Why Bat Type and Size are so Critical for Young Players
06-22-2016 / By:
When a child gets up to bat, you probably don't give much thought to how much the size, heft, and materials of the bat can affect their performance, but the truth is that all of these can have a profound impact on the development and safety of a young athlete. Here's how you can make sure you get the best bat for your child.
First, you want to be sure that the bat that you have purchased is legal for play. This requires understanding your child's hitting ability and league rules. The bat length, material, barrel size, and knob must all be approved, and the correct specs can vary according to your child's age and league. The BPF (Bat Performance Factor) should be recorded on the bat and considered as well. It's the indication of how fast the ball will come off the bat. If you have two or more children playing in leagues, don't take it for granted that one bat will work for all. You will want to check in with each child's league and coach to make sure that any bat you purchase is legal for play.
The material the bat is made from is another factor. Metal bats, popular with youth players because of their super light weight, durability, and large sweet spot, have been coming under a lot of scrutiny because they are so light and powerful, they can pose an injury risk for pitchers and fielders. Thus, light wood bats, often used for training, are becoming more popular for play as well. Check to make sure that your child's league has not banned wood bats, and when in doubt, choose a wood bat that meets the league's specifications.
While metal bats are popular, they can hinder the development of your child's performance. They can make it difficult to assess technique, such as a swing that isn't smooth and level, and it can make a bad swing appear better by hitting a ball that normally would have been mishit. And of course, the safety concern of a ball exploding off metal at a high speed poses a danger to everyone, players in particular.
Well-designed wood bats on the other hand, are better balanced and properly weighted, and that's critical to developing good batting skills. Wood bats also increase the likelihood of ball contact because they promote a smooth, level swing. When you hit a ball solidly with a wood bat, that ball will soar. When you don't, it doesn't, and the aftershock sting you get from mishitting will quickly teach the difference between a solidly and poorly hit ball. A wood bat can quickly reveal and help correct any weaknesses in a young ballplayer's swing and help the coach in teaching better technique before playing at higher and more competitive levels. If your little leaguer has all-star dreams, there's no better investment, tool, and teacher than a well-designed wood bat to get them firmly on the road to success. Wood bats can be custom made to fit each child’s size, strength and technique. Non-wood bats come in one size fits all only.
The length of the bat that you choose depends on your child's age, height, and weight. You will want to follow the sizing chart provided by manufacturers, but remember that you can go slightly longer or shorter, depending your child's skill level. Longer bats have more reach and ball acceleration, but also require more strength and control to swing as the weight in the barrel is farther away from the players’ hands..
A larger barrel will make contact with the ball more easily, and is a good choice for a strong child who has trouble connecting with the ball. A child who can hit more consistently, but not as far, will want a smaller barrel for better valance and bat control. Similarly, a heavier bat will send the ball farther, but requires more strength and solid technique to swing consistently. If your child has less muscular development, you will want to purchase a lighter bat, and get a heavier bat for a child with more strength.
Young players who are playing with a bat that is too heavy will drop their shoulders and turn the wrist. This poor technique slows the bat speed, decreases ball contact, and eliminates any swing technique benefits gained from using a wood bat. You can tell the bat is too heavy if the player appears to be "chopping" at the ball. A bat that is too light also hampers the development of a solid, level swing. The player will swing the bat from low to high, with too much bat speed resulting in fly balls. While it may look good at first, the child is again being held back from developing line drives that result from a proper baseball swing with a wood bat. The "drop" of a bat is the ratio of weight to length, and the higher the number, the lighter the bat. The weight of the bat is determined by the length of the bat – the drop which equals the weight in ounces. A 30 inch bat with a drop 5 or -5 weight differential will weigh 25 ounces: 30 (inches)-5= 25 ounces. A 28 inch bat with a drop 2 will weigh 26 ounces: 28 (inches)-2= 26 ounces.
A thicker handle will provide more stability and shock absorption for mishit balls, while a thinner handle is easier to grip and handle. Many leagues will require a bat with a knob below the handle so that it doesn't slip and hurt other players or bystanders.
In general, stronger, accomplished players will use heavier bats with smaller barrels and thinner handles, while beginner and intermediate players should be paired with lighter bats with bigger barrels and thicker handles. And of course, wood bats are better and safer for young athletes, both in terms of developing good technique and protecting others from a ball hit at a high speed.
X Bat offers 14 different youth bat models for every player’s size and style. These are the finest maple bats money can buy. We have over 300 Major League players swinging X Bats, and we are the ONLY company that makes the same grade of wood for all of our customers. Whether you prefer a thin, medium or thick handle, a flared handle, a large knob or no knob, there is a model to suit your game. The Model 6 light and T-Ball are for young players aged 4-6. Model 8 has a thin handle, Models 10 and 98 have a medium handle and Model 12 has a thick handle for better bat control for small hands. The Model 73, our most popular model has a large knob for balance and a light swing feel. If you are 13-14 and not ready for adult bats yet, we make the Models 73BB and 98BB specifically for the transition stage from youth to adult bats.
For more information, visit http://www.xbats.com/baseball-custom-pro-bats-youth.