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What does Pine Tar Do on a Baseball Bat? (Solved!)

For centuries, pine tar was best known as a sticky substance used by mariners as a sealant for their wooden ships.

Today, however, the first association to this blackish material produced by pinewood carbonization is baseball.

Baseball players use it on bats, gloves, balls, and other pieces of equipment. In this sport, the games are often decided by the tiniest of margins.

So, the players always try to find things that can provide them with even a little bit of edge.

Using pine tar is one of those little things that can lead to at least slight improvement in a performance which can be all the difference between winning and losing.

Below, I’ll explain what does pine tar does on a baseball bat and how and why baseball batters use it.

What does Pine Tar Do on a Baseball Bat?

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Being a hitter in today’s baseball is anything but easy.

They have to react in milliseconds and connect with pitches that often go faster than 100 miles per hour.

In addition, every good pitcher has a couple of different pitches in their arsenal, so hitters face balls that are not just very fast, but also extremely tricky and unpredictable.

To be able to connect with these kinds of pitches, hitters need to have superb control over their bat and that is only possible with a perfect grip.

And, this is where pine tar comes into play.

Better Grip Leads to More Control and Improved Safety

Baseball bats can often get kinda slippery, especially in hot weather during the summer when most baseball games are played.

Pine tar is sticky and has a sort of tacky texture. Applying it to the bat adds to tackiness and enables hitters to get a better grip on their bats.

By holding on to your bat better, you gain better control of it and more confidence while swinging.

This also helps the player have a more relaxed grip which adds to more pop on the contact with the ball.

The safety factor also should be mentioned.

Applying pine tar on a baseball bat improves the safety of everyone on the field.

With a good grip provided by the pine tar, a hitter doesn’t have to worry about the bat slipping out of his hands while swinging and accidentally hitting one of the players or a member of the audience.

How Far Up can You Put Pine Tar on a Bat?

Baseball bat used by George Brett in the Pine Tar Incident on July 24, 1983. by Mattingly23 (CC BY 2.0)

Unlike pitchers who are banned from using pine tar, hitters can legally use the “sticky stuff.”

However, there are some restrictions. Per Rule 3.02(c) of the MLB rulebook, a bat can be treated by material or substance to improve grip but only up to 18 inches from its end.

In case a bat has any substance, including pine tar, above this limit, the bat will be deemed illegal and removed from the game.

The hitter will have to replace that bat.

Nevertheless, if the excess substance is removed, the bat can be used later in the game.

The reason for this rule is that pine tar on the upper part of the bat gives the batter an unfair advantage.

While they’re allowed to use pine tar for extra grip, the sticky substance on the barrel gives the ball more spin and makes it fly further and higher.

How to Pine Tar a Bat?

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Pine tar that batters apply to their bats can come in liquid form, as a paste or a gel, or in stick form.

Pine tar sticks  are the most common and the most widely used.

They’re also the most portable, the easiest to use, and the least messy.

Clean the Bat

When applying the pine tar to a bat, you first have to make sure that the bat’s surface is clean.

Any dirt, grass, or debris left on the bat will likely get stuck with the pine tar.

So, the first thing to do is wipe the bat with a clean rag. If needed, wet the rag with a bit of cleaning alcohol.

Prepare the Pine Tar

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Once you’ve cleaned the bat, prepare the pine tar. If you have the liquid or paste tar, apply it to the lint-free towel.

Also, you can purchase pine tar rags  specifically made for this purpose.

If you’re going with pine tar in stick, uncap it and expose one or two inches of pine tar.

Apply the Pine Tar

Now, you can start applying pine tar to the bat. How much you’ll apply depends on your personal preference.

Some batters prefer a lighter coating, while others like the more thick pine tar layer.

When using liquid or paste with a towel, roll the handle along the towel until the bat is covered with pine tar.

With a stick, run it along the handle and roll the handle at the same time for a more even coating.

Apply the pine tar until you’re satisfied with the amount.

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When you finish applying the tar, you can pat it with a rosin bag .

This will provide an even better grip and make the surface of the bat more sticky and tacky.

How do You Remove Pine Tar from a Bat?

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While pine tar is useful and brings many benefits to the batters, it can be somewhat difficult to clean off the bat, especially when it picks up bits of dirt and turf.

This makes it lose its stickiness, so you’ll have to clean the bat before applying new pine tar.

One way to do this is by first softening the tar with heat.

Then, you can use a rag soaked in cleaning alcohol  and rub the handle moving the rag in one direction toward the handle.

When done, wipe the bat with a dry rag to remove any wet spots.

For the particularly hardened pine tar, you can use a putty knife or sandpaper to scrape it off.

Just be careful not to damage the surface of the bat.

Conclusion

A good grip and proper control of the bat are crucial for hitters to be able to deal with all the pitches coming this way.

So, most of them do whatever they can to improve their grip and feel more comfortable with the bat in their hands.

Using pine tar and applying it to the bat handle is one of the most common ways to achieve this.

While the baseball authorities have been cracking down on the use of foreign substances to improve performance, pine tar is legal as long as it’s applied no more than 18 inches from the handle.

However, the rules have been changed many times and debate on the use of pine tar in baseball still rages on.

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