Helping you choose the right baseball bat for your child is our goal here. We walk you through the terminology and help you understand the factors involved. This understanding is crucial for your child to continue to have the right baseball bat as he grows.
Baseball bats are expensive! They could cost anywhere from $60 to $350, so it’s important to choose the right baseball bat. The very first thing you should do is to find out what’s allowed by your baseball league. You don’t want to shell out a lot of money just to find that the league won’t let your child use the bat! Baseball bats are measured in weight drop, or length-to-weight ratio. This is a negative number that is the length of the bat in inches minus the weight of the bat in ounces. For example, a bat that’s 32” long and weighing 28 oz has a length-to-weight ratio of -4. The lightest bat you’ll find generally has a ratio of -12. This is used in little league for very young players, whereas high school and college leagues are restricted to at least -3. The reason for this is that a college player swinging a -12 bat could hit the ball so hard that the ball could kill someone. This is, in fact, why the major leagues are required to use wooden bats. Of course, this ratio of -3 could mean a 34” 31oz bat, or a 31” 28oz bat, etc.
Also, recently several leagues have put limits on the performance of the bats used. The Bat Performance Factor (BPF) is a measure of how fast a ball comes off the bat compared to how fast it comes off a solid wall. So a BPF of 1.15 means it rebounds 15% faster than off a wall. The maximum BPF for Little League is 1.15 and must be printed on the bat, whereas for USSSA and NSA league play the bat must bear a permanent marking indicating that the bat does not exceed a 1.20 BPF rating. So check with your league to find out any bat performance requirements before buying a bat.
Barrel width is also something that is restricted by the league and so, is something you should find out before buying a bat. This is the diameter of the widest part of the bat. Little League bats are 2¼” in diameter, while senior league bats are available in 2 5/8” or 2¾”. High school and college bats are 2 5/8”. Generally, the longer and larger the barrel, the larger the “sweet spot” is for hitting the ball. However, some players prefer a thinner barrel making the bat lighter, which in turn increases the swing speed and results in a ball that’s hit further.
The number one rule in buying a bat is to keep your receipt!
The first step in choosing the right baseball bat is selecting the proper length. The table below gives the length of the bat based on the player’s height and weight (courtesy of the Louisville Slugger website).
The next important factor in selecting the right baseball bat is the bat weight. Worth Sports and the University of Arizona conducted a study to determine the best bat weights for hitters. The tables below summarize their findings.
These tables are just guidelines, however, and several weights should be tried by the player before deciding on one. Remember though, that the lighter the bat the better! Most young players want a heavier bat because they think that a heavy bat will make the ball go further. That isn’t the case! The lighter the bat the faster it can be swung, resulting in a longer ball. To throw some physics at you, the energy transferred to the ball is proportional to: (weight of bat) x (speed of bat)2. So increasing the bat speed has a greater effect than a corresponding increase in the weight of the bat. Also, a lighter bat results in better control of it. Ultimately, the final decision should be made by the player, as he should be comfortable with the bat. A rule of thumb test for bat weight is to have the child hold the bat with his arm straight out level to the ground. If he can’t hold it for at least 20 seconds without his arm trembling and the bat falling, then the bat is too heavy for him. This is a test that can usually convince the child that the bat is too heavy.
Where are the best places to get bats? I've found the following online sellers to be excellent: Baseball Rampage, Baseball Express, and Sports Diamond. To make it easier to find the right bat, we've set up some baseball bats product pages from my best sources that let you view bats by length-to-weight ratio. Just follow the link and click the length-to-weight ratio you want! Also, since bats are usually categorized by length-to-weight ratio, it can be difficult to find bats that are shorter than 28". For this reason, we've put together product pages for 27" bats, and for 24"-26" bats which are considered Tee Ball bats.
Now you should be prepared to find the right baseball bat for your child!