Softball Bat Selection
Today I am gong to talk about that new bat that everyone is thinking about. It might not be the specific bat that someone has their eye on but the bat in the hands of one of the happiest players on the field.
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Now lets talk about the importance of the bat.
The excitement of a new bat from what I have seen is one of the most exhilarating feelings in the game. Next to getting a home run with that bat of course. For this reason, it’s important for us as coaches to assist our players it obtaining that new instrument of choice. As we all know, players can pay anything from $15.99 at Walmart to $600 for some high-end composite bats. This is a good thing but can also be a not so good thing.
For example, I would not be recommending a bat over $50 for a player who is 5 years old and just starting out in the game. She should be strictly learning mechanics and not necessarily looking for that extra edge at the plate. The pitcher she is hitting against is likely not throwing 35mph or moving the ball around in the strike zone. The batter at this level needs to be simply focusing on getting the bat on the ball, and developing her hand eye coordination. I personally wouldn’t even be focusing on the strike zone at this age. Just making contact with the ball.
Of course, as they get older and more experienced, there is more incentive to invest more in a bat that will not only help them at the plate but… what player doesn’t feel more confident with their own bat.
Regardless of age and skill level though, the size of the bat is important. One that is too long and heavy will be difficult for the player to use because they will be either dropping it in their swing or it will be lagging behind in the swing. A good range for young players is 26 – 32 inches in length. For older or taller players, 30-34 inches will be more efficient. A good way to test the length is for the player to put the bat on the floor against the outside of their leg and if the height comes up to their hip it is a good length.
What weight should the bat be? The important thing here again is the ability to control the bat. If the player can hold the bat out horizontally to the side of their body, with their palm up for 10 seconds without shaking, they can handle the bat.
A lot of people will ask what the drop is on the bat. What does that even mean? This is the difference between the length and the weight of the bat. So, if the bat is 34 inches long with a drop weight of -8 it is a 26-ounce bat. Or if the bat is 32 inches and 26 ounces, the drop is, 32 minus 26 which is -6. It makes sense then that the bigger the drop is the lighter the bat is. If a tall player is not very strong, they will want a lighter bat so knowing this number might help in the selection process.
Of course, then there is the color. That is what many are looking for. Or the name on the bat. It’s amazing what the power of suggestion can do. If a player believes they are going to hit well with a bat because it’s the right color or endorsed by the right player, good hits will happen. At least at first anyway. The new novelty will wear off even though the attachment is there. The good thing is that there are usually numerous weights and sizes of the same bat at the store. If you as a coach can go with your player and help them to pick out a bat, or make sure that the sales person is qualified, they will have more success for longer, because they will have the appropriate tool in their hands when they are at the plate.
The bottom line is that players need a bat that they can handle, and one that they can reach all corners of the strike zone with. Color is often important to young players. So, when you see a player happily arriving at the field with a bright new bat, maybe ask them to go through the bat selection criteria. If needed, ask if they can to take the bat back and select one that is appropriate for them. Even better though, is to provide some guidelines at the beginning of the season or at the first practice for bats. It can be a lot of money to spend on something that might not be useful for long.
If your players are purchasing a bat online, such as at softballjunk.com, have them try bats at the field or at a store to see what the best weight and length is or the best drop for the player. No one has ever stopped someone from safely looking at bats at the store so encourage them to go check it out then they can go online and purchase a bat with confidence.