Slowpitch Softball Bats
When buying a softball bat here are the considerations:
Various governing bodies certify bats for their leagues. The first thing to do is to find out what bats your league allows before going shopping. Even if you play in a senior league, they may not allow senior bats unless over a certain age. USSSA, NSA, ASA, ISA, ISF are some of the common league certifications that you’ll see printed on a bat. Some bats are certified for one league while others 2 or 3 leagues.
Bat weights are usually 25-30 oz. In general, you should swing the heaviest bat that you feel comfortable with since the heavier bat at the same swing speed will launch the ball further. The weights from different manufacturers can feel 1-2 ounces different. So if you like a 28oz bat from Easton, a 28oz Demarini can feel significantly different. One ounce is very significant. Here is the physics behind swing speed, weight, and distance. Blah blah.
There are 3 materials used in bat construction. Steel, Aluminum, and Composite.
There is only one steel bat that I am aware of and it’s made by Demarini, the 2020 Steel Slowpitch Bat. Brand new previous years models are usually available on eBay for a large discount. Steel bats have a different sound and feel than aluminum and composite. The bat is end loaded and feels denser than both aluminum and composite. The flex is stiffer than aluminum but more flexible than composite. Steel bats also feel more durable than aluminum and especially composite. Moreover, temperature doesn’t impact steel nor does it need any break in period like composite. I recommend trying one out to see if you like it. I currently use a 2018 model and love it.
Aluminum bats vary widely in feel and performance. Even the latest aluminum bat from Easton the 2018 Rival at $89.99 felt terrible. It’s got 5.0 star reviews but it just felt cheap and terrible to me. No pop or shock absorption at all. Easton also sells the Ronin $180 and Empire $150 that might be better but I haven’t tried them.
I also used a 2018 Demarini Ultimate Weapon for a while but sold it since it was very similar to the Easton Rival, no pop or shock absorption at all and feels terrible.
Hybrid bats use a combination of materials so either the handle will be composite and the barrel will be aluminum, or the handle will be aluminum and the barrel composite. The Easton SV12 and SV22 series would be an example. The SV12 is the bat I used for 9 years before getting a Demarini Steel bat. I recently acquired an Easton SV22 that I’m evaluating. These bats are over 10 years old and are no longer made unfortunately. The SV22 is difficult to find, but SV12s are usually on eBay.
Composite is the most expensive material and requires a break in period of 150-250 hits with a pitched or batting tee ball, not a batting cage ball. Temperature impacts composite bats. When temps fall below 50F it is not recommended to bat with them since the composite becomes brittle and can shatter. Some players use bat warmers. Note that softballs also will be harder at lower temps. This is something aluminum, hybrid, and steel bat users don’t have to be concerned about.
Another feature that impacts how the bat feels to swing is loading. Bats can be loaded or have a weight installed inside the bat. At the end is called end loading. In the center is called mid loading. A bat that isn’t loaded is called balanced. Some have super loading and just loaded. Not sure what those are exactly and different manufacturers have different terminology. It’s best to try a bat to see what type of loading you like.
Bat Performance Factor is a measurement of how hot the bat is or how far the call will travel after being hit by this particular bat. 1.20 is the most common with 1.21BPF used in senior leagues. (blah explain it more precisely) In theory, regardless of material used to construct the bat, the BPF will indicate how hot the bat is or how far the ball will travel with the same swing speed.
Demoing a bat is difficult since manufacturers and sporting goods stores generally don’t demo bats at least I haven’t found any. Tennis rackets are easily demoed from online stores, local sporting goods stores, and speciality tennis shops. Not sure why bats don’t have the same set up. You can borrow another players bat and keep notes as to weight, model, brand, weighting and how you liked it. I buy, try out, and then sell if I don’t like it.
Using different bats during a game. If they are different weights and loading then you can swing faster or slower and the ball may end up in a different area of the field than you were expecting. The majority of players have more than one bat. I’m conflicted on this. I lean towards trying out several bats until you zero in on the bat brand, model, weight, and loading that you like best and just keep using that bat since it will be predictable. Some have different bats for home run hitting and another for control.
What bat is the best? Most players think the one that has the most pop and will launch the ball the farthest is the best but I think there’s more to it. blah blah.