Choosing a youth bat for a little leaguer is an important part of their development as a ballplayer. A bat that’s the wrong length or weight can alter the mechanics of their swing, resulting in bad habits that can be tough to break later on. Thankfully, there are proven methods to determine which bat is appropriate for your youngster.
All youth baseball leagues will have rules and regulations regarding bat materials, lengths and weights. Consult the guidelines of your league to make sure your new bat will be allowed in the game.
Just like they’ll outgrow their uniforms, young players are going to outgrow their bats. Make sure to monitor their growth and upgrade to a larger bat when necessary. There are three ways to measure whether a bat is the right length:
1. Have them place the bottom of the bat in the center of their chest, pointing it to the side, parallel to their outstretched arm. If they can comfortably reach the top of the bat with your fingertips, the bat is the right length.
Take a look at the “drop weight” – a measurement determined by subtracting the weight of the bat from its length. For example, a bat that’s 30 inches long and weighs 20 ounces will have a drop weight of -10. The larger the drop weight, the lighter the bat. Youth baseball bats will typically fall between -8 and -13.
Larger, stronger players tend to favor a lower drop weight, which results in greater power. Smaller players will benefit from a higher drop weight, which benefits bat speed.
There are two main materials you will see when choosing a bat: wood and metal. Wood bats, though, are typically used by professionals, in specific wood bat leagues, or during practice and training. When it comes to metal bats, you’ll find alloy, composite and even a hybrid of the two.
Alloy bats, or aluminum bats, are ready for use right out of the wrapper, which means there is no break-in time required. They have a smaller sweet spot, but are great in any temperature and even tend to last longer due to their durability. Alloy bats are more affordable than their composite counterparts.
Composite bats tend to have a larger sweet spot and put out less vibration to the hands, which reduces stinging felt after miss-hits. They are more expensive and require a break-in period of about 150-200 hits.
Hybrid options are also available. These bats are typically made with composite handles, which minimize vibration, and alloy barrels, which require no break-in time.
The way a bat feels in a ballplayer’s hands is always going to be more important than any material performance review. Find a safe place for some practice swings with bats that are the right length and weight. Whichever material feels more natural to your youngster, that option has the best chance of being a home run.