Whether you're a sandlot ballplayer, or a parent shopping for a 10-year-old who dreams of being the next Miguel Cabrera, it's important to pick the right bat. Thanks to technological advances, there are all sorts of new choices available, and it's easier to find a bat that is tailored to the individual attributes of the player. It's important to take factors such as body type, height, weight, skill level and strength into account and to check league rules, to make sure a bat will be allowed in competition. Other factors to keep in mind:
- Pick the right bat material. Young players can benefit from using aluminum bats, which are lighter in weight, which makes them easier to control and increases bat speed as well. Aluminum bats also have a bigger sweet spot than conventional wood bats, making it easier to make contact. Some aluminum bats even contain materials such as graphite and titanium, which decrease the shock transmitted to a batter's hands. The traditional wooden bat offers more choices in shape and taper, which can be tailored to a player's swing. It's a good choice for stronger, more skilled athletes [source: Major League Baseball].
- Get a bat that fits your body. Bat lengths vary from the 24-inch (61-centimeter) starter bats used by 7-year-olds to 34-inchers (86 centimeters) used by adult players more than 6 feet tall and 180 or more pounds. MLB.com offers a height and weight chart that'll enable you to get a good fit.
- Understand the three key elements of bat design. Barrel size—the length and diameter of the top part of the bat—is important. If you need help making contact, a longer barrel gives you a bigger sweet spot, but a shorter one will add speed to your swing. You can also make your swing faster by picking a narrower taper, the diameter of the bat's handle; a thicker taper will reduce the shock to your hands. For aluminum bats, a rubber grip — the handle's cover—will absorb shock as well, while a real or synthetic leather one will make it easier to hold onto the bat [source: MLB].
Even with all that in mind, the best thing to do is to try an assortment of different bats until you find one that feels right to you.
Author's Note: How Baseball Bats Work
Writing about baseball bats was interesting for me because when I was growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1960s and 1970s, I idolized Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente. And "The Great One," as Clemente was known, was famous for insisting upon an old-fashioned, unusually thick-handled bat — the opposite of what most modern players use. To the quirky Clemente, though, that fence post felt perfect in his huge hands.
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