If you want to hit your absolute best this year you’ll want to know how to buy and choose a baseball bat.
There’s a couple things to consider when you make your picks and you’ll learn everything you have to here. By the time you’re done reading I’m sure you’ll be ready to get your new bat.
Know The League And League Rules
There’s many different leagues from Teeball to Junior League to High School and beyond. Each has their own set of rules for which bats are acceptable and which aren’t.
Here’s some guidelines for each different league and age level:
- Teeball: Teeball is for younger players just starting out – kids between the ages of 4 to 6. Starting January 1st, 2018 all teeball bats have to be certified by USABat and will need a USABat mark. The following text will be on the bat: ONLY FOR THE USE OF APPROVED TEEBALLS. If you have a bat purchased before September 1st, 2017 you can purchase a sticker from USABat and you can find more information about that process here.
- Little League Major And Minor League Division: Little league is for boys and girls between the ages of 7 to 12 (there’s usually a minor league for younger kids which uses pitching machines or coach pitching). The pitching distance is 46 feet and distance between the bases is 60 feet. Little league bats don’t need certifications and don’t need to be Little League approved. They do, however, need to be 33 inches or less and can’t be more than 2 and 1/4 inches in diameter. Wooden bats in little league divisions have to have a BPF (bat performance factor) of 1.15 or less and it must be printed on the bat.
- Intermediate Leagues: Intermediate leagues is for players between 12 and 13 is a step before entering JV and Highschool baseball. The pitching distance is 50 feet and the distance between bases is 70 feet. Generally these leagues are the first leagues you can take a leads when on base. Senior league bats can’t exceed 34 inches and and the diameter can’t exceed 2 and 5/8 inches. If using a wood bat, the smallest part of the bat can’t be less than 7/8 of an inch. The taping of the wood bat can’t exceed 18 inches from the small end.
- Junior League: Junior League is for players between the age of 12 and 14. They use the typical pro dimensions and distance to the pitching mound is 60 feet and 6 inches while the distance between the bases is 90 feet. The bat standards for Junior League is exactly the same as Intermediate Leagues.
- Senior Leagues: Senior Leagues are made for players between the age of 13 to 16 and the field dimensions are the same as Junior League. Senior League bats can’t exceed 36 inches and the diameter can’t exceed 2 and 5/8 inches. Wood bats must meet the same standard as the Junior and Intermediate League standards. All senior league bats can’t have a drop (the numerical difference between the length of a bat and it’s weight) of more than 3. For example, if a bat is 34 inches long it can’t weigh less than 31 inches (this is known as a -3 drop). Also, and this important, every bat must have a BBCOR certification on the bat. A BBCOR stamp of approval looks like this:
- High School And College: High school bats need the same BBCOR stamp of approval as shown up above. Also, these products must be between 31 inches to 34 inches and their barrel can’t exceed 2 and 5/8 inches.
It’s important to check with each league too. They may have additional rules put in place that aren’t required in other leagues.
Getting The Right Length And Weight
Next, you need to make sure you get the right length and weight. This is really important and I ran into this issue when I was younger. Growing up I was one of the better players in my town but I never had my own bat – I just used the team bat.
When I was in 4th grade I was asked to try out for an older All Star team. I was really excited and wanted to make the team badly.
When I got to the field, though, I had to use the bats supplied by the coach. The only problem was the bats were made for kids older than me and they were too heavy for me to swing effectively.
When I got to the plate I could barely swing the bat and was having a hard time hitting the ball into the outfield. As you can expect I didn’t make the team and I was heart broken.
For my birthday I asked for my own bat and got one that fit me perfectly. The next year I tried out for the team and made it.
Here’s a chart that’ll help you get the right length:
Pretty easy, right? So if you’re between 121 and 130 pounds and are between 53 inches and 56 inches tall, you’ll want a bat the length of 30 inches.
As far as weight goes there’s a few things to remember. First off, high school and college bats have to be minus three drop. So if you decide on a bat that’s 34 inches it must weigh at least 31 ounces – there’s isn’t too much to think about in terms of weight with older players.
You have to consider weight more for younger players. When I was younger I was tall and lanky. My swing was very dependent on speed and because of this I didn’t want or need a heavy bat. I specifically struggled in try-outs because the bat was too heavy.
Just keep in mind you’ll get more bat speed with a lighter bat and more power with a heavy one.
If you’re a little confused this video should clear things up:
Composite, Alloy Or Hybrid?
After you have the size picked out you need to focus on the materials that make up the bat. Unless you’re in the pros or in a wooden bat league, you’ll want a metal bat. If this is the case, there’s three options for you to choose from: composite, alloy and hybrid. There’s pros and cons for each material, such as:
- Composite: Composite bats are the most expensive (between $200 and $400 and even more) and tend to give you the largest sweet spot and pop. You can easily manage the swing weight with these types of products and you can get a composite bat with the weight in the end or more balanced. Also, these products produce less painful stings on miss hit balls. Anyone that’s played baseball long enough knows the value of this. On the downside, these bats shouldn’t be used in cold weather and aren’t the most durable on earth (they’re more durable than wood but less so than aluminum). Also, you need to break these bats in and it’ll take between 150 to 200 hits before a composite bat is game ready. It’s recommended to rotate the bat after each hit during the break in time so you evenly break it in.
- Alloy: Alloy bats aren’t as expensive as composite bats because they’re easy to make – you can buy a new alloy bat for between $50 to $300. One positive is you can use this bat in any weather and another is it’s game ready right away. You won’t have to spend time breaking this product in. These bats have good durability too. On the downside, these bats tend to have a smaller sweet spot when compared to composite and less pop. Also, they don’t do a good job reducing vibrations on miss hit balls and that can lead to painful stings to your hands.
- Hybrid: Hybrid is the perfect middle ground between composite and alloy and uses both of those materials – the handle is made from composite and the barrel is made from alloy. Because it’s designed this way, these bats are ready to go right away and there’s no need to break them in. Also, the composite handle ensures you won’t get as many painful stings from miss hit balls. They can be used in any temperature too. The cost is between composite and alloy and these products are priced around $200 and $300. The sweet spot and pop of these bats are between composite and alloy too.
This video goes a little more in depth:
As you can see there’s pros and cons of both materials but composite bats tend to be higher performing.
One Piece Or Two Piece?
Bat construction is the next thing to think about and you can get either a one piece construction or a two piece construction.
A one piece construction uses one metal through out the bat from handle to barrel. These products tend to be stiff and are well balanced. The downside is they don’t control vibrations well and this can lead to painful stings to your hand.
A two piece construction has two pieces of metal (can be the same or different materials) that are fused together where the barrel meets the handle. These bets tend to have more flex and dampen vibrations – this means less stings to your hands.
I wouldn’t say one is better than the other and it really just comes down to personal preference.
Is Wood An Option?
Some people may be thinking about a wood bat. I wouldn’t really consider one unless you’re in an all wood bat league or in the pros.
If that’s the case you’ll have few options in terms of the type of wood that makes up the bat. Each has their own pros and cons, which are:
- Maple: Maple is the most popular among pros and gives you the most power. It’s also the hardest wood you can get for a bat. These bats tend to look good and help give you protection for inside pitches. While they give you the most pop, the sweet spot is the smallest out of all three wood types. Because of this, maple bats aren’t recommended for beginners and aren’t for people that haven’t swung a wood bat before. These products tend to be rigid and pretty heavy too – you must be strong to purchase.
- Birch: Birch bats are the perfect middle ground between maple and ash. These bats have a pop that’s similar to maple and a flex closer to ash. That makes birch perfect for people who are new to wood bats. This type of product offers good protection against inside pitches too. On the downside these bats need to be broken in before using in game and they tend to be heavy.
- Ash: Ash is the lightest of all woods and has the largest sweet spot. Because of this it’s great for contact hitters and people that like to spray the ball around the diamond. This bat has the highest flex and the most forgiving too. This product won’t give you the power and distance of the previous two woods, though. Also, it doesn’t protect well against inside pitches.
Your hitting style should guide you when selecting which type of wood bat to get. Power hitters should go maple and singles hitters should go ash – people in between should purchase birch.
Setting A Budget And Picking A Brand
Lastly, you need to work within your budget and to pick a brand. If money isn’t an issue I would go with a composite bat – these bats are the highest performing, have the largest sweet spot and are generally just the best.
If money is an issue you can still get a high quality bat. There’s plenty of alloy and hybrid (and wood) bats that’ll help you or your child play at a high level.
You should also stick to a bat from one of the known bat makers. My favorites include:
- Louisville Slugger
There’s more too and if you’d like to take a look at the top brands click here. If you buy from these guys you know you’re getting a top of the line product and one that’s going to help you crush the ball.
Don’t Step To The Plate With A Low Quality Bat
There’s nothing better than connecting at the plate and hitting the ball solidly. There’s no doubt a well made bat will help with this.
I hope after reading this post you feel informed and are able to comfortably by a new bat.
If you have any questions you can comment below and I’ll make sure to respond as quickly as possible. You can search around the baseball section under the team sports category for more tips and gear reviews.
Are you excited to try out your new bat?