Serious athletes of all ability levels appreciate the reality that today’s athletic equipment sports an amazing level of technological and design sophistication that means the perfect piece of gear can be found for every pursuit. If softball is your game, and it is the preferred choice of millions, then you love today’s awesome line-up of clubs, boppers, tools, lumber – that is, softball bats. With that terminology on our tongues, let’s take a look at the terminology used to describe and evaluate the hitting sticks offered by today’s leading manufacturers like Easton, Mizuno, Rawlings, Miken, and DeMarini.
Softball Bat Dimensions. A softball bat is measured in terms of length and weight. Back in the day, the wood bat you used in little league probably had a one to one ratio of length to weight – a 30 inch bat usually weighed about 30 ounces. Today’s advanced materials that include not only aluminum but composites like Kevlar, that are very light relative to weight. Today, a typical 32 inch softball bat will weigh about 22 ounces, producing a -10 ratio, meaning it’s 10 less ounces than it is inches. Such ratios produce greater bat speed, the major component of power. Common lengths range from 31 to 34 inches, while weights extend from 20 to 27 ounces. The grips of today’s best softball bats or made either of rubber for cushioned comfort, or of high-density, high-stick composite for better feel.
Now, moving to the specifics of bat performance, the first term to know is “sweet spot.” Golfers understand that this is the area of the club that will produce the optimum results of contact. A large sweet spot in a softball bat means that even slightly miss-hit swings will still produce plenty of pop. Larger barrels will generally have a larger sweet spot.
The next term is “line drive,” which we all know means a rope coming off the bat. The line drive measurement is really a reflection of the first term, sweet spot. The larger the sweet spot, the higher the percentage of struck balls will be line drives. The term “distance” is self-explanatory. Good design and superior materials mean that the same hitter will get more distance out of some bats than others. The terms “feel” or “sting” are interchangeable, and reflect the level of vibration transmitted through the bat to the hands upon contact. The more the hit is displaced throughout the bat, the less sting, or the better the feel. Good bats will let you know whether you made good contact without making you pay for it with sore hands. Feel is often enhanced with specialized grips or a narrower than usual handle that allows more palm and finger to bat contact.
The “strength” of a softball bat usually refers to the thickness of the bat wall. Lighter materials can be thicker, without adding weight which reduces bat speed, and thicker walls typically deliver more power, which any hitter welcomes. Finally, “durability” or “toughness” applies to the longevity one can expect from a bat. Better materials will last longer without cracking, warping, or breaking. When shopping for your next piece of lumber, it is helpful to understand the terminology the reviews and product descriptions are employing, even if it’s not made of wood.