By Brian Duryea
To understand Lizard Skin grips in baseball you need to understand their history. Nearly 20 years ago a start-up Utah company began supplying polymer grips and bar tapes to high end road bike, mountain bike and BMX racers. The grips needed to perform in all types of weather while providing the spectrum of comfort and feel depending on the discipline and preference of the rider. No company was providing that type of offering in their handle and grip space at the time so Lizard Skin, the name of that start-up, saw the need and filled it. Today they are known worldwide for an array of quality built grip and handlebar tape on any line of bike you can imagine.
It is actually surprising it took nearly 18 years after their foray into the bike grip space for Lizard Skin to get into the baseball space. But some fortune arose when John Buck, a Mariner’s Catcher, made some friends at Lizard Skin and, as they say, the rest is history.
They’ve made the climb in baseball for much the same reason they are a worldwide brand in bike grips: recognition that different players use different bats and each bat needs its own type of grip. Further, each hitter has his own preference when finding the right feel and look. With 18 years of experience in perfecting different grips for competitive bike racers, the transition to producing grips for competitive baseball players was pretty straight forward: options, success in all types of weather, and a great feel.
Considering just over two years ago Lizard Skin had yet to produce and sell a single baseball grip, their ascent into the baseball psyche has been nothing short of remarkable: big names in baseball now use lizard skins religiously–Robinson Cano, David Ortiz and Hunter Pence to name a few; Lizard Skin just inked a deal with Combat Bats to supply Lizard Skin grips out of the factory on their metal Portent line; it appears, if I’m reading the twitter-leaves correctly, they are soon to do a similar deal with Louisville Slugger in the wood bat line; among the little league ranks Lizard Skin grips is common place and well respected as a major success in form and function.
Lizard Skin for baseball bats come in three degrees of thickness: 1.8mm, 1.1mm and 0.5mm.
Most using wood bats use the 0.5mm thickness which keeps the feel of the lumber yet provides exceptional grip without the mess of pine tar. Considering how many bats have been thrown into stands recently due to poor grip, I expect we see a greater demand for these. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day the MLB required synthetic and permanent grip on bats.
Little leaguers looking for the most cushion and feel usually prefer the 1.8mm which gives the greatest sting dampening and confidence to swing hard at the plate.
The middle ground is the 1.1mm for those in the transition phase to wood bats or those with wood bats looking for a bit more cushion.
But all sizes work on all bats and each player to his own. The catalog of colors and designs appears endless: simple, black, camo, neon and striped in all colors of the rainbow (and then some if that’s possible).
I recently re-wrapped three bats for each one of my sons with Lizard Skin grip. The 1.8mm seemed most appropriate considering they all are under the age of 13 and the bats are metal. We have some older composite bats which needed some new grips and happen to be their favorites in the leagues where they can use them (and are the best bats ever made). I have never wrapped a bat in my life. I watched a video of how to do it. I suspect with practice I could have done better and I felt like the third bat I wrapped was definitely better than the first.
They all turned out very acceptable and my sons were very excited about the new grip on their old bats. There were a couple of very tiny kinks in the wrap as I tried to force the wrap to go at the correct angle. I found that by the next morning many of those small creases worked themselves out and they are, to my critical eye, pretty much unnoticeable now.
Overall the experience was pretty simple and clearly added both form and function to the bats. The grips feel good. My son was surprised at how ‘grippy’ and comfortable they were. We put some water on one to see how it would respond and while it can be slippery when wet we learned that the water doesn’t soak into the wrap but, instead, wipes right off for an even stickier feel. They look much improved and ‘sick’ as my sons pointed out. Choosing the right color scheme on a bat makes a lot of the difference.
In a sport that has been around nearly as long as America itself Lizard Skin somehow created an entirely new category: customized baseball bat grips for any player, anytime, anywhere. In that space they’ve made a significant run with all signs pointing to open field ahead.
And probably the greatest validation to Lizard Skin Baseball grips? Big name conglomerate companies are now scrambling to the space with knock-offs of their own. With a two-year head start, a very fair price point and already great traction in the MLB, I suspect those copy-cats will learn pretty quickly that it’s hard to catch someone who first learned to run on a bike.