There is no sweeter sound in sports than the crack of the bat against the ball to drive in a base hit or – even better – send one out of the field. However, selecting the right baseball bat for yourself or the little slugger in your household might feel like being in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and bases loaded! After all, there are many factors to consider when buying the best baseball bat for you or your child’s skill set.
With new advancements and technologies – as well as varying lengths, weights and materials – the process for how to choose the right baseball bat can seem daunting at first. Yet, simple factors such as knowing the parts of a bat, the different bat material types, and how to find your correct baseball bat size (along with specific leagues’ bat regulations) can help make the process a cinch.
Anatomy of a Baseball Bat
A standard baseball bat for kids and adults alike can be broken down into 6 main areas:
the end cap
The knob and the grip are responsible for security and controlled, comfortable handling when properly holding your bat. The barrel begins at the tapered end of the handle and goes to the wider part of the baseball bat, which houses the sweet spot – the optimal location for a ball to travel the furthest upon impact. The end cap is the flattened or rounded top piece of the bat that helps improve control and sometimes swing speed, depending on its weight.
Different Types of Baseball Bats
When we think of iconic baseball moments throughout the game’s history, they mostly revolve around wooden bats. However, baseball bats can be made from different types of materials, which may play a larger role in your overall performance at the plate.
Alloy bats (also referred to as aluminum alloy bats) offer durable construction and a smaller sweet spot. Since aluminum alloy is not easily affected by temperature changes nor requires breaking in, these bats tend to be ready for immediate usage out of the box making them ideal training bats as well as in-game play through little league, high school, and college.
Composite baseball bats are crafted with materials such as reinforced carbon fiber polymer that reduce felt vibration and often tend to have larger sweet spots. Although they are less budget-conscious and usually require a break-in period of about 150 to 200 hits, but they are also temperature-sensitive (not recommended to use in weather 65°F or below). Due to the nature of their design, composite bats can put a lot of pop and power behind your swing.
Hybrids are crafted from a blend of aluminum alloy and composite components, working in tandem. These baseball bats deliver the best characteristics of alloy and composite bats by typically utilizing the composite handle’s knack for reducing felt vibration and complementing it with the alloy barrel’s no break-in period feature.
The most popular of the four types of bats are wooden bats. Wood baseball bats are mainly crafted from ash, maple, or birch wood. Wooden bats offer better balance for a more controlled swing as well as more natural power than aluminum or composite cannot compare to. Wood is also a better choice when developing a foundation for the fundamentals of the sport, including building muscle memory and developing better pitch discipline.
How to Size a Baseball Bat Size
Bat size is comprised of bat length, bat weight, and bat weight drop measurements.
Bat length affects the swing mechanics such as your swing speed and plays a major part in the way that you cover the plate. To measure yourself in relation to adult baseball bats to find the correct length for you, there are 3 main ways to accomplish this:
- Position the bottom of the bat in the center of your chest and hold it parallel to your outstretched arm. If you can reach the top of the bat with your fingertips the bat is the right length for you.
- See if you can reach the barrel when the bottom of the bat is placed in the center of your chest extended outward. If this is possible then your bat is sized correctly.
- If the bat is standing at your side and you can reach the end of the barrel with the center of your palm, then you know that your baseball bat is the proper length for usage.
Bat weight depends more on your own personal preferences but can have differing effects on your game play if the bat is too heavy. You can test the feel of bat weight by holding the bat fully extended for 30 to 45 seconds and deciding if that task was too difficult to handle or not.
Lastly, the baseball bats’ weight drop is the difference between the bats weight and its length. Higher drop weights result in lightweight bats that are ideal for slamming speeds, while lower drop weights increase power for improved pop and pizzazz at the plate.
How to Measure Baseball Bats for Kids
Knowing the proper way to measure for baseball bats, for t-ball bats or younger players is an important way to help your child excel in baseball.
Before they head off for the dugout, measure your child’s height and weight. If your young player stands between 3 feet to 3 feet 4 inches and weighs less than 60 pounds, start them off with a 26-inch baseball bat and then increase the bat size by 1 inch for every 4 to 5 inches that they grow thereafter.
Additionally, you can stand the bat up next to your child as you did for yourself earlier but this time if the bat falls near the hip of your child, then the bat is correctly sized for them.
When choosing a baseball bat for you or your child’s upcoming season, one of the first things you should look at are the league rules or contact the league officials to make sure you’re using acceptable equipment, including bats. The three most common governing bodies for bat regulations are the USA Baseball League otherwise known as USABat, USSSA, and BBCOR.
A new standard set in by USA Baseball in 2018 was designed to bring uniformity to leagues across the country and allow youth baseball leagues to establish a wood-like performance from all bats used. Therefore, some older bats may not be legal for modern usage. Bats that carry the USA Baseball sticker meet the updated standard and are authorized to play with.
Every league, regardless of age, will follow a specific bat standard for their equipment regulations. As a general starting point:
- Players between the ages of 4 and 6 will likely need a tee ball bat. Under the USABat standard, T-ball bats must be 26” and shorter with the official USA Baseball seal and text.
- Players between the ages of 7 and 13 will likely need a USA bat or USSSA bat. USSSA or the United States Specialty Sports Association regulates the amount of energy transfer the bat can deliver. You’ll want to carefully check your child’s league requirements to ensure a USSSA bat is permitted. USA Bats and BBCOR baseball bats are similarly designed, but USA Bats are typically lighter and easier for younger sluggers to swing.
- Players between the ages of 14 and 18 will likely need a bat that meets BBCOR bat standards, which governs high school and collegiate play. BBCOR or Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution bats are either wood or deliver a wood-like performance in adult baseball bats and permit that bats with a drop of no more than -3 can be used as high school and college bats. You can identify non-wood BBCOR bats by the “BBCOR Certified .50” stamp above the handle or on the taper.