The instinct to pick up a stick and swing at something surely originated when we were a culture of hunters and gatherers, protecting ourselves from faster predators, feasting on the slower ones. The best stick swingers probably worked together, finding solid lumber for an adequate defense, passing on their skills and wisdom to their children for the good of the community. As we settled in more stable homes and no longer feared attacks from nature, except for those who live in Australia or Florida, the instinct to pick up a stick and swing at something slowly transitioned into entertainment and sport.

Golf. Hockey. Cricket. Baseball.

I think I was in fourth grade, maybe fifth grade, when Dad bought me my first wood baseball bat. I have no idea where he found a bat small enough and light enough for me to use. Most people would have mistaken it for kindling. I didn’t have any pine tar, so Dad wrapped some of his white surgical tape as a grip. I could not wait to take it to the batting cages.

Fun Acre batting cages, across the street from All-Pro Automotive, used to charge a quarter for 10 pitches. Thirty-five years later, it still costs a quarter but only five pitches are thrown. Paying for hitting practice at Fun Acre has significantly increased my desire to swing at absolutely everything. My current concept of the strike zone is above my ankles to eye-high and if the ball isn’t going to hit me, then I’m going to hit it.

The new wooden bat with the white surgical tape grip, so loved, so precious, didn’t survive long. I swung at a pitch in on the hands and felt the crack immediately. It never saw game action. I didn’t get another wood bat until my family moved back to Springfield in 2012.  

I now own two wood bats. They are both high quality pieces of lumber, surviving thousands of swings. They are both significantly cracked and are only held together by massive amounts of duct tape and love. Neither one of these bats would survive tryouts. They barely survive swings at Fun Acre.

There is fear in buying another wooden bat. It only takes one pitch to turn it into toothpicks. I don’t have the resources or connections to invest in several bats for what may end up being a one day experience.

I learned of MacDougall & Sons Bats while researching America at the Seams. I had significant difficulty finding a baseball story for the state of Oregon and brainstormed random search strings when I happened across the website of John MacDougall. I read every single word, watched every video, and sent an email to Nate Rueckert of Baseball Seams Company — “Found a story for Oregon.”

The Oregon story is the only story in the book centered on a bat. Ever since my first conversation with John almost three years ago, I’ve wanted to own a MacDougall bat.

MacDougall bats are BBCOR certified, which means a MacDougall is perfect for all high school and collegiate baseball play. It’s also been approved for Perfect Game and Connie Mack games. But there is so much more to a MacDougall.

MacDougall bats have been tested and proven to provide more pop than other pro maple bats, especially on hits away from the sweet spot. Where a good slider will shatter a pro bat, MacDougall’s simply don’t break. Period.

To back up that claim, MacDougall bats come with a FIVE MONTH WARRANTY. This is exactly the assurance I needed.

And the company is 100% green — getting a large portion of their electricity from wind and recycling all of the wood scrap and sawdust back into their community. A baseball bat company who respects their environment.

It took almost three years, but now I can proudly say I own a MacDougall bat.  

For the past couple of months, Mark and I have been meeting for catch and batting practice. We’ve tracked down a couple locations where we can work on our swings in preparation for the August 4 tryout.

Last week, as dark skies threatened all around, I swung my MacDougall. There simply is no comparing this bat to my other two name-brand bats. It surpasses them both in feel and performance, even just in batting practice. Thanks to my Fun Acre training — I only use the duct-tape bats there — I swung at pretty much everything Mark threw my direction. Their custom-made grip tape felt fantastic under my gloveless hands even when I hit balls off the hands and off the end of the bat.

And then I squared one.

The sound of a baseball hitting a wood bat is one of my favorite sounds in the world.

Mark took a turn swinging my bat. He hit multiple baseballs that I heard as they passed me. He hit the ball so hard that I got anxious throwing batting practice, throwing pitches high and wide because I was too busy making sure I was ducking behind the net.

There are less than two months until tryouts and I want to get my swings in.

So, Kansas City Royals and Springfield Cardinals and Missouri State Bears and Drury Panthers and Queen City Crush and any and every other team in or near southwest Missouri, if you’ve got any hitting camps to teach this old dog some new tricks, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Come August, I want to feast on fastballs and slow curves.