More than anything, being able to hit well affects the level of excitement a young player has for the game of baseball. Often overlooked, choosing the correct baseball bat can make all the difference in the world between whether a hitter succeeds or fails at the plate.
Many things go into deciding what the proper size bat is for each player. Weight, length, barrel size, material and whether it is going to be used in Tee Ball, Youth, High School, College or in an adult league. If it is for softball, is it fast pitch or slow pitch; 11 inch, 12 inch or 16 inch?
Generally speaking, it is best to choose the lightest bat you can find for any given length. This is referred to as the “length to weight ratio” and the lower the number, the better. Simply subtract the length of a bat from the weight to get the ratio (i.e. a 28 inch bat that weighs 19 ounces would have a length to weight ration of -9).
Although they are more expensive, the newer high tech alloy bats typically give you the lightest bat for each length. The higher strength alloys allow for a thinner metal thickness, while still retaining incredible durability. Less metal means less weight. Less weight means better bat speed.
The diameter of the barrel is also an important consideration. The larger the barrel, the greater the “sweet spot” of the bat is. A large sweet spot means there is a greater area on the bat’s surface for solid contact to occur. Sometimes, it I better to sacrifice a little bit of length for the larger bat head diameter. Barrel heads are typically either 2 ¼ inches, 2 5/8 inches or 2 ¾ inches. Be sure to check with your league; however, there are maximum diameters restrictions in some organizations – especially youth leagues.
The best rule of thumb for determining if a bat is too heavy for a child is to have them hold it straight out to the side with just their top hand on the bat (the right hand for right handed hitters). If they can hold it for at least 20 seconds without having their arm tremble, it is not too heavy.
It is usually pretty tough to really get a good feel for a bat in a sporting goods store, though. Even if there is ample room to swing a bat, there is nothing that really substitutes for swinging at a pitched ball. Ideally, you should head to a good public batting cage where there are a wide variety of “house” bats to choose from. You can usually get pretty close to figuring out the right size and weight, even if it means choking up on a bat an inch to approximate a different length to weight ratio.
Most youth league teams have a variety of bat sizes and weights to choose from and borrowing a teammate’s bat during practice can also help a lot in finding just the perfect size and type of bat.
If all else fails, you can use the following ratios to determine the proper weight bat. These ratios were developed by Worth, Inc. after an extensive research group project involving both youth and adult hitters. The ratios are at the bottom of their corresponding charts:
Youth: 8-10 Years of Age
Bat Weight = (Height ÷ 4) + 4
Youth: 11-12 Years of Age
Bat Weight = (Player Weight ÷ 18)
High School - College - Adult
Optimal Bat Weight
Bat Weight = (Player Height ÷ 3) + 5