Previous part, we discussed the important features that you need to look for in a softball bat, now we look at some of the other factors that you need to decide upon before purchasing a softball bat.
1. The League You are Playing
To start off, you need to know the league that you wish to play for. Every league has its own set of rules that you need to abide by and therefore you cannot simply use any bat of your choice for a certain league. Every softball bat has a stamp of approval on it that allows you to play in the mentioned league.
So, if you wish to play for USSSA or ASA league then make sure your bat is USSSA or ASA certified. We have also listed the rules and regulations of some of the popular leagues in the next section. They will be useful for you in many ways.
2. You are Playing Slowpitch or Fastpitch
If you think that slow pitch and fast pitch softball is the same thing, then you my friend are mistaken. They are two different games that require different equipment. As the name suggests, softballs in fast pitch game are pitched at speeds greater than 50mph. You need to decide which game you wish to play.
Manufacturers make specific bats for both leagues by keeping in mind the needs of the two. You can easily find a slow pitch or a fast pitch softball bat in the market. While you can use a slow pitch softball bat in a fastpitch softball game, it is not recommended.
Durability is an important factor that you should keep in mind before buying a softball bat. You have a peace of mind when you have a durable bat on your hand. Your bat should withstand more than 150 hits as once you become comfortable with a certain bat you don’t want to change it.
Changing bats every now and then certainly impacts your performance. Some bats are prone to breakage and denting. You should check out the reviews and personal experiences of players before you buy a certain bat. Ask them how well their bat performs over 150 hits. Certain materials make your bat more durable. Which material is the best for you? Let’s discuss this point in detail in the next part.
4. Material of Bats
A variety of materials are used to manufacture softball bats. These include aluminum, composite, wood and alloy. Features of each of these types are discussed below:
Introduced in 1970s, Aluminum bats are made up of aluminum and are known to be better at performance as compared to wood bats. Aluminum bats are extremely durable and long-lasting. While aluminum bats are considered to be light in weight, composite bats are even lighter.
Another good thing about aluminum bats is that they are very affordable which makes them a budget friendly option especially for beginners. Sadly, the vibrations on aluminum bats do not get dampened easily. As there are more vibrations, mishits usually sting a lot more in aluminum bats. Whenever you hit an aluminum bat you tend to hear a “ping” sound. Finally, these bats are prone to denting after 100 hits.
Composite softball bats are made up of complex materials including graphite-fiber and epoxy resin. These bats have gained a lot of popularity over the years. They are lighter than aluminum bats and are known to have greater flex. The sweet spot on these bats is also large as compared to its counterparts. These bats usually use newer and innovative technologies which assist in reducing sting and dampening any vibrations as well.
Unfortunately, composite bats are a bit expensive. They should not be used in extreme cold weathers. A major downside to these bats is that they require break-in period. This means that you need to hit your bat around 150 times in order for it to reach its optimal performance.
Considered as the classic, Wood softball bats were the first ones to be used in softball game. A wood bat can be made up of ash, maple or bamboo wood. Such a bat is the strongest amongst all. It is the most durable as well. But with strength comes weight.
Wood substantially increases the weight of these bats. Wood bats that are made out of maple are the stiffest which means that it is the least flexible. Maple bats are perfect for professional hitters who are looking for powerful hits. Ash bats on the other hand are quite flexible but they are prone to breakage as well. Wood bats are generally cheaper than aluminum or composite bats.
When aluminum is mixed with other metals, you get alloy bats. These do not require any break-in time and are hot out of the wrapper. They are very affordable as well. Unlike composite bats, they can be used in any weather conditions. On the downside, these bats tend to have smaller sweet spot and have more vibration as well. Whenever there is a miss-hit your hand feels an intense sting.
Which material is the best? It totally depends on your need and your preference. If you are looking for a bat that has a bigger sweet spot and a greater flex, then a composite bat is what you need. If you are on a budget and durability is your concern, then an aluminum or alloy bat is what you require.
5. Softball Bats Heavier or Lighter
A heavy softball bat slows down your swing speed. When you don’t have a fast enough swing you don’t hit homeruns. So, a heavier softball bat is generally not the best one for you. Professional players use both light and heavy bats. There is no set standard out there. Your physical strength is relevant here.
If you are stronger, then you might want to go for a heavier softball bat. You might want to check whether a bat is suitable for you or not before purchasing it. Hold the bat and extend your arm for half a minute. If this does not stress you out and you don’t drop it then this bat will work for you.
6. Balanced Bats:
As far as the weight of a softball bat is concerned, there are two types – balanced and end loaded. The total weight in a balanced bat is evenly distributed throughout the bat. These bats are faster and offer a better control. It is most suitable for contact or base hitters.
You tend to get a smoother swing with this type of bat. The Moment of Inertia (MOI) is also lower on these bats. You might want to hold both balanced and end loaded bats one by one and swing them in order to get a better idea of what you are comfortable with.
7. End loaded:
End loaded bats, on the other hand, have a large amount of weight concentrated on the end of the barrel near the end cap. This extra weight in the end allows the batter to have more momentum while swinging the bat.
Hitters who are physically strong and are looking for more power may benefit from end loaded bats. The end load in the barrel can range from 0.5 ounces to 3 ounces. Due to the top-heavy barrel, these bats are usually difficult to handle. Again, it is your personal preference whether or not you want an end loaded or a balanced bat.
8. Single Wall Bat:
There are generally two types of barrels – single wall and double (multi) wall barrels. A single wall bat has a single wall barrel. This type of bat is used by players who play for leagues that have stricter restrictions. These bats have their pros and cons as well.
The main advantages of these bats are that they are safe; they offer decent performance, are durable and are easy on the pocket as well. Unfortunately, the batted ball speed on these bats is low and they lack the pop that is generated on double wall bats. The good thing is that you can find some amazing quality single wall bats in the market including the popular DeMarini steel.
9. Double Wall Bat:
Double wall or multi wall bats have barrels with double walls. These added layers of walls increase the trampoline effect and the batted ball speed is higher as well. The flex generated on these bats is way more than that generated on single wall bats.
Due to the fast batted ball speed that these bats generate, they are considered to be one of the dangerous softball bats. As there are multiple layers in these bats, they are considered more durable and long-lasting. If you don’t have any single wall restrictions, we recommend you to go for double wall bats. They are way more flexible and user friendly.
A softball bat can have four different types of construction – one piece, two-piece, three-piece and four-piece. All of these types have their advantages and disadvantages.
- One piece:
As the name suggests, one material is used to make one-piece bats. They have no breaks and both the handle and barrel have the same structure. Being one-piece, these softball bats are more rigid and are suitable for power hitters. You cannot expect a one-piece bat to flex in a way the others do. It is stiffer and does not give the trampoline effect you are looking for.
One the other hand, one-piece bats give more power as no energy is lost at the time of contact with the softball. According to some users, one-piece bats sting a lot more in case of mishits. This is because of the absence of trampoline effect.
Our general observation is that senior and more advanced players prefer one-piece bats. If you are looking for a hybrid bat that is experience the power of two materials in one bat then you definitely need a two-piece bat.
- Two piece:
A two piece bat has a separate handle which connected to a separate barrel using some technology. These bats can be constructed using two different materials or a single one. For instance, you can have a two-piece bat with composite handle and an aluminum barrel.
Such a bat is commonly known as hybrid bat. Two-piece bats have more flex to them and they have a larger trampoline effect. They offer less power as compared to one-piece bats. As there is greater flex the vibrations are reduced. This means that whenever there is a mishit the sting is dampened.
- Three piece:
With three piece bats, there is an additional item attached between the barrel and the handle. The most popular three piece bats are manufactured by Louisville Slugger. The company uses TRU3 technology whereby elastomeric connection system is utilized in order to make a connection between the handle and the barrel. Three piece bats have amazing flex and vibrations are partially absorbed as well.
- Four piece:
Although four piece bats are not widely available in the market yet there are a few popular ones which are loved by their users. Worth 2 Legit is a super four-piece softball bat with amazing flex and great pop. It has four parts – inner barrel, outer barrel, collar piece and a handle.
So which piece softball bat is the most suitable for you? In order to make this decision you need to understand the type of hitter you are and your batting preferences as well. For someone who is looking for power and an experience which mimics wood bats then a one-piece bat is what you need. If you want a smooth feel, dampened vibrations and more flex, then a two-piece bat is your best bet!
11. Swing Weight:
The swing weight or the moment of inertia (MOI) plays an important role in the swing speed of your bat. It is not the weight of your bat but the MOI that impacts your swing speed. As a rule of thumb keep in mind that the higher the moment of inertia the slower is your swing speed.
Unfortunately, the swing weight is not provided by many manufacturers and this causes a lot of issues while selecting a softball bat. This completes our explanation of the important features linked with softball bats. Let us now look at the some of the rule and regulations of popular softball associations.