SOFTBALL BATS BUYING GUIDE Everything you need to know before buying your softball bat.
So you are looking to buy a new softball bat or softball glove? Perfect, you have come to the right place. The JustBats Softball Buying Guide is here to help educate you on all the elements that go into scoring the best softball equipment for the player in your life. It breaks down important information such as the differences between USSSA & ASA softball, what the "drop" of a bat means, and how you can determine what bat length you need. You can think of it as a personal shopping coach!
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The first question you need to answer is whether you are shopping for Fastpitch Softball bats or Slow Pitch Softball bats. Fastpitch Softball is commonly played by younger female athletes looking for an alternative to baseball. Slow Pitch Softball is a sport enjoyed by adults. It is known as ‘slow pitch’ because each pitch must travel towards home plate in an arching manner. You will notice that we have two links below. Use the appropriate link that fits your buying needs.
Choosing a Softball Bat
We get it. Choosing the perfect bat is an agonizing decision. You want to buy a softball bat that’s the right size, the right weight, and the right length for you–and within your budget. Improvements in technology have given today’s softball players more options than ever, so you’re sure to find a bat product that feels like it was custom made for you, even with cheap softball bats. You just have to do some homework to find it, which is why JustBats.com has made it easy by providing this Bat Resource Guide, as well as tons of softball bats for sale.
The four key factors to consider when selecting your softball bat are:
Length and weight combine for peak performance. A longer bat gives you greater reach, allowing you to hit balls on the other side of the plate. But remember that a longer bat may be heavier, and the extra weight could slow you down. Like checking the weight, you need to swing bats of different lengths to decide what length best suits you.
As a general rule, bigger, stronger players usually prefer a heavier bat for maximum power. Smaller players usually benefit from a lighter bat that allows greater bat speed. To determine the weight that’s right for you, swing a variety of bats to discover the amount of weight that makes you comfortable.
Feel may be the most important factor. Make sure the bat feels right to you, like an extension of your arm and hand. After all, you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time together.
Virtually all softball leagues have their bat requirements and restrictions. All softball bats will be required to have a 2” barrel diameter, but the certification stamps required may vary (and not every bat carries every stamp). To avoid costly surprises, make sure you know all league requirements before you go bat shopping.
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Leagues / Governing Bodies
When you receive your new bat, one of the first things you do is probably inspect it. During your softball bat inspection process, you probably notice some acronyms like ASA, USSSA, ISA, NSA, and WBSC. These are letters identifying the governing bodies that certify that this bat is acceptable for play in a given league or tournament sanctioned by the association. There are roughly 20 governing bodies in softball which may be easily recognizable. There are, however, five which are considered the major softball governing bodies. These five are the:
Amateur Softball Association (ASA)
Background of ASA: The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) was formed in 1933 and is now based in Oklahoma City, OK. When ASA was formed and organized, it was the first unified set of rules for softball that added stability to the sport. The mandate was to provide safe, consistent and fair competition for everyone. In 1978, the United States Olympic Committee named ASA the National Governing Body of Softball.
Today ASA is made up of 87 local associations that register players and organize leagues and sanction tournaments. The Hall of Fame Stadium at the national headquarters also hosts the NCAA Women’s College World Series each year. Today ASA registers some 245,000 teams and over 3.5 million players. The two major divisions of ASA are the adult and youth programs. The adult program is the backbone of ASA with over 170,000 teams and about 2.5 million players. The youth program provides for both competitive and non-competitive participation in slow and fastpitch softball. Youth softball is one of the fastest growing programs in ASA.
The ASA website has an abundance of information for all levels of softball players. You can find out about tournaments, being an umpire, certified equipment, etc. A recommended article to read is about the history of softball and how it relates to boxing.
United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA)
Background of USSSA: The United States Specialty Sports Association or sometimes referred to as U-Trip was formed in 1968. In 1968 the original name of the organization was the United States Slow-Pitch Softball Association (USSSA). The origins of this group came out of a group of softball managers who wanted to see changes within the softball governing bodies. USSSA wanted to focus on ideas for progressive changes to the game. In 1968 DiOrio, Ernst, Ciaccia, and Mazza organized an experimental world tournament. Some changes they tried were 65-foot basepaths and a smaller batters box. The tournament registered 50 teams from 15 different states, and the USSSA was born.
By 1997 the association was governing Slow Pitch, Fastpitch, baseball, basketball and golf. It was at this time that a name change to the now United States Specialty Sports Association was made. Thus, USSSA was made the first multi-sport governing body.
The USSSA website has a good deal of information to be accessed. You can find information on tournaments, licensed bats, and a Hall of Fame.
Independent Softball Association (ISA)
Background of ISA: When you hear the term “Base Burglar” there can be only one governing body that comes to mind: the Independent Softball Association (ISA). The I in ISA could just as well stand for innovative.
In 1984 the ISA was founded in Shelbyville, Tennessee by Larry Nash, a long-time softball player with a great love for the game. In the spring of 1984, ISA held its first tournament. Sixty-four teams from twenty-four different states attended the ISA Southeast Regional Spring Shootout and experienced the innovative rules of the Independent Softball Association for the first time. By the end of the tournament, the teams were sold on the new format, and Nash stated: “I have always said the game sells itself, once a team plays it they are hooked.”
With a motto of “Where the team comes first” the ISA continues to grow. Today the ISA is in thirty-one states and Canada. It registers more than 18,000 teams and 4000 umpires.
Check out the ISA’s homepage to find out about tournaments, certified equipment, and don’t miss the rule book for what makes the ISA unique. Additionally, there are resources on stealing in slow pitch softball, the base-burglar, and the inning-ending homerun.
National Softball Association (NSA)
Background of NSA: The National Softball Association (NSA) was founded in 1982 by Hugh Cantrell in Lexington, Kentucky. Today you can find the national headquarters for the NSA in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The NSA offers multiple levels of play from youth through adult.
The National Softball Association’s mission is simply “to be the most successful softball association in the United States.” One way the NSA works towards that goal is to make softball affordable for all to enjoy. NSA hopes to run a “cost effective” organization that keeps the player, park and recreation department in mind. The National Softball Association believes “A company-wide attitude that recognizes that the team, sponsor or coach’s satisfaction is everything” will help them become the most successful softball association ever.
The NSA website provides valuable information on topics like championships, coaching, rules and standards, and more.
World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)
Background of NSA: Headquartered in Pully, Switzerland - adjacent to Lausanne, the Olympic Capital - the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is the international governing body for baseball and softball. The WBSC has 198 National Federations and 13 Associate Members in 138 countries and territories across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania, which represent a united baseball/softball sports movement that encompasses over 65 million athletes and attracts approximately 150 million fans to stadiums worldwide annually.
The WBSC governs all international competitions involving official National Teams. The WBSC oversees the Premier12, the World Baseball Classic and Baseball World Cups (U-12, U-15, U-18, U-23 and Women's), and the Softball World Cups, (Men's, Women's, U-23 Men’s, U-18 Men's, U-18 Women's, U-15 Women’s and U-12 Mixed), and Baseball5 as well as Baseball, Softball and Baseball5 events at the Olympic Games.
Even though these governing bodies may follow similar guidelines and rules each governing body is separate from the others. Therefore, you must adhere to that specific governing body pending your league or tournament play. No matter what governing body you play under there are more similarities than differences. Every organization has a set of rules which promote consistent, fair, and safe play. One of the most interesting differences is in the certification of bats.
USSSA and NSA also test bats for certification. Those associations use a test developed by Dr. Brant, a physics professor at New York University. This test, as attested by many players, allows for greater ball acceleration off the bat. On the field, we might say these bats have more pop. Some people, possibly erroneously, have referred to these softball bats as 100+ mph bats.
To get more detailed information on the certification procedures, you can access the individual governing bodies’ websites or contact them directly. On these websites, you can also find information on bats that are certified and those that are not approved for play in a particular association:
- ASA Certified Equipment
- USSSA Certified Equipment - Fastpitch
- USSSA Certified Equipment - Slow Pitch
- NSA Certified Equipment
- ISA Certified Equipment
- WBSC Certified Equipment
General Softball Bat 101
This section will help you learn about the different parts of a bat. Including bat materials, overall construction types, swing weights, and barrel diameters.
One-Piece Softball Bats vs. Two-Piece Softball Bats
Not sure whether to buy a one-piece or a two-piece bat softball bat? We're here to help you understand the differences between the two. Let's get right to it and begin with a one-piece bat design. If you're a strong power hitter, listen up.
This design can maximize your hitting potential. Here's how:
One-piece softball bats maximize your hitting potential if you're a strong power hitter.
One-piece bats are made from either a solid block of wood, composite material or aluminum alloy. It makes the bat not only stiff but very strong too. So when you make contact with a one-piece bat, little to no energy is lost. Also, your power is transferred to the ball, allowing you to crush those softballs.
One-piece bats aren't for everyone, though. Some hitters, especially contact hitters, prefer a bat that will give them an extra boost in swing speed, like the two-piece bat design.
What exactly is a two-piece softball bat design?
On two-piece softball bats, the handle and barrel are two separate pieces that are bonded together.
Separating the pieces allows the bat to flex, which causes the head of the bat to flex, which causes the head of the bat to whip through the hitting zone quicker. This gives your swing an extra boost in speed and power.
So, which bat design is best for you? We'd recommend swinging the one that best fits your hitting style.
Composite Softball Bats
What are some of the benefits of a composite softball bat?
Composite softball bats are made from woven fibers, which are extremely durable materials. Manufacturers use a variety of tight weaves to create pop and durability with composite baseball bats.
Breaking in a composite bat takes 100-200 hits with the bat either with tee work or soft toss. Make sure to rotate the bat 1/4 inch after each swing.
Composite fibers are often lighter in construction, which benefits hitters.
Composite bats help create more bat speed through a lighter swing weight and provide more bat control by having a more balanced feel.
Composite bats also absorb more vibration, so you'll feel less sting in your hands as a hitter.
Aluminum Softball Bats
JustBats.com has a wide array of aluminum softball bats. So, which aluminum bat should you be using?
On JustBats.com, anything that says aluminum, alloy, or metal will fall under the aluminum bat umbrella. These are the softball bats that receive a prototypical ping sound when you're hitting, whereas composite bats deliver a thud sound. Aluminum softball bats offer these benefits:
Aluminum bats tend to be more affordable than their composite counterparts and can perform as an excellent cheap softball bat alternative.
Aluminum bats are hot out of the wrapper. They require no break-in time.
Aluminum bats have a stiff, responsive feel. This makes the ball jump off the bat.
Aluminum bats are great for hitters in any part of the lineup.
Aluminum bats are very durable. And, you can use them in cold temperatures.
Aluminum softball bats are being used by players of all different age ranges. From Tee Ball bats and Youth bats all the way up to the highest level college ranks. For those softball players out there, remember that some of your Leagues will require single wall alloy bats.
You've Chosen your Bat. Now What?
After you buy a softball bat, you want to be comfortable and confident with it before you swing in a win-or-lose situation, so take it to the practice field or batting cage and get in a few hits. Take a look at our Baseball and Softball Bat Care section to get tips on how to make your bat last as long as possible. Confidence can only come from one thing: practice. Whatever softball bat you choose, put in plenty of practice time, so you’ll be ready when the pressure’s on at the plate.
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