Choosing the Right Bat for Young Ballplayers
A baseball player’s primary pieces of equipment are his or her bat and glove. A hitter can only be effective with full control of the baseball bat. Selecting the correct bat for a young baseball player can be a challenge. Youth athletes are very different in size, strength, dexterity, and so on. Additionally, there may be league rules which dictate which bats are legal for play.
There are some high level tips which parents and coaches can use to help young ball players choose the best bat for them. Today, we will review those tips, what to look for when buying a bat, and how bats can influence a young hitter’s effectiveness at the plate.
Understanding League Rules for Baseball Bats
If your little leaguer walks up to the plate with a 33 ounce bat, he or she is likely to be told to take a hike. Bat length and weight is not only a consideration from a usability standpoint, but also a regulatory standpoint. It is important to understand that all leagues may have their own rules. Here are some examples of bat standards from littleleague.org:
All bats must meet USABat standards. Bats are tested and approved by the USA baseball bat standard for youth play.
Tee Ball bats must be no more than 26 inches in length with the additional mark reading “only for use with approved tee balls”.
Ages 5-12 (Minor/Major Division) bats must be a maximum of 33 inches in length. They must not exceed a diameter of 2 ⅝ inches.
Ages 12-14 (Intermediate and Junior League) bats must not exceed 34 inches in length, nor exceed the same 2 ⅝ inch diameter.
Ages 15 and up (Senior League) bats must not exceed 36 inches in length, 2 ⅝ inch diameters, and the weight to length differential of the bat must be -3 or fewer. In this case, the -3 refers to weight in ounces subtracted by the inches. A 36 inch bat must therefore weigh a minimum of 33 ounces and so on.
Choosing the Correct Bat Size for Young Players
Now that we have established the ground rules for what size bat is legal for what ages, what specific bat size is best for your young player(s)? That is heavily dependent on the size and strength of the youth athlete. Some common guidelines include:
The bat length should reach approximately from the sternum (solar plexus) to the outstretched fingertips when the player has his her her hands straight out to the side. Note that longer arms may exceed the length of the bat, which is also fine.
When standing straight up with arms relaxed at the sides, a bat should reach from the ground to the palm of the player’s hand.
Finally, players should be able to grip the bat at the end of the handle and hold the bat comfortably for 60 seconds. This test should be performed holding the bat straight out at shoulder height.
At the end of the day, feel is the most important measurement. Youth athletes should be encouraged to take some swings and feel the weight and length of the bat. Comfort and usability are the most important factors when selecting a baseball bat.
Do Youth Baseball Players Need an Expensive Bat?
Bat technology has come a long way from its wooden past. Titanium alloys and different metal composites can boggle the mind. Expensive bats differ from cheaper bats in several key ways, but primarily they tend to offer a larger sweet spot and less “hand sting”.
To address the question of whether or not an expensive bat is worth it, consider the following personal anecdote:
When I was going into little league, the team had a handful of “team bats”. Two were brand new, top of the line bats which the majority of our team used. One was an old beat up Easton which was probably about 20 years old at the time. It had a dent in the handle and the grip was eroding. But I loved that bat, and I used it all season. I was able to hit effectively for average and power with that old hunk of junk because it felt the best to me.
There is no one answer. High end bats are very expensive for many families. They also make a larger difference as young players get older. The difference in pop off the bat at age 8 is not nearly as significant as pop off the bat as a 16 year old. The best bat for your youth baseball player is the one that allows them to feel the most comfortable at the plate.
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