History of the Bat Weight & Why It Doesn’t Work Like You Think

Where did the bat donut come from and does warming up with a bat weight actually help your hitting? We look at the history and science of an on-deck circle mainstay.
A Major League Baseball on-deck circle with a row of bat weights for players to warm up.

Baseball players have long held the idea that warming up in the on-deck circle with something heavier than your bat will improve your swing when you hit. It has caused something of a scientific conundrum, as warming up with a bat weight, or weighted bat, will physically hinder performance but provide a psychological uptick.

Types of Weighted On-Deck Warmups Through History

Lead Bats (aka “loaded bats”):

Lead bats were a longtime standard in the game. They were regular wood bats with a 16-ounce hunk of lead embedded near the end of the barrel. These weight-implanted bats date back to the 1800s and were common in on-deck circles for more than a century.

Multiple Bats:

Until “Elston Howard’s On-Deck Bat Weight” was introduced in 1967, ballplayers would frequently add weight with … more bats. It’s uncommon in a modern ballpark, but seeing a big-leaguer twirl 2 or 3 bats around his head like a helicopter in the on-deck circle was pretty normal even into the late 1990s.

Elston Howard’s On-Deck Bat Weight (aka “bat donut”): 

New Jersey inventor Frank Hamilton’s bat weight became quickly popular in the big leagues. A cast-iron donut dipped in rubber, Frank partnered with his neighbor Elston Howard to help sell the product. Elston also happened to play for the Yankees, a 1-time MVP, and 9-time All-Star. The product quickly became popular across MLB—Elston’s teammate Mickey Mantle adopted the bat weight in his final season—and was quickly replicated by other companies. The bat donut is still found in most dugouts across all levels of the sport.

Sledgehammer [a literal sledgehammer]:

Dennis Werth didn’t have a long Major League career, but his peculiar on-deck ritual caught on with his more notable Yankees teammates to give him an odd place in baseball lore. 

As an amateur player in Illinois, Dennis worked on his father’s farm. He typically used a lead bat before hitting but misplaced it. So, one night Dennis took the 8-pound sledgehammer that he had been using to tear down a concrete wall. It became a permanent part of his baseball bag, and when he reached the big leagues, Yankees teammate Bucky Dent noticed, gave it a try, and saw his batting average shoot up 22 points in a month.

The famed “Lumber Company” Pittsburgh Pirates famously carried on the sledgehammer tradition with baseball legends Dave Parker and Willie Stargell intimidating from the warmup spot. You could even find Barry Bonds in the late 1980s with a sledgehammer in the on-deck circle at Three Rivers Park.

Tire Iron [a literal tire iron]:

Throughout his career, Royals 3-time All-Star Hal McRae frequently took a tire iron to the on-deck circle. It was a fitting extension of his intensity but was never popularized around the sport.

Shopping for an On-Deck Bat Weight

Unless you’re shopping at your local hardware store, most hitters prefer on-deck bat weights that slide, or wrap, onto the barrel of your bat. They typically add between 4 and 28 ounces of weight to your bat.

Pow’r Wrap: 

You’ll find a 24 oz. Pow’r Wrap in every Major League on-deck circle. The Pow’r Wrap slides onto the barrel and covers the sweet spot. With a longer profile than a donut, the weight is distributed a little further. You can find different weights and sizes of Pow’r Wrap for $20-35 online or at your local sports store.


Bat donuts are simple and ubiquitous. They slide on and give an end-loaded warmup to your bat. You can find donuts in a variety of weights, most typically between 4-16 ounces.


Several sporting brands have 20 or 24-ounce rubber-lined sleeves that drop onto the barrel. They’re sort of like a donut with a weight distribution more like the Pow’r Wrap. You can find a bat sleeve for $10-15. 

Heavy Bat (aka Heavy Trainer):

Some bats are only made to be heavy. These are well-balanced, with a weight shift that will feel more similar to your actual bat action. Heavy trainers typically run around $75-100.

Using a Bat Weight in the On-Deck Circle Decreases Bat Speed

Baseball players have long used weighted bats or heavier objects to make their actual bat feel like it’s moving faster. But, according to a 2011 study from the University of Hawai’i, batters who warm up with a donut or other weight actually have decreased bat speeds. It has been corroborated by other studies.

Using a bat weight in practice, on the other hand, increases bat speed by increasing strength. 

Bat Weight Can Increase the Mental Edge

Thanks to what’s called the “kinesthetic illusion,” feeling that the barrel is getting around faster might actually give you enough psychological boost to overcome the reduction in actual bat speed.

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