What Kind of Softball Bat Should I Use?

Jim Teeter

Nowadays most senior softball bats are constructed of reinforced carbon fiber polymer, or composite material. That composite could include aluminum, carbon and graphite. Aluminum, while durable, is very old technology, and wood is not used anymore at all. New bats range in price from $34 for el cheapo to $350 for the latest and greatest. Last year’s models are usually just shy of $200.

Most people selecting a new bat want the most power. Factors achieving more power are discussed below. In our NCSS-CD league, you definitely want to use a bat certified as SSUSA BPF 1.21 (a new rating “NTS” is used on all bats manufactured after July 1, 2020; it measures bat performance after a bat has been used). Your batted ball will travel at least 50 feet further than when hitting with a 1.20 or “ASA” approved bat. Other considerations in buying a new bat that don’t affect power include: one-piece vs two-piece (completely personal preference), break-in time and durability.

What length? The length of your bat is dependent on your height and weight. Most senior softball players would use a 34” bat, some a 33” bat and maybe 1 or 2 outliers use a 32” bat, if they can be found. Check this bat length calculator.

What weight? Most senior bats are 26-30 ounces; bigger players/HR hitters typically use 28-30 ounce bats. The weight of your bat is a personal preference. But optimum weight will give you the most power. We all remember our Physics class, right, that Force = Mass x Velocity? To get maximum force, the main consideration should be to optimize bat weight (mass) vs bat speed (velocity). If your bat is too light you will be able to swing faster, but if foo fast you may lose control and won’t be able to increase bat speed enough to make up for the loss of mass. Similarly, if the bat is too heavy, you will not be able to generate enough bat speed. You need to find the happy medium. You need to hit 100 balls with each. One legendary NCSS-CD home run hitter is fond of saying “Swing as heavy a bat as you possibly can and still feel comfortable” (i.e. without losing control). I couldn’t agree more.

 

End-loaded or balanced? Balanced bats are best for contact hitters and those who want better bat control. They can also typically generate more bat speed. End-loaded bats have more weight (mass) at the end of the bat, so if the batter can already generate high bat speed, they may achieve more power and distance. There is a great, scientific article to help with this decision on the NCSS web site written by Art Eversole, Balanced Bat or End-loaded.

 

Size of the “sweet spot” may also be a consideration, but frankly I haven’t figured that out yet. Some bats have an 11-inch barrel (equates to a smaller sweet spot) while other barrels are as long as 14 inches. If you want more consistency, I think you’d want the largest sweet spot (barrel), but not if you can get more power with a smaller sweet spot; I don’t know if that is true. Maybe someone with some scientific evidence can correct me. I do know a great hitter, John Woolsey, who says, “If you can hit the perfect sweet spot every time, you’ll hit farther with a short barrel.”

Today’s bats are far more durable than even those of 5 years ago. The only disadvantage of composite bats is that a break-in period. Brand new bats (with a possible claimed exception for some bats like the Miken Ultra Fusion) are very stiff and will require 100+ hits before they loosen up and deliver increased power. Due to the long break-in period, if you are at all serious about playing softball, you should have 2 bats minimum so you aren’t stuck with a new bat that is not broken in.

Back to the original question, what bat should I use, I don’t feel qualified to do a formal review, so I will recommend 5 or bats that I have personally used and that I know will deliver very high performance in power. None of these can do you wrong. And I would be glad to recommend another that someone recommends and lets me test out. Sorry, I don’t have any recommendations for an “El cheapo” like Louisville Sluggers I’ve seen. If you’re not $200 serious, it doesn’t matter what bat you buy – except maybe some alternatives listed below the following table.

Jim’s Hot Senior Softball bats, December 2020 (alphabetical order)

TABLE

Adidas/Reebok Melee    $229

Adidas/Reebok Melee 2 end loaded  $209

Dudley Lightning Legend HotW end loaded  $199

Miken Freak Primo Balanced  $299

Miken Ultra 2  $162

Miken Ultra Fusion Big Cat  $219

Miken Ultra Fusion Supermax $208

Taking care of your senior softball bat

  • do not store in extremely hot or cold spaces (your car)

  • do not hit when temperature too cold (below 60 degrees?)

  • rotate bat ¼ turn each swing

  • do not lend your bat to anybody

  • do not “shave” or any other way alter your bat (or face multi-year expulsions from softball)

List of Manufacturers

Where can you find a good senior softball bat?

  • Brick and mortar Stores

  • Online

    • Amazon

    • Bats Unlimited

    • Cheap Bats

    • Dick's Sporting Goods

    • eBay

    • Headbanger Sports

    • JustBats

    • SmashIt Sports

  • AlternativeSources (as in cheap)

    • Your local league has an entrepreneur or two who advance money to buy a quantity of bats for a discount, usually 15% or more.  He’ll be happy to split the difference with you.

    • Friend a bat man. Have you ever seen the guy who always has the latest and greatest bat? What do you think he does with the 6-month old ones? He sells them cheap. Typically a $200 used bat for $75 or less.

    • Tournaments. Vendors who set up shade (shady?) folding table stores at tournaments have low overhead and offer discounted prices and usually do not charge sales tax. If they do charge tax, bargain for them to pay the sales tax, it won’t be a hard sell. Especially if you pay cash.

    • Second-hand stores, like Play It Again Sports, Oceanside

    • Craigslist San Diego had 9 use softball bats last time I looked.

Benefits of Bat Compression Testing

June 1, 2016 – Art Eversol