While there’s plenty of nostalgia associated with the return of Easton’s famed B5 Pro Big Barrel bat, dubbed the “Green Easton” after its original 1978 release, there’s also ample technology built into the remade 2021 version, enough technology Easton hopes the new B5 Pro can have the same impact as during its first decade.
“If you look at the list of all the guys who used Easton in Little League and all the way through college, it is a good list of guys,” says five-time MLB All-Star and World Champion Luis Gonzalez, who swung the bat through college. “Easton was the mark everybody wanted to have.”
Easton, an arrow-making company born in 1922, made one of the first-ever aluminum baseball bats in 1969, but then really took over baseball in 1978 with the launch of the B5 Pro Big Barrel, a 2-5/8” barrel diameter that changed the game by dropping weight, offering up -3, -4 and even a -5 version. By using a higher-strength alloy with thinner walls, Easton took the weight out of the bat without sacrificing durability, creating the B5 Pro Big Barrel first as a -4, four ounces of weight less than the length. Instead of players topping out at a 31-inch or 32-inch bat, the dropped weight from the 71/78 aluminum alloy allowed players to step up to a 33 or 34 while swinging the largest barrel yet made.
And it was popular. When the bat launched in 1978, eight of the nine players on the College World Series-winning team swung it. When Little League approved aluminum, Easton became the bat of choice. And before Easton was a major brand name, the silver body with the subdued green — Pantone 3415C — had players simply asking for the B5 Pro by its color, quickly becoming known as the Green Easton, from Gonzalez to Bo Jackson and Tino Martinez to Mark McGwire.
“When the Easton bat came out, that was the thing to have,” Gonzalez says. “We grew up in a community where we didn’t have a lot of money. To have that bat and go up to the plate with a Green Easton, you were an established ballplayer. It drew fear to everyone, (if you had) that green and silver.”
That same engineering know-how that gave Easton a unique perspective in the late ‘70s and ‘80s has moved into the 2021 version, a one-piece aluminum model using a a high strength alloy that allows Easton to vary the wall thicknesses at different stages in the barrel, all without rings to stabilize it. “This design will provide a very unique feel on contact for players compared to other 1-piece models,” says Dan Jelinek, Easton President and industry veteran. “It will provide better feel and more power across the entire barrel with an optimal sound. There are many subtleties our engineers have learned over the past 40 years that we didn’t know in 1978.
The ringless design with varying wall thickness produces a larger sweet spot with more barrel flex and smoother feel for the BBCOR bat, Easton says. Research shows players prefer a stiff handle, so the extra-stiff ATAC alloy handle meets player requests while handling more energy transfer. A handle insert reduces vibration.
Easton still features a range of bats, from a two-piece composite to composite handles and aluminum barrels, but Jelinek says the following for a one-piece aluminum has never wavered. “With this trend in one-piece, stiff aluminum bats and the history of this bat being what it was, the lightbulb just went off for all of us that we really have a platform to build on here,” he says. Add in the current trend of classic heritage styles across multiple industries performing well and Easton had a chance to retell the B5 Pro Big Barrel story, “how it changed the game and how it is relevant today.”
Martinez, four-time World Champion, two-time MLB All-Star and high school teammate of Gonzalez, says he remembers picking it up for his freshman year in high school after making varsity. “It was just a great bat,” he says. “I didn’t think about the engineering at all, I just picked it up. I’m serious, I picked it up and I crushed the ball with it. I found the barrel of the bat every single time. I don’t know what it was, it was tapered perfectly from handle to barrel, it wasn’t top heavy. It had the perfect balance. When I got to the Minor Leagues and started using wood bats, I tried to pick one with the same type of feel, without too thin a handle or too thick a barrel.”
He wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Martinez hit third his junior year, with Luis Gonzalez hitting second in the same high school lineup. “I would grab another bat in the on-deck circle with a donut, but when he was done hitting,” Martinez says, “I would go pick (the Green Easton) up and use the same bat.”
The 2021 version, which became available for pre-sale in September, brings back that original silver and green colorway, initially targeting the high school and college market. “There is no one technology on the market that appeals to every player,” Jelinek says. “However, we do think the new B5 Pro’s combination of high performance with simplistic classic design will appeal to a very large segment.”