Baseball is a popular game in Australia because it's an exciting team sport that combines a range of skills, such as speed, throwing, hitting, and decision-making skills that are all necessary to be a good player. A baseball bat is one of the game's most important pieces of equipment. Choosing the wrong size bat can negatively affect a hitter's mechanics and swing speed, which can make it much harder to make solid contact with the ball. While bats from baseball's early days look like Stone Age tools, technology today has made bats much stronger and more durable. When buying a bat at an online retailer, it's important to pay attention to budget, use, size, material quality, and feel.
Setting a Budget
Budgeting makes the buying process much smoother. The price of bats varies tremendously, from as low as $15 to over $600. When deciding on a price, consider the players' personal needs. If the bat is going to be used for friendly games in the park, go for something cheaper. If the bat is going to be used for play in a competitive league, get one designed using the latest technology.
Choosing a Size
Size selection is arguably the most important step in choosing a bat. Choosing the right size helps foster proper mechanics, maximise bat control, and increase swing power. Players of varying ages and sizes have different requirements, so it's important to adhere to guidelines and consider personal preference.
Personal size and age determine the bat length needed. While shorter bats offer more swing control and speed, longer bats offer greater swing range.
Typically, 5- to 7-year-old players should use bats measuring 58 - 66 centimetres in length. Those aged eight to nine can use bats spanning anywhere from 63 - 71 centimetres. From 10 - 12 years, players should get bats from 68 - 76 centimetres, while those aged 13 - 16 should use 73 - 86 centimeter bats. Once players reach their full height, they should be using bats at least 79 - 86 centimeters long.
Bat weight is largely determined by age and size, but rules also limit choices. Generally speaking, heavier bats have more power, but lighter bats allow for more swing speed, which is crucial for hitting fast pitching. It's vital to note that many leagues for older players, such as amateur leagues and college baseball, have limits on how light the bat can be in ounces in comparison to the bat's length in inches. This is to decrease bat speed and decrease how hard the ball is hit, which makes the game more fair and safer. In Australia, measurements would make this ratio a centimetres-to-ounces rule, so make sure to be aware of proper conversions.
Since young players don't hit the ball as hard, youth leagues don't have such weight rules. Smaller and younger players should be using a lightweight bat, and the general range for players under 16 is anywhere from 13 - 27 ounces. For the best results, get a weight that feels most comfortable and maximises bat speed.
A larger barrel equals a larger sweet spot, so it's important at any age for the barrel to be larger than the grip. Players under 13 years old usually use a barrel that's 5 - 6 centimetres in diameter. Teenagers should look for bats with 6 centimetre barrels, and adults should go for barrels around 7 centimetres.
Picking a Material
Wood was the choice material until the 1970's, when aluminium bats arrived. Today, only professional leagues use wood bats (due to rule requirements). Check out the pros and cons of each material prior to choosing one.
Bamboo, maple, and hickory are some types of wood used to make bats. However, in terms of performance, the physics of a wood bat make it an undesirable choice. Wood bats do offer great control and certainly look nice, but they are breakable and feel heavier due to less efficient weight distribution (this lends itself to a slower swing speed). Additionally, wood bats compress when making contact with a hard ball, which equates to less power. Only go with wood if required or if using it for fun.
Aluminium bats have great weight balance and thus feel light, which enables you to swing faster. They are hollow, so the ball springs off the bat when hit, and this means hitters get more power and oomph. Moreover, aluminium bats have a larger sweet spot than wood bats.
Composite bats are relatively new and can be made of a host of materials, including carbon, steel alloys, graphite, and resin. Although not as durable as aluminium, a well-made composite bat performs better in terms of swing speed and power, as they feel lighter and possess a bigger sweet spot. Drawbacks are that they are often costly, can break, and some leagues have restrictions on them.
It's also crucial for hitters to make sure that the bat feels right prior to purchasing one. Make an effort to test the bat personally first. You want to see how good the grip feels and if your swing feels right. You also want to hear the bat make contact with an actual ball. If you carefully set your budget and select the proper size and material, locating a suitable baseball bat that feels natural in your hands should be easier.