Baseball Bats Evolution – From Simple to High Tech

Baseball Bats EvolutionBaseball bats date back to the days of Rounders and of course, Town ball. Town ball is one of the oldest games from which the current “national game” of baseball evolved as early as the late 18th century. The ball was hit by a four-inch flat bat with a tapered handle that could be firmly gripped for control and leverage. By the mid-1800’s numerous changes in all aspects of the game had been made and the players were each responsible for selecting baseball bats for themselves.

One of the first baseball games played was in June of 1846 in Hoboken New Jersey included 9 innings, 9 players on each team, and 3 outs per side. However, because players made their own bats, many different styles and sizes were used. Right around this time wagon tongue wood was predominately used and players were realizing that a round bat hit a ball much more solidly. The first bat limitation was voted on until 1859 when bat size was determined to be no larger than 2 ½ inches in diameter.  From there the baseball bat length rule was adopted in 1869 (no more than 42 inches) and over the next century and a half the baseball bat has been reshaped, reconstructed, restricted and recertified (see BBCOR video).

Today there are big differences between a softball bat and a baseball bat. Should you use a softball bat to play baseball, or a baseball bat to play softball?

The most obvious difference between  youth batssoftball bats, and baseball bats is length. 

The length of the bat used for adult baseball, adult slow-pitch softball, and youth baseball/softball will vary in length:

–       Baseball – 33″

–       Softball – 34″

–       Youth – 30”

The next significant difference is the bat weight

The primary reason for the range of available weights is that the speed with which a player can swing a bat is often related to weight. However, not all bats that weigh the same swing the same.  This has to do with something called the moment-of-inertia which is the physics of a bat swing, taking into account the center-of-mass and the rotation of the bat which together strongly determine the bat swing speed.

Barrel diameters differ too

Bat profiles, or barrel diameters differ between baseball, softball and youth bats. The barrels of baseball bats are fatter than those of softball bats and can be up to 2.75”.  Adult softball bats (both slow- and fast-pitch) are narrower, with diameters of only 2-1/4″. Youth bats have the same diameter as adult slow-pitch bats.

Understanding the differences between bats, deciding on the right kind of bat and buying the right bat for yourself or your child might seem a daunting task if you are new to the game. One thing to keep in mind is at the youth level, there is no difference in bats for softball and baseball. Another thing is the right bat feels right so trust your gut.

However, at the adult level, baseball and softball bats are designed to match their respective games.  You could use a baseball bat to play softball, as long as you adjusted to the slightly shorter total length, and the heavier weight. The performance would be about the same as using an older lower performance softball bat.

Using a softball bat to play baseball would most likely result in cracking or breaking your bat. Softball bats are not designed to withstand the forces resulting from an impact with a baseball.

The same would be true of using a fast-pitch softball bat in a slow-pitch game; the performance might be really good and the ball might come off the bat faster, but you would most likely damage your fast-pitch bat.

You could use a slow-pitch bat in a fast-pitch softball game without damaging it but the larger weight (actually, larger moment-of-inertia) makes the slow-pitch bat more difficult to swing quickly and you would probably not hit as well.

You don’t want to make a bad decision and waste your money on a bat that doesn’t serve your purpose. There are so many different bats on the market so when making a buying choice consider:

–       Which ones are best for your style of play?

–       Is this one right for your league?

–       What makes THE one worth the price?

When it comes to selecting the right bat for your league, your style, your young athlete, Composite Bats can make the process simpler. Drop us a comment if we can help!

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