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Youth Baseball Bat
Decades ago, when you went shopping for a baseball bat for your kid, you did see sporting goods stores offer a number of models. The differences among them tended to be minimal, however, and there was little meaningful choice. Today, with dozens of technological advances filtering down to the youth baseball equipment market, you could find yourself at a loss standing in the middle of the batting equipment aisle. There are simply too many choices out there to easily know what to do with.
Begin with the league rules
Nearly every league — Little League, Dixie Youth, Pony, AABC and so on — has its own regulations and prescriptions for equipment that it will allow. Some call for BBCOR-certified bats, and others ask for 1.15 BPF (bat performance factor) equipment, as certified by USSSA or ASA. You want to ask before you buy.
Asking is important for another reason
A conversation with your kid’s coach can uncover a wealth of information about the kind of equipment that is likely to suit your child for his or her size, weight, strength and batting style. It takes the trained eye of a coach to know what is likely to really work. The difference between a purchase based on a good, knowledgeable recommendation and one based simply on the attractions of famous brand names and colorful endorsements, can be huge for your child’s ability to learn the game.
Decide on the material to go with
Most youth baseball bats are made of metal alloy, rather than wood or advanced composites. Alloys are affordable, and offer greater strength than wood, for their weight, something that can be important for young players. In many cases, it can make sense to buy two bats — one made of metal for league games, and a heavier, wooden one for practice. A child who practices with a heavier bat is likely to find a metal bat surprisingly easy to handle when it counts, in a game. Wooden bats can help in another way, as well — they have larger sweet spots. Ideally, children learning the game can start with wood, and work their way up to metal.
There are other considerations when deciding between metal and wood, as well. Wooden bats, and even bats made of carbon fiber or other composites, can take some breaking in — a few hundred hits before they begin to perform to spec. Metal bats, on the other hand, require no breaking in.
In general, the choice that you make should come down to personal, individual preference, rather than any professional review. It’s usually all about how a model feels in the child’s hands, rather than what the experts say. It’s important to go with personal preference.
From time to time, leagues begin debates on whether to disallow metal bats at the youth level, altogether. This debate has gone on for years, however, with no path to a resolution in sight. Right now, it’s okay to buy any material that your child’s league will allow, and that your child finds easy to handle.
Work out the right bat length and weight for your child’s size
Bat sizing calculations need to take a child’s age and height into account and can get complicated. While you should get some input from your kid’s coach, it’s important to perform your own measurements, as well. You need to measure your child’s height and weight, and use a sizing chart; there are several available online.
It isn’t necessary to go too strictly by the recommendations of a chart, however. It’s a good idea to take your child’s specific strengths or weaknesses into account, as well. If your child is somehow more comfortable with a longer bat or shorter one than a chart recommends, it could make sense to go with the preference. You can even choose drop 3 baseball bats or other drop levels, when it comes to major games . These are bats that are several ounces lighter than standard levels. Such extra-light bats can offer a performance boost. If the league will allow them, you should consider getting one.
It’s important to understand that it can take time for a child truly understand what kind of equipment best suits their playing style. It can make sense to buy a low-end model at first. Once your child has had enough time with the sport, an informed choice should be easier to come by.
Kieran Shepherd has two sons and is definitely a crazy ‘baseball Dad’. He coaches a youth team 3 nights a week and is always taking his kids to watch live games; a bonding experience he cannot get enough of. In his articles he writes about the importance of sports for kids, along with some coaching/parenting tips.