7 things you must know before buying a youth baseball bat
Buying the right youth baseball or softball bat requires not only some understanding of your child’s hitting ability, but also some knowledge about your league’s rules. Following a few simple guidelines, parents can pick the right bat every time. Here are seven things to know about:
1. The bat must be legal for play – look for 1.15 BPF
Depending on the league your child plays in, your bat might need to be stamped with the logo of an official supplier. This ensures the bat has the approved length, material, barrel size and a knob. Check with your coach or league before buying any bat to make sure it’s legal for play. The rules differ for different age groups, so if you have two children playing, don’t assume a bat that’s legal for one is legal for the other.
Youth bats are now almost universally governed by the 1.15 BPF, which stands for Bat Performance Factor. Look for the 1.15 BPF mark on the bat. This number is a measurement of how fast the ball comes off the bat.
Common youth baseball and softball leagues include Little League, Babe Ruth, Dixie Youth, AABC and Pony. The two main stamps to look for on a youth bat are those of the USSA and ASA.
2. Wood vs. metal
Almost all youth players use metal bats because they are lighter, easier to swing, don’t break and provide more power. Some players train with wood bats, then play with metal bats. Ash is the wood of choice for most players who use wood.
Based on the power produced by metal bats, experts are now debating whether to eliminate metal bats at the youth level. This will not likely happen soon, and parents will get plenty of warning if that change ever comes.
Bat sizing takes into consideration a child’s age, height and weight. Measure and weigh your child before you start shopping so you can use a sizing chart accurately. Based on your child’s skill level, you can choose a bat that’s slightly longer or shorter than the recommended length for your child’s measurements.
For example, a longer bat provides more ability to reach balls pitched outside and generates more acceleration at the end. Like golf clubs, longer baseball bats take a bit more strength to swing and require more control.
The barrel of a bat is the hitting area. A larger barrel makes it easier to make contact, but the bat heavier to swing. If your child has more muscle and can swing a bat fast but needs more help getting hits, choose a bat with a larger barrel. If your child makes good contact but can’t hit the ball very far, a bat with a smaller barrel can help increase swing speed and hitting power.
A heavier bat provides more mass and sends the ball farther. However, if the bat is too heavy, it can slow down your child’s swing, decreasing hitting power. Choose the heaviest bat your child can swing easily if she needs power. Choose a lighter bat for smaller children with less muscle and a heavier bat for kids with more strength.
6. Handles and grips
Bats taper by going from a wide barrel at the top to a thinner handle at the bottom. A thicker handle provides batters more stability and absorbs more shock on mishits. A thinner handle helps players move their hands quicker. Some leagues require that youth bats have knobs on the end to prevent the bat from slipping out of their hands on hard swings. This is a safety consideration to prevent other children, coaches and spectators from getting hurt.
You might see a term called “drop” when buying bats. This refers to the ratio of the weight to the length. Youth bats have a drop from -7 to -13.5, with the higher numbers referring to lighter bats.
Better, stronger players use heavier bats with smaller barrels and thinner handles. Beginners and intermediates should opt for lighter bats with bigger barrels and thicker handles.
Image sources: homerunmonkey.com