Look after your bat (and the other stuff) properly over the off-season.
Many and varied are the ways we treat our beloved gear at the end of a long season. Perhaps you left your kit bag in your mate’s car at the end of the final match and haven’t bothered to go round and pick it up yet (you should do – think of your wet towel). Possibly – after a below-par season-return – you’ve disowned the entirety of your 2015 stash altogether, leaving it to fester in a far-flung away-team dressing room. Or maybe it’s all just fuel for a therapeutic bonfire.
But the chances are that many of you will be seeking to retain the tools of your weekend toils for another year. And if that’s the case, here are some suggestions on how to make the most of what you’ve got.
Tempting though it is to fling your bag straight in the garage – sweaty pads, soiled whites, hidden biscuits and all – you’ll be much happier opening it back up in a few months’ time if you’ve emptied it out properly and kept it somewhere cool (not hot, not cold) and dry. An outside facility often seems most practical, but if it’s a cold winter then you’re running the risk of damp affecting your willow, while proximity to a maxed-up radiator inside the home can create the opposite problem. Stick a cover on your bat, pop it in your bag, and tuck that away in a cupboard. January is bleak enough without having to scrape mould out of the inside of a full-length wheelie.
If you’re not planning to use your stick for a few months, there’s no need to oil it right away. Just get it safely stowed away and – other than the odd imaginary knock in front of the mirror when no one’s home – only get it out again in the run-up to your winter nets. At this point though, it is important to engage the linseed. A light coat of oil after a prolonged period without using it is well worthwhile, as the bat’s inclined to dry out a bit over the time off and will be more likely to break if you haven’t shown it a bit of love. Heading home with a split blade is hardly the start you want to your potentially career-defining pre- season. A word of warning, though: when it comes to oiling – at any time of year – any bat-maker will tell you the same thing: don’t overdo it. Over-oiling is actually a bigger problem than under-oiling – adding weight, reducing ping potential and even causing the wood to rot. Treat oiling as you would designing a living room for a keen minimalist: less is more.
Use of a protective anti-scuff sheet has been a good way of preserving the blade and staving off surface cracks in recent years, and here at AOC we’re all for them. But a new season has to be worthy of a change-up. So our strategy is as follows: when putting your bag into hibernation, leave the face on so as to minimise the effects of heat or damp, then when you take it out again, take the face off, give it an oiling, let it dry and then apply a brand new anti-scuff. Simple but effective, and, when done right, not a little beautiful.
BACK TO THE NETS
Whether it’s pedestrian net practice, intense one-to-one training or even an indoor match, think about the ball you’re using and the way you wield your weapon. And then choose your bat accordingly. It only takes one chump turning up to nets with a brand new ball – and a cheap, plasticky one at that – to do some serious damage to an unprepared stick. All the more so if you’re wildly throwing the bat at everything that comes down. If any of those things are likely, consider deploying a less treasured blade for the first couple of sessions. Your No.11’s well-sunned Gray-Nicolls Sabre should do nicely.