Back when I was a little league player, aluminum bats were really just starting to gain in popularity. A lot of kids had them, including many of my teammates, but being the punk-rocking traditionalist that I am, I stuck it to the powers that be and continued using good old fashioned wood. If it was good enough for the big leaguers, it was good enough for me.
Plus, I didn’t want to embarrass our opponents. 😉 I was already hitting bombs, and the older kids, like the ones in high school, regaled me with stories of the supernatural power of these new-fangled metal contraptions. Heck with that. When I beat you, I’m gonna beat you with tools God gave the game — a good hard wooden club in my hand to smack that rock you’re throwing right into next week. Ha!
Well, times have changed. Don’t get me wrong…the only bats I personally own are still of the wood variety. But you’d be hard pressed to find a kid today who’s ever played with a wooden bat. My son, when he was T-Ball age and machine-pitch age, used a pretty rinky dink aluminum bat. In fact, he used that through coach pitch. But once he entered the glorious stage known as “kid-pitch,” well, it was a different story.
Dad Gets Schooled
That year my son made the travel team…even hindered by the discount bat he was using. After the first travel-team practice, we changed. I got my first close up look at a Mako Composite bat made by Easton, and man, I was embarrassed. I’ll admit. Now this wasn’t a case of keeping up with Joneses. This was before I started coaching myself (that would wait until next year), but I was friends with most of the “fraternity,” and one of them pulled me aside and gave me a talking to…
Coach: “Chris, come here!”
Me: “What’s up?”
Coach: “I want you to see something.”
At this, he held up my son’s bat side by side with one of the aforementioned Makos that the other kids were using.
Coach: “Yeah. Get him a new bat.”
And walked away, leaving me to feel like less of a devoted father/tutor and more like a neglectful rookie who balked when it was time to get his running in. His message was clear: If your son has the talent to make the travel and all-star teams using THAT, imagine what he’d do with a real bat instead of a toy. Point taken.
Youth Baseball Bats: A Buying Guide
Here’s the rub, though…these bats can be wildly expensive. My son was just turning 9 years old at the time, and the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars for a bat he’d outgrow in a year didn’t get me all that excited.
Luckily there’s a simple solution…Amazon.com (there are other online sources — see below — but Amazon is usually the place I use). The Makos at my local sporting goods store ran around $300 plus tax. The SAME exact bat on Amazon was half that…and no tax. Easy decision.
Now, besides the obvious, here’s what makes the new generation of youth bats better, why you should seriously consider investing in one for your son or daughter, and some things to look for and keep in mind…
Composite Bats are Proven to Outperform Aluminum: The new generation of bats, like Makos, are made of composite materials that are stronger and provide more “pop” off the barrel. Plus, they don’t have that distinctive “ping” that maddens baseball purists like me. The sound of a well-struck ball is somewhere between a ping and the classic “crack” you get off a wood bat. It takes some getting used to, especially if your son or daughter is used to hearing that loud ping, but rest assured…the ball is coming off the bat with more power and at a higher velocity, all other factors being equal. Want proof? Here you go: Composite Bats vs. Aluminum Bats — real life study from professors and stuff (if you want to get your science on, check it out). Note: My son now owns a Mako from Easton. Here are a couple videos on them. No, I don’t have any interest, financial or otherwise, in you buying an Easton. I’ve been super pleased with them, and I’d say darn near close to 99% of the kids on the travel teams use them, but there are certainly other manufacturers to choose from.
Get the Right Size and Weight: Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’d never buy a bat for my son that he hadn’t swung first. The barrel should be 2 1/4 inches in diameter. A common size/weight ratio is what’s called a “-10,” meaning the length and weight differ by 10, with the weight being the second, or lower, number. So, for example, a 29/19 is a 29 inch bat weighing 19 ounces. On my son’s U10 travel team (meaning the kids were pretty much 10 years old), most of the kids were using 29/19s or 30/20s. While I don’t buy much from my local sporting goods store, I DO take my son in to try out the equipment first. Then I come home and order it online. 🙂
No Need to Go Nuts: You can easily go crazy when purchasing a new bat. Most manufacturers will offer enough bells and whistles on the super duper high-end models to make your head…and wallet…spin. I’ve never fallen for that trap and don’t intend to start now. I have seen a few kids with things like torque handles and all kinds of nonsense, but in talking to the player, I’m not convinced it’s worth the extra cost, especially when you’ll probably be buying a new one in a year or two. A good quality “standard” composite bat is plenty good enough.
Buy Last Year’s Model: By this I don’t mean buying a used bat. I don’t have any experience with that, so I can’t recommend or discourage it. What I mean, however, is to look on sites like Amazon and you’ll find that manufacturers and sellers deeply discount 2015-season bats when everyone is gearing up for 2016, for example. In my opinion there really isn’t a big difference from one year to the next. I doubt most youth players, parents or coaches would be able to tell the difference. And the bats are usually about 50% less than the latest iteration without loss in quality.
Hope that helps and happy hitting! Drop us a note and let us know what you think, how you made out, and any ideas or requests you have for information, tips, tricks, techniques, etc. that you’d like us to cover!
Now go out there are smack some dingers!
Final Note: Make sure the bat you’re choosing conforms to Little League standards and is legal to use for play. One of our players showed up to our first practice last Spring with a bat that was illegal. I was working with our pitchers and my assistant was working on hitting, so he was the first to notice it. We told his father and the player showed up to the next practice with a legal bat. This may have never come into play during our regular rec league games (though it probably would have), but for any tournament games, when bats are checked closely, it definitely would have been noticed and tossed out. You can view the standards at the Little League website here. You can also download a list of bats approved for use. Also, simply check the barrel of the bat. It should say “Approved for play in Little League.”
Resources From this Post and Beyond
- Youth Baseball Bats on Amazon.com
- Study of Composite Bats vs. Aluminum Bats from Penn State University
- Exact Rules Regarding Bats Suitable for Use in Little League Play