There are so many words that people throw out there regarding bats. Composite, 1-piece, balanced, end-loaded, pop, bat speed, flex. What do they all mean and how on earth do I know what bat I should get?

Many players or parents don’t know what they’re buying when it comes to a bat, especially if they are new to the sport. They tend to watch the better hitters, see what bats those players swing, and automatically think it’s the bat that is allowing them to be so amazing in the batter’s box. But that’s not really the case.

Each player’s swing is different. Mechanics play a huge part in the type of contact they make and the type of bat they should swing. Understanding the type of player you are, how you swing, your power, your age, and your mechanics can help you determine the right bat for you.

Do I get a 1-piece or 2-piece bat?

A 1-piece bat is one continuous piece of metal that tends to be more durable. The more durable a bat, the longer they should last. They have a stiffer feel with less flex, which is the amount of bend or give a bat has when making contact. Any miss hits that aren’t on the sweet spot of the bat could have players feeling the vibration or sting in their hands more compared to a 2-piece bat. These bats tend to take a bit longer to break in, but on the other hand generally last longer than a 2-piece bat.

A 1-piece bat would benefit younger players moving through the age grades who still need time to perfect their swing.  Their chances of miss-hitting the ball is more common with these players, but one piece bats have less risk of breaking since they are more durable.  One piece bats also benefit stronger players or power hitters who are able to handle a bat that has less flex.

A 2-piece bat is created in two sections: the barrel and the handle that are bonded together. Two-piece bats provide more flex at contact with the ball, creating a “whip” effect that results in an increase in bat speed and power. These bats are generally made now game ready and don’t need to be “broken in,” but they are not as durable as one piece bats with a higher risk of cracks or breaks. They are also generally a bit more expensive overall.

Two piece bats benefit players who want to increase their bat speed or power. But if you are a player who still needs to work on your mechanics, the more miss-hits you have on a two-piece bat increases your risk of breakage.

Composite, Aluminum, or Wood bats?

Bats can be made of different things, and you can tell the difference based on the sound of the bat. The old school “ping” generally comes from an aluminum bat.  A “crack” comes from a wooden bat which is only used in baseball and not softball. Both sports have something called a composite bat, which have more of a hollow thud sound. These bats are made from a specific material that can have different advantages compared to wood or aluminum.  Composite material is overall lighter and offers a little more flex and durability. They also tend to take away the vibration or sting of the bat compared to aluminum or wood.

So composite sounds great right? They are the most popular right now, yes. But these bats are generally more expensive and do get affected by colder temperatures compared to aluminum and wood bats.

What about end-loaded bats?

Weight can be distributed differently throughout the bat. A balanced bat means the weight is distributed evenly throughout the bat. An end-loaded bat has more weight distributed at the end of the barrel. You can feel the difference when you hold the bat up. Generally balanced bats are for contact hitters while end loaded bats are for power hitters.

But players beware, your mechanics play a part in what load you should get. If you are a player who drops, has an undercut swing, or hits a lot of pop flies, then you should consider getting a balanced bat. The reason being is that your bat is probably end loaded or too heavy for you, and it is affecting your mechanics by taking away that flat bat path through the zone when you are trying to make contact.

What size bat do I need?

Bat sizing can be tricky, especially if you are new to the sport. We have a sizing guide on our Dugout Website that goes based on height and age. As a general rule, Tee Ball players aged 5-9 will probably swing a 26-28 inch bat. Youth players aged 10-14 will swing between a 28-32inch, and older players aged 15 and up will swing a 32-34inch.

The weight you swing will depend on your strength and mechanics. Smaller players who might not be that strong or have a slower sweeping swing are better off with a lighter weight within those size ranges. You can tell who these batters are if their hits are late often, meaning first base side of the field for right handed batters or 3rd base side of the field for left handed batters. If you have a faster swing or are constantly early when you make contact, then you can probably afford some more weight in your bat.

It’s always best to come in and have a swing with the bats you are considering. That way you can feel if it works for you. Does it feel too heavy or light? Is it too endloaded for you that it changes your swing?  If you can’t pop into the store to try a few swings, you can always ask some mates on your team to take a few practice swings with their bats. This could help guide you, especially with the size and weight of what you need.

So how do I know what bat to buy with all these options?

Many softballers end up buying a new bat thinking it will boost their batting average as well as the distance they can hit the ball. The type of bat players like is personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer. But hitting mechanics is the ultimate weapon in allowing you to reach maximum power and distance with your swing. It’s also the biggest tool in identifying which bat will work for you. Our job at the Dugout is to piece everything together to help you determine which bat is right for you based on your mechanics, swing, size, and budget.

If you can’t come into the shop, here’s a quick list to go through to help you pick your perfect bat:

Length & Weight- Our size guide will help you figure out roughly what size bat you are looking for in terms of length and weight.  From there think about your swing. If your swing is faster to where you make early contact, then you can afford to choose a heavier weight. If your swing is slower where you make late contact, a lighter weight will help you get quicker bat speed.

End-load vs Balanced- This is personal preference. Hitters who want more power tend to go with an end-loaded bat. But if you drop, hit too many pop flies, or have an undercut in your swing, then maybe try a more balanced bat.
Material- First think of your budget and how long you want the bat to last. Remember the more you miss-hit a ball, the chances increase in a crack or break. For this reason, younger players who are still learning how to swing properly would benefit from an Aluminum Alloy bat which is more durable and should last longer. But if you want to get rid of the vibration or sting of a bat, as long as your mechanics are getting better you could consider a composite bat. For players who have a decent swing mechanically and want more pop when they hit, definitely go for a composite bat if it works with your budget.



How To Make My Bat Last

Bats nowadays offer amazing performance straight from the wrapper and don’t need many hits to break them in. But in doing so the bats have lost some durability that us softballers are used to.  Given Santa probably came to visit with some new bats over the holidays, we’ve provided some tips to help on how to help your new bat last.

Tip # 1: Mechanics!!!  It’ not just the bat that makes you drop bombs, it is most importantly your mechanics. As a hitter, your goal should be to make solid contact, which means hitting middle of the ball with the sweet spot of the bat every time regardless of pitch location. Improper mechanics where you are hitting the end of the bat or getting jammed on the handle puts extra strain on your bat and chances are it will eventually crack break if this is done consistently. Check the marks on your bat. If they aren’t consistently on the sweet spot, then that means you need to work on your mechanics and eye-hand coordination.

Tip # 2: Rotate your bat after each swing. This distributes your hits across the entire surface of the bat instead of just one area.  Failure to do so could lead to your bat cracking easily.

Tip # 3: Only use the bat on GAME DAY. Over the years, the need to buy new bats has become more frequent because a bat’s life expectancy has changed by being “game ready” straight out of the wrapper with very little break in required. Using your bat at training is basically taking hits out of the bat and cutting it’s life short. Also bats aren’t made to hit pitching machine balls, and these can damage the bat quicker. Try to use an old or spare bat for trainings and save the extra pop for game day.

Tip # 4: Don’t share your bat. Kiwis have such a giving nature, so this is a tough one. But the more you let others use your bat, the more swings are added onto the bat’s life meaning it won’t last as long for you.  

Tip # 5: Keep your bat wrapped or in warmer temperatures. The colder the temp, the faster your bat will crack or the more chance you will feel the vibration sting on a miss hit ball. In the cold, composite bats harden up and do not flex at impact.  You might hae seen a photo of somebody swinging the bat, but the bat looks bent. This is the bat flexing. Cold temperatures minimizing flex is a recipe for disaster. Good thing softball is a Summer sport, but it can still get cold depending on what part of the country you are in.  

Tip # 6: Don’t throw or bang anything on your bat. This may seem self explanatory, but if you’re having a rough day at the plate, it’s one that easily is forgotten.

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