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This is a topic that many coaches and parents struggle with. Good quality baseball equipment can be very expensive and parents need to get the best value for their money, while finding a bat that is comfortable for their youth baseball player.
My goal is to get feedback from the smartest baseball people I know... YOU, the CheckSwing community. We can then have this info to share with everyone. Hopefully we can have a "cheat sheet" of info that will help parents and coaches find the right sized bat for their player.
Most of the online sporting goods stores have bat sizing charts, but these often can be misleading.
I'd like to focus this on choosing a bat for the 5-13 year old player.
What do you look for in a bat?
How do you know what length/weight is right for your player? What is the proper "drop"?
Is all aluminum the same? Alloy vs. Composite? 1 piece, 2 piece or 3 piece bat?
What size bat barrel? Does it matter if you have to "break in" a bat?
Then there's the aluminum vs. wood debate. There's a movement towards wood in youth baseball, but the weight of wood bats can be tough for younger kids to handle.
What bat brands have you had success with? How much should you spend on a bat?
How long should an aluminum bat last? One season? 2, 3 seasons?
Do you check with your league to see what bats are legal to use?
If I left any relevant questions out of this discussion, please add them below. I look forward to your advice so we can help families choose the right bat for their youth player.
Frankly, I think bats have gotten too light. The same advice Chad Moeller gives for picking a bat was what was taught when I was young, when wood was prevalent, and those wood bats were heavier than youth wood bats now. Having an athletic 12 year old swinging a -11 bat is just begging for a pitcher to get hit (disclosure - I make wood bats).
Especially at the younger ages, it is silly to overspend for a bat. Go with a known name.
Always check with the league to see if there are any local restrictions (double-wall, composite, etc). Nothing worse than a parent spending hundreds on a bat that can't be used.
"...hundreds... " If I have a beef, that's it. Equipment is outrageously expensive. Even wood bats that were just a couple of dollars when I was a kid are over a hundred now. There's no excuse for it. Just voicing my own opinion.
Supply and demand. Mainly demand. It is called capitalism and there is nothing unnethical about charging $300 for a bat when 100,000 people have pre ordered one.
You are free to start turning your own wood bats and charge whatever you are free to charge.
Hey! You're not one of those communists are you?
I have trained and coached for 25+ years and the biggest mistake I see year in and year out are players using bats too long. Unless a player is willing to choke up and few do, they add too much length to their swing. Despite anyone's thoughts on Barry Bonds, he used a 34" bat and he choked up. The purpose was to have the barrel size of a 34" bat with the length of a shorter bat. Most bats in the longer lengths, add the length in the barrel (sweet spot). With the cost of bats I understand parents wanting to get multiple years out of equipment. I understand the added length can add additional whip action, but unlike a golf club with length the pitcher is supplying a great deal of the power. That is why the expression is, short to the ball long through the ball (extension is where you want length out front). I suggest parents look at the suggested size charts from bat companies and subtract an inch or two depending on the size and strength of their kid. Also factor in, if their kid will or will not choke up.
What is the Little League rule on bat length? Here is a clue: it is the same for Major League.
Barry Bonds wore body armor and crowded the plate. That is why he choked up. It was a good technique but not everyone is willing to get hit by the pitch with or without a suit of armor.
Bat length is a personal preference and should be matched to where the hitter stands in the box and whether or not he strides toward the plate or strides open. The only thing that matters is can the hitter consistently make contact on the sweet spot.
Major League Baseball is 42", Little League Majors is 33", Little League Juniors 34",Little League Seniors up to 36" . Little League Baseball Rule 1.10 . This Little League Baseball of Williamsport PA.
Bill, this is a good subject for review every season. Thanks for bringing it up again. As a coach in the 11-18 year old age groups, I go through this subject at least a hundred times every single year. A couple of things I tell parents are as follows. At the 11/12 year old age group, if your son is interested (and talented enough) to potentially play school ball, then get him started on the path towards a BBCOR bat. It will be required when he gets to middle school and high school, so start the road early enough. By 6th grade (typically 11 year olds) they should be able to swing a -5 without it altering their swing plane. When it comes to sizing the bat, have them hold the bat between their ring finger and middle finger of their dominant hand. Then lift the arm straight out in front of them. If they can hold the bat straight out, the size is fine. If the bat head drops dramatically, then go down in size.
In the Fall, at the beginning of their 7th grade year, they should start swinging a BBCOR as much as possible. And yes, that includes tournament competition! Use the same gauge as above to know whether the bat is too long for them. Find the bat that allows them to swing it without regards to how long the bat is. A 32" bat does allow them to cover more of the plate, but what good does that do if the bat head is on the ground? Why not swing a 30" bat and have complete control of the swing? A couple of inches shorter with control is going to be considerably better in the long run.
As far as what type of bat to swing, all of my players swing wood as much as possible in practice, drills and non competitive games. Several of them swing wood ALL the time. With the BBCOR bats, there really just isn't a lot of POP difference between BBCOR and a good wood, so swing what is comfortable in games. Make sure the bat feels good in their hands and through their swing. Is the bat balance right for their swing? The only way to know is to hit with it, whether it is on the field or in a cage. The only thing that really matters is how it feels to the player.
When it comes to brands, with wood we have seen great success with Mizuno and Mad Dog bats. With any bat, metal or wood, it will depend on the overall quality of the bat matched with the quality of the swing. I don't think there is a magic formula that covers everyone.
On a separate note, and this will probably cause some folks to wonder and get upset. But when your son / players swings BBCOR or wood in competition, DO NOT let them go back to a drop 8, 11 or whatever! Swinging a BBCOR / wood for their school season and then going back to LL with a drop 11 is swing suicide. I have seen far too many players that really get comfortable swinging their BBCORs and then because they have a year of eligibility left in LL, they go back to swinging a drop 11 and totally screw up a years work for a shot at being on ESPN. It is crazy and will screw up a swing faster than anything else.
Just my two cents.
It's hard to find good quality baseball equipment at the big box retail stores. The local sporting goods store with the knowledgeable staff is long gone. Sometimes the pro shop in the hitting facility has decent stuff, but it's the online stores that have the quality equipment.
I like JustBats.com, BaseballExpress.com and BaseballSavings.com. They have a huge selection and the info is solid. They also have reviews from customers that are very helpful. I wish they had a demo program so you could try a bat. Also, if they had free shipping on returns you could buy 2-3 bats and at least hold them to get a feel, then send back the ones you don't like.
I agree with Michael Paes, sortof. I don't think the super light bat will necessarily get a pitcher hurt, but it will hurt a kid's swing.
I like to see the 5-8 year old start with a drop -10 bat to get started. Then move to a drop -8 from age 9-11. At age 12-14 it's a -5 drop then at 14+ they should be swinging a drop -3 bat.. and definitely be using wood.
Wooden bats for youth players: 8 years old a 27" or 28",9 years old a 28" or 29",10 years old a 29" or 30", 11 and 12 year olds a 30" or 31". All should have a 2 1/4" or less barrel diameter,15/16" handle and a drop of 6 or more ounces. Good quality wooden bats hold up,cost less and make for a better hitting technique and pitch selection. A bit of weight helps in conditioning and adds "pop" to wooden bats. There is no ball exit speed requirements ,drop limits etc. Good straight grain is essential. Tom at Barnstable Bat Company
I just completed an ebook on this very subject for Parents and Coaches. I would love to help you as a resource. I discuss the different types of wood and models in the book.
Sorry, you can currently check out the ebook on Amazon or just email me. Title: Real Players Swing Wood: A Parents/Coaches guide to Wood Bats.
Thanks Rick. Help us. What are your thoughts?