PULLMAN, Wash.–Researchers and developers from Washington State University and TriDiamond Sports in Spokane are designing, engineering and testing a stronger, more durable wood bat that will step up to the plate in performance.
The wood engineering faculty and TriDiamond management have created a unique manufacturing process that warrants one approved patent and has additional patents pending. The next phase of research in fiber reinforcement and automation technologies will enhance the product even further. Commercialization is expected within two years, says Don Bender, director of the Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory in WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture. Other players on the next-generation wood bat team are wood engineering faculty members Lloyd Smith and John Hermanson, and TriDiamond Sports manager Joe Sample.
Already, TriDiamond and the WMEL have experimented with and produced better lamination and composite techniques and reinforced “wraps.” WSU’s Cougar baseball team is test-swinging some of these experimental bats, but their normal supplies are aluminum bats, used by most college and high school teams. The sweetest wood bats – which cost about $50 each and can break anytime from 1 to 100 swings – are reserved mainly for major-league use.
TriDiamond’s improved laminated wood bats (not the ultimate model yet!) go to major, minor and summer league teams and 30-50 college teams, says Sample. “We make as many as 1,000 bats a month, and are capable of increasing that number to 5,000. Our mission is to produce a bat with consistent quality and predictable performance at an affordable price.”
Bender says the reengineering will produce bats more than 25 percent stronger than conventional wood bats, “but we don’t intend to ‘juice’ them. The goal is durability, which has positive implications on cost and safety.”
EDITORS: photo possibilities — The TriDiamond manufacturing facility in Spokane, WMEL in Pullman, or Cougar Baseball batting practice at Bailey Field through April.