If you’re looking for a Little League bat buying guide, height and weight charts and bat sizing guides can give you a good idea of where to start when you are choosing a baseball bat length for your child. But it’s easy enough to get a more personal measurement. Here are two methods for how to determine the appropriate baseball bat size for your needs.
Stand up straight and put one arm straight out from your side. Take a tape measure and find the distance between the middle of the chest and the tip of the finger. This number is a good starting point for choosing the length of the bat.
Standing Bat Method
If you are in the store and you don’t have a tape measure, grab a couple of bats. Stand up straight with your arms at your sides. Stand a bat up at your side and hold it with your hand. If you can rest the palm of your hand comfortably on the bat, it’s the right size. If the end of the bat comes up past your hand, it’s too long. And if you have to reach down for it, it is probably too short.
If you are shopping for a child’s bat, you should take into account their growth potential. Don’t ever buy a bat that is too large for them to swing comfortably, because you don’t want them to develop bad habits. But you should also make sure they don’t outgrow their brand new bat in their next growth spurt.
Bat companies these days are constantly experimenting with new materials and alloys, so while the main types haven’t changed, we have seen an explosion in variations and specializations. Your ideal bat should take a number of factors into consideration, but we’ll break down the pros and cons of each type to give you an idea of what each of them has to offer.
Alloy bats are more commonly referred to as aluminum bats, because the primary metal in most alloys is aluminum. They have been the standard issue for amateur baseball up and down the age range because they are lighter, livelier and more durable than wooden bats. Any additional up-front cost is spread over the lifespan of the bat, which will certainly be longer than that of a wooden model.
Not all alloys are the same, and each bat manufacturer will have their own distinct alloy. More expensive alloys will produce a more expensive bat. If you see two alloy bats that are similar in length, weight and barrel size, it is a good bet that they contain different aluminum alloys.
Alloy bats are the most popular category of both baseball and softball bats by such a comfortable margin that the advice given in other sections of this buyer’s guide apply implicitly to alloy bats, rather than composite or wooden bats.
Composite bats are made using a material similar to carbon fiber. Because of the production process of the material itself, bat manufacturers have incredible control over the construction of each bat. Composite bats are the top of the technological pyramid, with a price tag to match. The highest quality composite bats offer the best performance possible, even without the classic “ping” of aluminum.
Hybrid bats are exactly as the name implies — a hybrid of composite and alloy technologies. Hybrid bats are manufactured by fusing separate handles and barrels. They are literally two pieces.
Wood is the original material, and still has a place in the professional ranks and in wooden-bat leagues. Ash dominated the wooden bat scene for decades, but maple and birch are growing in popularity with each passing season.
Ash, maple and birch are the three most popular woods for bats. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Ash bats are the traditional choice, and they provide the biggest sweet spot of the three. An ash bat will actually flex when it makes contact with the ball, which can produce the “trampoline” effect you get from a composite bat. Ash’s flexibility also makes it more forgiving for hits off the end of the bat, but it’s also prone to cracking when the hitter gets jammed and makes contact closer to the handle.
Maple bats have surged in popularity among power hitters, because their dense, solid grain gives them the most “pop” of all the wood options. A smaller sweet spot makes them boom or bust, though, and when a maple bat breaks, it shatters, which introduces a safety hazard.
Birch offers an in-between option, with a density more like maple. However, its flexibility offers a forgiveness that will allow a novice hitter get comfortable with a wooden bat.
What Is the Drop?
A bat’s “drop” or “drop weight” refers to the difference between the length in inches and the weight in ounces. The larger the drop, the lighter the bat. For instance, a 34” bat that weights 25 oz. would be labeled as a -9 bat.
Different levels of competition will have specific rules about maximum drop weights. For instance, in high school and NCAA baseball, the maximum drop weight for a bat is -3.
Buying Your Bat
Hopefully this guide has taken most of the legwork out of choosing a baseball or softball bat. You should still research and understand your league’s rules so you don’t spend money on a bat you can’t use.
Once you have your requirements nailed down, take a look at our collection of bats. We cover every size, weight, length, material and performance standard, so you’ll be able to find a bat to fit your needs.