2019- Gear Guide
Baseball America|November 2019
2019- Gear Guide
TECHNOLOGY AND STYLE MARK THE LATEST IN BASEBALL-CENTRIC GEAR
Tim Newcomb

Bats that are enhanced with new technology, cleats that bring style to the game and gloves embracing the most premium of materials mark just a few of the trends cropping up in the latest baseball gear.

As companies look for new inroads into the game—no matter the age of player—the mix of technology, style, and materials mark the path to creating something new.

Companies are using the latest advancements to not only enhance the performance on their products but also the look and feel. These products are made for all levels and most can be bought off the rack (or online) and personalized.

This year’s Gear Guide explores the intersection of trends and gear across bats, gloves, cleats, protective gear, accessories, and gifts, highlighting a crop of the latest products now available to keep the game—and the gear that fuels the game—moving forward.

Bat-Makers Embrace Technology for Unique Performance

Technology surrounds the bat game. As strict organizational rules regulate so much of the BBCOR, USSSA and USA bat market, every brand looks to put their own distinctive spin on the barrel, the connections, the materials, and the manufacturing specifications to give their creations a special place in the batter’s box.

The intensity of options across bats, from aluminum to composite and even to wood, seems never-ending. We’ve waded through the options to highlight the best of what brands have to offer.

LOUISVILLE SLUGGER has updated its popular Meta-model with the 2020 LS Meta BBCOR (-3). Using a special composite barrel engineered for a lightweight swing that includes a large barrel and a “true” sound, the three-piece design features a stiff connection to reduce vibration. The special endcap design allows for a larger BBCOR barrel length, while the balanced swing strives for a combination of speed and power.

“We created a monster last year with the first rendition of the Meta, and we quickly realized that there had never been a BBCOR bat like this before,” said Joey Nowak, associate marketing manager for Louisville Slugger. “The challenge for the new 2020 model was to provide more players with that never-before-seen level of performance. Our team was up to the task. They did it.”

Nowak calls the new Meta a sleek aesthetic with “incredible feel, massive barrel profile and unmatched performance.” The bat is also available for customization through the Wilson-led online site.

The 2020 DEMARINI GOODS series is the newest in the DeMarini lineup. The bat made a debut as players from Michigan and Vanderbilt swung it in Omaha at the College World Series, and it joins the main lineup with an alloy barrel. The brand said it is “power-loaded and built with a stiffer connection designed for elite power hitters.” The new family also has a one-piece design available.

On the USSSA side, the 2020 DEMARINI CF ZEN uses composite barrel technology. A new ReAction end cap offers an improvement on barrel performance while increasing swing speed.

The MIZUNO B20 series leads the way for the brand with both the B20 MaxCor and B20-Hot Metal. The MaxCor features the brand’s VP Sleeve + HotMetal core construction to create a wider sweet spot with additional power. The composite taper and handle aim to reduce vibration for a better feel.

“The softer sleeve creates addiitonal spin rate off the bat, leading to more distance, especially at optimum launch angles,” a Mizuno spokesperson said. “It’s definitely one of the most unique-feeling bats you will ever pick up and use, but the technology and results are real.”

The B20-Hot Metal highlights the powerful, single-wall aluminum alloy with new CorTech that adjusts wall thickness across the barrel for what the brand calls an aggressive sweet spot. The engineered end cap features a “booming” sound off the bat. “Performance data plays such a big factor in the game now, and the Hot Metal really shines in that area,” a spokesperson said. “The finely-tuned engineering and design is why this bat provided the highest exit velocity recorded (106 mph) at a Prep Baseball Report showcase this summer.”

The 2020 AXE AVENGE from Axe Bats uses three-piece composite construction for a BBCOR design. The variable-layer charged carbon barrel is the brand’s largest and fastest-swinging BBCOR offering, and a new composite cap shaves weight for more balance and a larger barrel with the increased sweet spot. A vibration-canceling system with shock-absorbing technology in the handle partners with the patented axe-handle design that the brand said improves bat speed and barrel control.

Trevor Stocking, Axe’s director of product marketing, said the Avenge displays the ideal combination of speed and power. “Not only is it again the fastest-swinging bat in its category, but it also has our largest BBCOR barrel and sweet spot,” he said. “We achieved this by adopting a new variable-layer Charged Carbon barrel construction and creating a lighter, sleeker, HyperWhip composite cap.”

RAWLINGS has introduced the Velo ACP with two inches of carbon composite for a thinner alloy wall and the lightest swing weight possible, the brand said. “With this bat, we can ensure a longer, flatter barrel, sting control to minimize vibration and increased barrel flexibility,” a Rawlings spokesperson said.

OLD HICKORY has created something brand new for ballplayers in the wood department. After months of testing and working with professional players, the new steel-pressed bats use a proprietary process to compress and compact wood, making it “exponentially harder,” the brand said. Using a proprietary high-gloss finish, already one of the hardest in the game, Old Hickory is now offering a 30-day warranty on all Steel Pressed bat products.

Built for Power and Speed

Designed for a combination of power and speed, the Easton ADV 360 -3 offers a two-piece composite design for barrel tuning. With the two-piece construction featuring a connection with proprietary Nitrocell foam to isolate the handle from the barrel for a more solid feel and power, the Power Boost soft knob technology creates additional leverage and power potential while reducing vibration and improving comfort for the bottom hand. The carbon handle is built from 90 percent carbon fiber to create stiffness, with feel. The balance of power and speed includes a more flexible and responsive barrel with a natural sound.

“The ADV 360 is one of the most technologically advanced bats in the game,” said Easton Dan Jelinek, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “The product innovation will not only drive momentum in the market, but help instill confidence in players of all ages on the field.”

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November 2019