Shohei Ohtani’s Asics Gold Stage bat has evolved over his time in the MLB. While he started his career with Japanese Ash, Ohtani hit the bulk of his homers with Maple before switching to Birch for 2022. We spoke to a few manufacturers about this recently, and there is some debate over why Birch has so quickly come into favor. Fundamentally, Birch wood has hybrid qualities, with hardness similar to Maple and flex/forgiveness similar to Ash. This is a happy medium for a lot of hitters, and its also known to become harder as you hit with it and the wood becomes more compressed.
Those are great reasons to switch, and one pro bat manufacturer said he wouldn’t swing anything else but Birch. Another factor could be scarcity, as Maple was difficult to source in 2022, according to another bat manufacturer. The manufacturer attributed the shortage to a late, wet winter that made harvesting Maple wood difficult in the dense northeastern forests. That scarcity didn’t necessarily wipe out Maple entirely, but it made QUALITY Maple harder to come by, so the thought is that Birch might have stepped in for the 2022 season. With its benefits, however, it’ll be interesting to see if Birch continues to challenge Maple for popularity in the MLB.
There is very little to be found about Ohtani’s bat model, though we found that he swung a 33.5″ inch, 32 ounce bat in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The Japanese inscription on the label is as you’d expect, “Shohei Ohtani.” GQ did this interview (below) with Ohtani about his 10 favorite things, but whoever was running the interview didn’t ask any meaningful questions about his gear, so there isn’t much to be gleaned from it. Hunt Asics lumber on eBay, but we haven’t yet found any Birch.