How to buy a softball bat
A softball bat buying guide
>> Determine what kind of softball you play
When researching how to buy a softball bat, the first thing to determine is whether you play fastpitch or slowpitch softball. If you're an athlete playing fastpitch at any level, you need a narrow, lightweight bat. If you play softball recreationally, which is known as slowpitch softball, the best softball bats for you are probably heavier and more powerful because they have a larger barrel and increase your chance of hitting the ball.
There are two types of bats that are popular for slowpitch: balanced and end-loaded. An end-loaded bat has most of its weight at the end of the bat providing for a powerful hit, while balanced means the weight is evenly distributed. Fastpitch bats are balanced.
>> Choose your material
Another point to consider as you learn how to buy a softball bat is material. Aluminum alloy and composite are popular for recreational bats, while wood is favored for professional bats. Aluminum bats are popular since they are light, giving the hitter more control and speed. Alloy bats are long lasting, usually less expensive than composite, very durable and do not need to be broken in. It is usually true that the higher the price, the larger the "sweet spot" for hitting is and the better balanced the bat is.
Composite bats can either be balanced bats or end-loaded bats because they're made out of layered materials, such as graphite or titanium. Composite bats reduce the vibration in your hands when you hit the ball. They also have a larger sweet spot and better pop. Composite bats need to be broken in by hitting between 150-300 baseballs or softballs while rotating the bat to make sure every side is being used.
There are also hybrid bats that try to incorporate the pros of both kinds of bats. Many have a composite handle and an alloy barrel, so that vibrations are reduced, performance is still good and the cost is lower.
>> Determine bat length
Determining the proper bat length is necessary when making your softball bat comparison. You get a greater reach from a longer bat, but added length makes the bat heavier, which can make your swing slower. The best way to pick between softball bat sizes is by testing out your swing with different lengths. There are charts available that estimate good starting lengths depending either on your age or on your height and weight. These charts are very useful in determining how to buy a softball bat.
Bat length differs between the types of softball bats. Fastpitch bats are between 26-32 inches long for youth and 20-24 inches long for players of high school age and older. Slow pitch bats are usually 34 inches long.
>> Determine bat weight
When figuring out how to choose a softball bat, the weight is key to your having the best softball bat possible, and the proper weight depends on your strength and hitting style. The bat needs to be comfortable for you. It should be light enough so it won't slow you down, but heavy enough that it will greatly impact the ball. An important number to know when learning how to buy a softball bat is the drop. The drop for a bat is found by taking the bat's weight in ounces and subtracting the bat's length. For example, a 28 ounce bat that is 31 inches long has a drop of -3. When choosing between softball bat sizes, remember that the smaller the drop weight is, the lighter the bat is. If you play high school or college softball, the drop weight on your bat has to be -3. For fastpitch softball, the drop weight ranges from -8 to -13. Slowpitch bats usually weigh between 26-30 ounces. The best softball bats for bigger players or those who like to hit the ball hard are usually those in the 28-30 ounce range while smaller to average sized players usually want a bat in the 26-27 ounce range.
If you are a bigger, stronger player, you will likely benefit from a heavier bat for increased power. If you're a smaller player, the best softball bat for you is probably a lighter one. Try swinging bats with different weights to help you find the softball bat that's right for you.
>> Choose between one-piece and two-piece bats
Another decision to make when learning how to buy a softball bat is whether you want a one-piece bat that is made entirely from one material, or a two-piece bat in which the handle and the barrel are separate pieces and have been connected. Each of these types of softball bats has its own advantages. One-piece bats are generally stronger while the two-piece bats generally have more flexibility which creates a greater ricochet. They also tend to vibrate less in the handle, but are more end-loaded so they're heavier to swing. As a contact hitter, you gain more from a two-piece. If you are a power hitter, the best softball bat for you is likely the one-piece due to better balance. Again, it is important to test your swing with different types of softball bats.
>> Consider other features
There are a few other things to consider when figuring out how to choose a softball bat. First, make sure the grip of the bat you pick is comfortable. While rubber or cushioned grips absorb more of the shock of a hit, leather or synthetic leather provides a surer grip. The taper of the bat is the diameter of its handle. Some players like a narrower taper so that it is lighter so they can rotate their wrists faster when hitting. And although your bat is the most important item of all your softball gear, your softball gloves, softball protective gear and softball accessories like tees and pitcher nets can help improve your game.
>> Check with your coach or league
It is always important to check the specifications of the league you play in or to ask your coach about regulations on team sports gear before buying a bat.