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As a softball player, you want to optimize your skills so you can perform well and help your team to win more games. The primary tool in your quest to improve as an offensive player is your softball bat. Using the wrong bat can have a negative impact on your ability to reach your hitting potential. On the other hand, the right bat can make all the difference in the world and allow you to perform better than you ever thought possible.
Points To Consider When Buying A Softball Bat
The key is in finding the right bat. You need one that suits your body and allows you to swing as quickly and freely as you can. What you hope to achieve as a hitter may also be a consideration when picking out your bat. Some bats are more conducive to the long ball where others work better for contact hitters looking to hit line drives and get on base.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a softball bat. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should think about before adding that bat to your arsenal.
Different Bats For Different Games
Bats are manufactured to be used for either baseball, fastpitch softball or slowpitch softball. There are substantial differences in each type of bat, so you need to get a bat that is made specifically for your game to obtain the best results. Softball bats will tend to crack if used to hit baseballs. A baseball bat can be used for softball but it will be a little heavier and harder to swing. Baseball bats also have a greater diameter than adult softball bats, and may not be legal in your league.
There are also significant differences in slowpitch or fastpitch softball bats. Fastpitch bats tend to be lighter and more streamlined to allow for the faster reaction required to hit the fast pitched ball. Slowpitch bats tend to be heavier and have a larger barrel, making for a bigger sweet spot and increased power on contact. You will find that high-end fastpitch bats are more expensive than a high-quality slowpitch bat due to the materials and technologies employed in their design.
Choices In Bat Construction And Materials
There are a number of choices you need to navigate regarding the materials and method of construction used to manufacture your bat. The biggest choice is in materials, where you can choose a bat made from traditional wood, aluminum, or composite materials. Hybrids also exist that are made from a combination of aluminum and composite. Your other choice is whether to use a one-piece bat or one designed with multiple components fused together. Let’s take a look at what advantages these various options may offer the player.
Metal, Composite or Wood?
As a softball player, you have the choice of using a traditional wooden bat or one of the more modern metal or composite designs. A bat made out of wood needs no explanation. Aluminum bats are made out of aluminum or aluminum mixed with other metals to increase the alloy’s strength. Composite bats are made out of fiberglass, carbon fiber, graphite and other proprietary materials. Each type of bat has distinctive properties that may influence which bat you choose. Wooden bats are used primarily in slow pitch softball.
Ash, maple, and bamboo are the most commonly used woods used in modern bat construction. They offer the least-expensive alternative when looking for a softball bat, and a good quality wood bat can be found for under 100 dollars. Players looking for bat control will favor an ash bat. It offers more flex during the swing and will work better for contact hitters. Maple is the wood of choice for power hitter’s bats. Maple is a harder wood which creates a very stiff bat. This leads to more force exerted on a struck ball, therefore more power and distance. Bamboo is used in some bats that employ more than one wood type to create a hybrid. When your wood bat cracks, it needs to be replaced.
Bats constructed from aluminum or alloys rely on the metal’s strength to enable the bat to have thinner and very responsive barrel walls. They can be constructed with multiple barrel walls. Most aluminum bats are one-piece bats. Aluminum bats do not crack, like wood or composite bats, though they may dent. They can be used when dented as long you can fit a bat ring over them, indicating the denting is not severe. A high-quality aluminum bat will cost less than a similar composite model. You need better swing mechanics to get the same performance from an aluminum bat as you would with a composite bat. This is because the aluminum bat will have a smaller sweet spot than the composite one.
The light-weight materials used in the manufacture of composite bats allow the bat’s barrel to be lengthened without adding any extra weight. They have a larger sweet spot which can be an advantage for players who have not yet mastered the hand-eye coordination required for good swing mechanics. Composite bats are usually multi-piece bats, with different materials used for the handle and barrel to achieve different performance specifications. Unlike wooden and aluminum bats, composite bats require a break-in period prior to reaching their maximum potential. Composite materials also allow for a greater trampoline effect on a batted ball, where the barrel walls compress and then send the ball back with greater force.
There are hybrid bats out there that try to incorporate the benefits of multiple materials in their construction. An alloy barrel with a composite handle will enable the bat to have a longer barrel with no added weight.
Choosing the Correct Length and Weight Bat
Here is a chart showing proper bat length based on height and weight. This should be seen as a starting place for sizing your bat.
You want your bat to feel comfortable in your hands, so these are guidelines and you may want to experiment with bats a little longer or shorter than recommended.
There are some hands-on tests that can be used to help you determine your correct bat length. With the bat at your side, and your arm hanging naturally at the same side, you should be able to reach the bat handle with the palm of your hand. You can also try holding the bat handle against your chest and seeing if you can grip the barrel. If so, then the bat is a good size for you.
Now that you have the correct length in mind, you need to determine what weight gives you the best chance to consistently make a great swing. A lot of players think that their best chance to hit hard and far is with the heaviest bat they can swing. This can work against you by slowing your swing and can lead to arm and hip injuries. Swinging your bat quickly and easily through the strike zone should be your ultimate goal.
Drop weight is the difference between a bat’s length in inches and its weight in ounces. A bat that is 30 inches long and weighs 24 ounces has a drop weight of -6. It is a term you will commonly see in bat descriptions. A larger drop weight indicates a bat that is lighter and easier to swing.
Maximizing your swing requires you to consider both the weight and length of the bat. Contact hitters, who are not as interested in power, will benefit from a long and light bat that will let then get a fast swing. Heavier bats will be favored by power hitters whose main concern is in generating distance when they do connect with the ball. Be open to experimenting with different lengths and weights to find what works best for your game. It may be challenging to find the right bat, but the results will be worth your effort.
What Does Balanced or End Loaded Mean?
The next choice you can make when buying a softball bat is whether to get one that is balanced or end loaded. Here again, the type of hitter you aspire to be may be a determining factor in your decision. Here is a good video that shows the difference between end loaded and balanced softball bats.
Balanced bats have their weight distributed evenly throughout the bat. This leads to a faster, smoother swing and is why a balanced bat is best for contact hitters and players with average power. Youth players should use a balanced bat in most cases, as it will help promote a good swing.
Bats that are end loaded have extra weight located in the barrel of the bat. They usually have lower drop weights than balanced bats and are harder to swing. Power hitters often use end loaded bats because if you can handle the extra weight, they will generate more power when making good contact.
One Piece Or More?
The last major factor to consider in your softball bat is whether to use a one or two-piece model. There are advantages to each type of bat.
Single piece bats are generally stiffer and have minimal flex. Many power hitters like this type of bat. Mishitting a pitch with a one-piece bat can cause hand-stinging vibrations. Working your swing to avoid these stings will improve your hitting. This sensory feedback is lessened or absent in a two-piece bat.
The barrel and handle are separate pieces that are fused together to make a two-piece bat. Some manufacturers are even using more than two pieces to achieve their performance specifications. The barrel flexes at the point of contact, which creates a trampoline effect and affords the hitter more pop on the ball. The stinging hand vibrations are minimized, making it a more comfortable bat to swing.
The lack of feedback, however, can trick a player into thinking they are hitting better than they are or expecting the ball they just smacked to take a longer airborne trip. Check out this video for a look at the differences between these types of bats.
What Is The Best Softball Bat For You?
To help you get to where you want to be we will look at some of the best softball bats available for you to use. Whether you play fastpitch or slowpitch, there is a bat here that will work well for you.
1. Worth Mayhem Wood All Association Slowpitch Softball Bat – Best Wood Bat, Best Cold Weather Bat and Best Bat under $100
If you are looking for a wooden bat that is reasonably priced and takes advantage of technology by using the combination of different woods, the Mayhem by Worth is a great choice. This bat is made with a durable bamboo core and wrapped with a maple hitting surface that results in a nice pop on contact. Like some wood bats where the weight can vary, the Mayhem is guaranteed to weigh exactly 28 ounces. Though a hybrid, it appears as a one-piece bat. Bat control is provided by a comfortable grip. You can get one for about 80 dollars and it approved for play by all regulatory associations. Its a nice bat for those desiring the feel and sound of a traditional wood bat.
2. DeMarini 2018 CFX -8: Best Fastpitch Bat For Power Hitters
In this bat, DeMarini has produced a two-piece, composite stick that power hitters will love. It has a drop weight of -8 and is end loaded, making it perfect for players wanting to use a heavier bat to swing for the fences. It features a two-piece parallax barrel created from proprietary composite materials. Precision weighting and excellent flex give you tremendous pop. Rounding out this bat’s features are DeMarini’s 3Fusion end cap and comfortable RCK knob. Approved for both ASA and USSSA play, this is a serious bat for serious fastpitch players and sports a price tag of around 350 dollars. Definitely an investment in your game, but it could be well worth it as you watch that game-winning home run fly out of the park.
3. DeMarini 2018 CFX Slapper -10 Fast Pitch Bat – Best Bat For Slappers
DeMarini does not only make great bats for power hitters. The CFX Slapper is a two-piece composite bat made for those slap or contact hitters on your team. It provides excellent plate coverage with a long, 14-inch barrel and gives the player excellent barrel control with weighting back toward the hands. It can still generate some pop with its parallax composite barrel for those times when you want to switch up your hitting style. It comes in lengths from 31 to 34 inches and uses the 3Fusion system to optimize bat control. The streamlined handle and ergonomically designed RCK knob give the player great feel and help reduce vibration. ASA and USSSA approve this bat for use in league play. It is a top of the line bat and costs around 350 dollars if you want to get your hands on it.
4. Anderson Bat Company Rocketech Slow-Pitch Softball Bat – Best Metal Bat
Anderson’s Rocketech is a single piece bat constructed using aerospace grade alloys. This bat has been manufactured to be durable and resists cracking and dents by employing the company’s patented power arch technology and multiple barrel walls. A thin whip handle generates more bat speed and complements the power in the end loaded barrel to create a great all-around slowpitch bat. It is available in weights from 26 to 30 ounces and is approved by all major softball associations. This is a great alloy bat that will not require a break in period. At around 250 dollars it is an excellent choice if you like a one-piece, metal bat.
5. Miken Ultra II SSUSA Bat – Best Senior League Slowpitch Bat
Senior league players will love this bat by industry leader Miken. It is a two-piece, composite bat that boasts of excellent durability. Miken’s E-Flex Ultra Technology gives the bat a large sweet spot and increased trampoline effect. Plate coverage is enhanced by the bat’s 14-inch barrel and thin handle, letting you handle outside pitches with ease. You can get it in weights between 26 and 30 ounces. It is only approved for use in Senior League play and costs around 200 dollars.
6. Easton FS300 Fastpitch Softball Bat- Best Youth Bat
Easton’s FS300 is a great bat for the youth softball player in your home. It is a one-piece, aluminum bat that is available in lengths from 28 to 33 inches. The drop weight is -11, making it easy for young players to swing. It has an All-Sports grip for bat control and is approved for play by all major softball associations. This quality metal bat costs less than 100 dollars and is perfect for players new to the game.
7. DeMarini Steel Slow Pitch Softball Bat – Best Single Wall Metal Bat
This bat is made out of a carburized steel barrel and an alloy handle to create a single wall bat that performs as well as a multi-wall model. It features a 13-inch barrel and stiff handle that minimizes flex and delivers more power and performance. Available in weights of 26 to 30 ounces, it is approved for play by USSA and ASA. The bat costs around 200 dollars and is great for situations like tournaments where a composite or multi-wall bat may not be appropriate.
8. Debeer Clincher Softball Bat – Best Clincher Bat
Debeer bats are not easy to find, but if you play with 16-inch clincher balls its worth your while to try. They are considered the standard for hitting the larger balls. You can find used ones around on the net. Your best bet if you cannot find one is to use a heavy slowpitch bat of at least 32 ounces if you are going to play with clinchers.
Things To Be Aware Of With Your Softball Bats
Composite bats need to be broken in before use if you want them to perform at their best. Here is a video showing how to break in your composite bat.
A wood bat works fine until it cracks. Metal and composite bats can go dead and give you reduced performance while not actually breaking. In the case of metal bats, they will dent and lose their pop. Composite bats will crack, though a spider-web appearance indicates that the bat is properly broken in and should not be a concern.
Bat shaving and rolling are techniques that make your bat illegal. They are attempts to increase the power and distance achievable by composite bats. Some people use this as a shortcut to properly breaking in their bat. You and your bat can be thrown out of a game if found using an illegal bat, and there may be penalties for your team or coaches as well.
I hope this information helps you decide which bat is right for you. You can buy bats online and in local sports stores, and sometimes it is best to feel that bat in your hand when making your decision. Good luck and keep swinging.
Composite bats – break in and rolling – http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/bats/abi.html
Composite vs Aluminum bats -http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/bats/compalum.html