve better bat speed and control.”
They make an interesting claim that the knob of a baseball bat was never intended to be round. It was simply the best design that the equipment of the time could produce on a mass scale. Thus, it was never really designed for the natural curvature of the player’s hands. The purpose of this buying guide is to investigate this claim and others and see how the untraditional design of the AXE Bat stacks up to competitors and their top bats. We’ll take a look at the history of AXE and how their reputation has made them a sudden standout competitor in the bat industry. Then, we’ll look at AXE Bat reviews for individual AXE baseball bats and softball bats and see what other features and perks lie in wait under the hood of these sticks.
AXE Bat Reputation
“Baseball people, as a rule, are generally allergic to new ideas,” was a remark made by Branch Rickey, a baseball person himself and the man responsible for putting Jackie Robinson at the forefront of a sports and social revolution. In follow up, Rickey talked about how it took years to convince people to put numbers on the backs of uniforms. Thus, it is easy to see how the baseball world could be resistant to something that changes the shape of one of their most beloved instruments. This avoidance of the new is arguably why it took Steve Leinert, the AXE Bat inventor, so long to find a buyer. People just weren’t ready for something that new. This raises an interesting question about how the AXE Bat’s reputation is faring, as they gain more traction, especially with Major League Baseball and its players.
So far, the two biggest users of the AXE Bat at the Major League level are Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts, teammates on the Boston Red Sox.
This isn’t coincidence and the change is largely caused by Boston’s hitting coach, Chili Davis, who believes that the AXE Bat is going to revolutionize batting. That said, it was only recently that the AXE Bat was even certified for play in the Majors. More players could catch on, especially given the impressive seasons that these players are having. Largely, the reputation of the AXE Bat is a mix of skepticism, curiosity and simple lack of awareness. According to Pedroia, “I’m not sure a lot of guys know about ’em. It’s usually the traditional models.” The players who do know about the AXE Bat are either curious, or skeptical. Players are superstitious about their bats, which makes it hard for them to make a drastic switch. However, they are definitely catching on. They might not be the ‘norm’ yet, but there are an increasing number of Major Leaguers in Japan that are using the axe-handled bats. Outside of the Majors, these bats are gaining momentum as well. There are even a few college teams, like the University of Memphis, that exclusively use AXE Bats. Eventually, that curiosity is going to cause some of the skeptics to convert.
AXE Bat Reviews
As promised, the final portion of this buying guide is dedicated to showcasing some of AXE’s best products and how they match up to competitors. As many of these bats have the same features and technologies, some of the AXE Bat reviews will be shorter than normal. As always, we will include a number of different models and types for different levels of play and hitting preferences.
BBCOR AXE Bats
Senior League AXE Bats
Softball AXE Bats
Wooden AXE Bats
History of AXE Bats
The origin of the AXE Bat is in upstate New York. A woodworker, when chopping down a cedar tree, had the realization that the motion of burying his axe into the tree was a lot like swinging a baseball bat. In fact, it felt even better and more natural to him. Almost instantly, the tradesman, Bruce Leinert, went to work in his shop to create the first AXE Bat prototype. When he was finished, he brought it to Baden Sports and they loved the idea enough to buy it. From there, the AXE Bat prototype got a scientific makeover. The engineers at Baden Sports went to work studying the biomechanics of a player’s swing and examined the ergonomics of the axe-shaped handle carefully. They made countless tweaks and adjustments to the curve of the handle until it matched the natural shape of the hitter’s hands perfectly. Once they had the handle crafted and sculpted to their liking, the next was to look into one-sided hitting. Because of the untraditional curve of the bat, the AXE Bat uses the same surface to hit balls each time. In other words, it isn’t symmetrical like a normal bat. It’s construction is designed to make the hitting side of the bat more effective and durable, since it bares the workload of every contact. With the finished design in hand, the AXE Bat hit the market. Now, it is available for all levels of play in both baseball and softball leagues. There are metal, composite and wood AXE Bats, so any player can enjoy the benefits of the axe-inspired handle. Despite being unconventional in design, these bats have quickly solidified their place in the market. There are college programs that are exclusively using the AXE Bat because of its benefits. And, even some Major League Baseball players have converted, like Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. The bat has even found a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Why Choose (Or Don’t Choose) An AXE Bat
It’s reasonable to have skepticism regarding the AXE Bat. Not only is it the ‘new kid in the neighborhood,’ in terms of bat companies, but it is also a different looking animal than what we are accustomed to. It’s easy to doubt or be wary of something new. At first glance, the AXE Bat’s design may even seem gimmicky, which begs the question, “Should I really choose an AXE Bat?” To answer this, we’ll break down some of the pros and cons of this unique construction.
In a study regarding the biomechanics of the AXE Bat compared to round knobbed-bats, researchers found that the axe-inspired handle really is more comfortable. Since it matches the natural contours and angles of the batter’s hands, it actually produces more surface area to grip and a more even distribution of pressure across the hand. A round bat, on the other hand, produces concentrated areas of pressure on the lower hand, which is not only less comfortable but causes all of the energy to be absorbed in a single spot on the hand. This poorly distributed grip is actually why many players choose to grip their bat at certain angles, to try and compensate for this.
In the microseconds before a batter makes contact with the ball, a lot happens with the player’s grip during their swing. As they are bringing the barrel head around to make contact, the other end of the bat – the knob – is turning inwards. It actually pushes into the palm of the batter’s hands and, as this happens, the force of the swing can actually cause the player’s grip to be wedged open; it creates a gap space between the handle of the bat and the player’s hands. Overall, this produces an unstable grip that results in the player not being able to put all of their power and force into batted balls. The AXE Bat overcomes this because it doesn’t have a rounded knob to produce this uneven point of pivot on the palm. Instead, the bottom part of the handle is flat against the palm, which creates a much larger area of pivoting. Thus, there is no wedging that occurs to force the player’s grip open as they swing.Instead, the grip is supported by the wide area of the palm making contact with the handle at all points of the swing leading up to contact.
Defined as the time it takes from the point the bat hits its peak swing speed and the moment of contact, bat whip is all about speed and angle. As you swing, the bat produces an angular speed, as a result of the fast motion. The idea is to reach the top angular speed at the same time you make contact. A traditional bat with a rounded knob creates a tighter, acute “whip angle” during the swing, whereas the AXE Bat produces a slightly more obtuse angle.
Again, this is largely because of the flat back of the bat’s handle, compared to the rounded edge of the knob. This difference in angle may seem slight; it’s only about a 15-20 degree difference. However, hitting is a precise science and every small increment matters. This change in angle produces a larger window of opportunity to accelerate the bat and produce more bat whip through the strike zone. This allows the hitter to generate more speed in their bat at the moment of contact and a faster swing leads to more power and explosiveness exerted on batted balls.
When we think of injuries in baseball and softball, we mostly think about those caused by running, diving for a ball in the outfield or being hit by a pitch, but even swinging a bat can cause a number of injuries, especially to the hands. One of the most common batting injuries is harm to the ulnar nerve and hamate bone. The ulnar nerve and hamate bone are located at the part of the palm where the knob of traditional bats impinges into the skin. When a batter makes contact with a traditional bat and the knob has wedged their grip open, this opening of space allows the knob to rebound and oscillate at a high velocity which can damage the ulnar nerve or even fracture the hamate bone. The force is greater the farther away from the bat’s “sweet spot” the ball is hit. Missing the ball can also cause damage to the ulnar nerve because the bat’s angle drives the knob even deeper into the tissue of the palm. When batter’s accidentally let go of a bat in their swing, it’s often because this nerve was painfully pinched and caused the hands to loosen their grip entirely. The AXE Bat’s elimination of the rounded knob means it greatly alleviates the pressure on the ulnar nerve and hamate bone. While the player’s hand may still feel the painful “bat sting” of a poorly hit ball, the handle isn’t free from that batter’s grip to bash around violently against the palm. Because there’s more surface area of the palm in contact with the bat, the energy is dispersed and far less damaging to the hands.
One Sided Hitting
Perhaps the biggest drawback to choosing an AXE Bat is getting used to the idea of using only one side of the bat to hit. The bat is designed to give the hitting side extra reinforcement, so it doesn’t break easily from the added workload, but the idea of it may take some time to adapt to. Even the handle itself isn’t going to feel natural at first. Thus, you may not want to switch to AXE Bat mid-season, but it’s something to look into in the off-season, especially with all of these other benefits. By the time opening day arrives, you’ll be comfortable with the change and ready to mash balls.
Despite their growing popularity and rise in usage across all levels of play, from youth leagues to the Majors, AXE has maintained what they call the “30-Day Challenge.” Most bats are covered by a 12-month, manufacturer’s warranty, which covers certain breaks or cracks in metallic bats. Wooden bats are rarely, if ever, covered by any sort of buyer protection plan. The 30-Day Challenge ups the stakes and allows players to try out an AXE Bat for 30 days, with absolutely no risk.
Via the AXE Bat website:
“Take the AXE Bat NO RISK 30-day Challenge! Use your new AXE Bat in the cage, in batting practice, in-game – wherever and however you want. And if you don’t love your bat after 30 days, just return it and we’ll refund your money.”
This trial period is, without a doubt, designed to let the skeptics give the bat a try. It eliminates the worry of potentially spending hundreds on a bat that you can’t adapt to or don’t like enough to switch from your favorite stick. It’s really a genius tactic because, even the players that return the bats are likely going to share their experiences and spark more conversations about AXE and the future of bats. If the company’s reputation continues to build and AXE Bats become more popular, there may be a time when they no longer offer this no-risk, 30-day trial. So, if you’re curious about the AXE Bat, it’s a good idea to jump on the opportunity now, rather than later.
The AXE Bat has many skeptics, as is to be expected. After all, this is baseball. And, as Branch Rickey taught us, baseball people are allergic to new ideas. There’s perhaps no idea newer than changing the shape and look of a baseball bat. But, now that these bats have been around for a few years and even started to find their way into the hands of sluggers like Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts, some of those skeptics are starting to come around. It’s still early to tell if AXE will revolutionize hitting and the way bat handles are made to the capacity that some AXE fans speculate it will. That said, the research that has been conducted into axe-inspired handles is very compelling, especially for the ability to reduce and prevent injuries to the hand. It’s unlikely that AXE Bats will appeal to every hitter. However, even in the short few years that they’ve been around, they quickly transcended from a seemingly gimmicky product to a bonafide, professional-level baseball bat. As mentioned earlier, they do have the 30-day, no-risk challenge to test out an AXE Bat for yourself. This is worth it for any player who is the least bit curious in seeing how the AXE Bat might improve their game. Hopefully, the above AXE Bat reviews have helped you decide which product is best for you to test and enjoy.