While we are still very much in the midst of the winter season, the start of spring is just two short months away; that means baseball and softball season is just around the corner too.
Before you know it, you will be searching the garage and basement to unearth your bat, mitt and ball.
You may discover your game-hardened bat has a couple dimples or lost its explosive pop. Perhaps, you have simply outgrown your old equipment and need new, properly sized gear.
Whichever the case is, buying a new baseball bat can be confusing, especially when considering the different types, technologies, sizes and certifications that go into designing a baseball or softball bat.
Spending the time to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge can help you not only find the perfect fit for a baseball or softball bat, but also have an easier time doing so. In some cases, it can even help you save money or find a more affordable deal.
What to Buy
The first step in purchasing a new stick is understanding who you (or whoever you are buying for) are as a hitter. Most readily, this can be described as knowing what size bat is best for you.
A bat-sizing chart can be easily found online or should be on display at your local sporting goods store. This helpful table allows you to compare your height and weight to the ideal length of your bat.
Little League 11/4″ Baseball Bats
PONY League 2 5/8″ Baseball Bats
|Age||Under 7||8-9||10-11||12-13||14 and over|
High School/College 2 5/8″ Baseball Bats
|Age||14-15||16-18||18 and over|
Fastpitch 2 1/4″ Softball Bats
|Age||Under 7||8-9||10-11||12-13||14 and over|
Determining the weight of your ideal bat is less about measurements and more about feel and control. This begins to explore what type of hitter you are.
In other words, do you swing for contact and base hits, or are you a beefy power hitter who is capable of putting the right pitch over the fence.
Heavier bats are ideal for the latter hitting style because they put more power behind each swing.
However, before you go and pick up the heaviest bat possible to help increase your homerun stats, remember that controlling your swing is the most important because if you cannot control your bat, you will not make any contact in the first place.
Thus, finding the proper weight is a practice in balancing control and power potential.
The length and weight of the bat are not the only parameters to think of when buying a new baseball bat.
You also have to consider how the bat is assembled, what certifications it carries (in other words, what leagues or levels of play are it permitted in), what materials it is made from and more. Many of these boil down to league standards.
In some cases, there is little choice involved. For example, college and high school leagues require every bat to be BBCOR-certified, other leagues permit only wooden bats and so on.
If you do not already have a full understanding of your personal hitting preferences or what your league rules dictate, it is highly recommended that you test a few different bat styles out or consult a league official or rulebook before purchasing.
Where to Buy
There are typically four answers to this question: a sporting goods store, a bat cage pro shop, an online vendor or secondhand.
If the question were written differently – where is the best place to purchase – the answer would be your local bat cage’s pro shop.
Not only do the sales associates here have the most specialized knowledge around, but there is also the added bonuses of being able to test bats out before you make a final purchasing decision.
If you are looking to transition to a new hitting style or need help establishing what your hitting style is to begin with, the aid of a batting cage is unmatched.
If there are no batting cages available in your area (or none with a bat shop), your next best bet is a tie between shopping online or at a sporting goods store. Each has their individual advantages and disadvantages.
A sporting goods store offers the ability to feel the weight in your hand and even give it a practice swing or two in the store.
When choosing the right bat, this is the next best thing to stepping into a cage. On the flipside, online bat vendors often have the best prices and widest selection.
If you are already accustomed to what a bat feels like in your hands, you may find a better deal online than in the store.
We never recommend buying a bat secondhand. Overtime, bats lose their pop and accumulate dents and dimples. These can have a negative impact on your performance at the plate.
In addition, older bats do not usually carry up-to-date certifications for current league standards.
Even if the seller is offering a very reduced price and promises the bat is lightly used, they still cannot guarantee you the limited warranty that most manufacturers carry.
The only scenario where purchasing a secondhand bat is applicable is if you are looking for a stick to use just during batting practice.
When to Buy
Many buyers seldom ask this question. However, it can have a direct impact on selection and the overall price.
Buying a bat during the midst of the off-season often yields the best discount because, well, it is the off-season and bat sales are low; there is less demand.
At the same time, sporting goods stores will likely have poor selections during this time because they downsize their spring and summer sport sections to make more room for winter sports. Thus, buying online in the wintry months is best.
Bat manufacturers often release their new year bat lineups towards the end of the previous year (for example, most 2016 model bats were released around October and November).
If you are buying a bat at the end of the season, you may want to wait a month to take advantage of the next year models that are about to be released.
Overall, the most affordable months to buy are January through February because sales are known to take a dive after the holiday season, but baseball and softball equipment are still in the off-season months.
Who to Buy
In many cases, the same bat has models that fit the requirements for different leagues and types of play.
For example, the 2016 DeMarini CF8 is available in thirteen different versions, including separate bats for softball and baseball.
The following bat brands are listed in no particular order and the bats aim to encompass both baseball and softball leagues.
The original name in bats, Louisville Slugger has been making wooden baseball bats since before the turn of the 20th century.
Throughout history, some of the greatest players to ever grace the game of baseball have used and relied on Louisville Slugger, including the likes of Honus Wagner (who was the first player to endorse the bat, or any bat for that matter), Lou Gehrig and the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth.
Since their origin, the woodworking company has made everything from porch columns, butter churns, rifle stocks during World War II, and billy clubs.
But, they always came back to the baseball bat. Louisville Slugger has expanded their business to include an impressive lineup of aluminum alloy and composite bats to serve the needs of today’s softball and amateur baseball leagues.
With the most experience in the industry, Louisville Slugger has an advantage when it comes to expertise and bat-making know-how.
Even today, some of the game’s best hitters trust and use Louisville Slugger bats, including Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and many other award-winning and MVP hitters.
Louisville Slugger Prime 916
The 2016 Prime 916 is available as a youth, senior league or BBCOR-certified baseball bat. Louisville Slugger’s design hopes for the Prime 916 was to deliver a light swing, but large barrel and thereby an incredible sweet spot.
They certainly succeeded. The Prime 916 has the best sweet spot to swing weight ratio of an bat in the company’s repertoire.
Much of the Prime 916’s power comes from the new Fused Carbon Structure (FCS), of the bat’s composite material, and the Flex Band Technology.
The new FCS composite design promotes a light swing, but does not sacrifice durability or performance.
The Flex Band Technology works inside the barrel by using a flexible band, hence the name, and allows the Prime 916 to have thinner walls and overall larger sweet spot.
The Prime 916 is Louisville Slugger’s answer to bats like the Easton MAKO or CF8. It has a similar price and features.
Ultimately, it comes down to brand loyalty or simple hitter preference.
Louisville Slugger LXT
When it comes to best fast-pitch softball bats, there is little comparison to Louisville Slugger’s LXT. It is, and has been, one of the most popular bats among NCAA Division 1 Women’s Softball players for the past few years.
Not only is the LXT approved for all major softball leagues, including collegiate and high school, but it is also available in -8 through -11 drop weights, which satisfies the needs of all different sized players.
As a balanced bat, the LXT is ideal for contact hitters. However, with the lack of end loaded, power hitting bats designed for play in fast-pitch leagues, the heavier drop weight LXTs have just enough oomph behind them to be deadly in a power hitter’s hands.
The key performance enhancing features in the Louisville Slugger LXT are its TRU3 transfer technology, SLiD barrel disk and the Zero Friction double-wall.
Starting with the TRU3, this connective piece makes the LXT a three-piece bat. Although, it actually gives the bat the stiff feel of a one-piece stick. It also dampens vibrations felt on the hands.
The SLiD barrel disk rests inside the barrel and helps fine tune the bat’s capabilities to the absolute legal limit allowed by ASA, USSSA and other leagues associations.
Lastly, the double-wall barrel design creates a doubling effect on the bat’s trampoline effect on balls. In other words, it gives the bat more pop.
What Louisville Slugger did for wooden bats, Easton did the same for aluminum and metal alloy bats.
In 1969, they became the first baseball bat brand to produce a solid aluminum bat. Their success since then has been nearly unmatched.
Aside from playing father to the first aluminum bat, they have also engineered many other significant industry benchmarks, including the first bat with a carbon fiber core, the first titanium-made bat, and several other metal alloys.
Easton’s lab, based in Van Nuys, California, continually modifies and tests new metal alloys and bat technologies in order to push the envelope.
Some of the performance-enhancing innovations that have rolled out of Easton’s research center include ConneXion technology, which creates a seamless connection point between the handle and barrel in two-piece bats, Tri-Shell design, which puts rubber tubing in between the double walls for peak performance, and many, many others.
The newest addition to Easton’s technology arsenal is the TORQ 360-degree rotating handle. This spinning handle lets players get the bat around to the ball faster, as well as helping them square up on inside pitches.
Overall, Easton has been an industry leader when it comes to aluminum bats for over thirty years and will continue to be for several more.
Their ground-breaking bat innovations continue to roll out. Even the TORQ handle, their latest creation, has been met with solid praise from bat and hitting experts.
With so much experience and the best engineers available, Easton’s benefits are numerous.
The MAKO is part of Easton’s “Power Brigade” lineup, which is their most successful group of bats across all levels of play.
The MAKO is significant because it is universally permitted; there is a model specific for fast-pitch softball, slow-pitch softball, youth baseball, college and high school (BBCOR-certified) baseball, senior league baseball and so on.
In addition, some of the MAKO’s variations, such as the XL, are end loaded, which means no matter what your hitting preference is, there is an Easton MAKO to suit those needs.
The MAKO is a two-piece bat that features Easton’s ConneXion technology (explained above).
The bat also uses the company’s Thermo Composite Technology, or TCT, which generates a lighter swing for better bat speed and an enormous sweet spot. You will be swinging faster and balls will simply explode off the barrel.
The 2016 TORQ and TORQ XL variations of the MAKO also include the 360-degree rotating handle, also explained above.
Also part of Easton’s Power Brigade, the Z-CORE series is the close cousin of the MAKO. However, it is only available as a BBCOR bat designed for high school and collegiate leagues.
Thus, it does not carry the universality, as far as league association acceptance, as the MAKO.
Z-CORE bats also cater exclusively to hitters who prefer a lightweight, fast swinging bat. It does not have the XL variations that the MAKO has.
The Z-CORE series does, however, feature the TORQ rotating handle, which, especially with this light swinging bat, helps batters square up on balls thrown at the inside half of the plate.
The Z-CORE selection of the Power Brigade features different bat technologies than the MAKO bats (minus the rotating handle of the TORQ variations).
Its Hyperlite Matrix Alloy construction is one of the many materials that Easton has made. It allows the Z-CORE bats to have great potential at the plate and a lighter swing weight.
Z-CORE sticks are named after the Z-CORE technology inside them, which helps improve the size of the sweet spot, similar to the TCT feature inside the MAKO series.
The Z-CORE’s benefit over the MAKO is that it is available as a one-piece or hybrid (two-piece) bat (while the MAKO is only a two-piece bat).
Ray DeMarini founded DeMarini using his expert knowledge as a professional softball player. During his time as an athlete, Ray dominated teammates and opponents alike, even at the age of 40, because he had such a scientific and precise approach to hitting.
Arguably, he was the Ted Williams of professional softball. His masterful approach to hitting allowed him to found the DeMarini bat company, which created the industry’s first multi-wall bat in 1993.
Soon after this innovative and industry-altering design, DeMarini went from being barely a blip on the radar to a household name amongst bat enthusiasts.
Today, DeMarini is owned by Wilson, which has only improved their ability to distribute and design bats that impress the industry on an annual basis.
Not only do they have some of the most premier softball and baseball bats on the market, but they are also the only company that offers a high level of customization to the appearance of their bats.
Even though these custom bats cost a little more, consumers can pick out the color scheme, decals and other personal touches of their bat. The custom bat tool is super user-friendly and fun to use.
DeMarini quickly moved past the stage of ‘new kid on the block’ and has become one of the leaders in the industry.
Their bats are some of the most highly regarded and have become the top pick by Division 1 NCAA baseball players.
The CF8 is 2016’s addition to the CF-series, one of DeMarini’s most popular bat selections.
It is a two-piece bat made from DeMarini’s specially engineered Paradox +Plus Composite material, which allows the CF8 to continue this series of bat’s reputation as a light swinging, but powerful choice for hitters.
The bat’s explosive potential starts with its larger barrel size and therefore huge sweet spot.
The D-Fusion 2.0 Handle technology and the Low Pro End Cap further aid the CF8’s pop by helping redirect the energy caused upon contact to the barrel and transferring it into batted balls.
The D-Fusion 2.0 Handle technology delivers another key benefit to the batter. It negates the unpleasant feedback that can cause bat sting on the hitter’s hands.
By dampening these sometimes painful vibrations, the player experiences more comfort and confidence at the plate because they have the luxury of swinging as hard as they want, without worrying about bat sting.
Similar to the Easton MAKO, the DeMarini CF8 is available in several different models that encompass all different types of softball and baseball leagues.
There are also end-loaded variations to appease power hitters.
When it comes to the perfect weapon for power hitters, few bats compare to the DeMarini Voodoo and its models.
It has been the single most popular bat choice among Division 1 baseball athletes in the NCAA for years because of its absolutely mammoth power.
The Voodoo bats range from the slightly end-loaded Overlord to the full end load of the Voodoo RAW.
This series of DeMarini bats are designed specifically for BBCOR certification, senior and youth baseball leagues. They do not have softball variations.
The DeMarini Voodoo barrel is made from an X12 alloy that is incredibly responsive and crafted to provide the perfect flex index during the swing.
Using the same composite D-Fusion 2.0 Handle as the CF8, the Voodoo, despite being a two-piece bat, achieves the stiff feel that power hitters prefer in their sticks.
Add in the elongated barrel and end weight and you have a bat that is capable of crushing balls in the right hitter’s hands.
If you have the strength to control and swing the DeMarini Voodoo effectively, there are few bats capable of matching the same pop and carry as this bat.
When it comes to humble beginnings, few companies have as modest a start as Marucci. Based out of a small shed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two former big leaguers and their trainer began cutting bats using what they had learned from a lifetime in baseball.
With no sales reps, player endorsements or money spent on marketing, the Marucci name still spread from clubhouse to clubhouse through pure word of mouth. Players liked the feel and craftsmanship that went into each hand-cut bat.
Today, Marucci has grown from its small Louisiana workshop, which has allowed them to meet the demand for their bats and begin including metal bats to their lineups.
Despite expanding, the quality and expertise of their bats has not diminished. Arguably, it has grown.
Marucci’s advisory board consists of some of the best past and present big leaguers, including Chase Utley, David Ortiz, Andrew McCutchen and many more.
They dedicate their time to testing and designing new bats using their own Major League experience.
Marucci has become the premier bat supplier for big leaguers. When it comes to manufacturing baseball bats, only Marucci can provide this level of professionally inspired artisanship.
Pro and Custom Pro Model
Marucci’s premier wooden bats are the Pro Models, which are cut and made exactly to the specifications of real Major League Baseball players that serve on the company’s advisory board.
Want a bat exactly like the one Albert Pujols or Jose Bautista uses? Then, look no further. The Pro Model bats are not only effective wooden baseball bats at the plate, but each one makes a great collection pieces since it is modeled after real player’s bats.
If you cannot find a Pro Model bat that fits your specifications, the Custom Pro option allows you to start with a player-inspired bat and then alter it to fit your specifications. You can customize nearly every measurement from barrel size to handle taper.
Marucci’s wooden bats are made from either ash or maple. Each type of wood has its benefits and it typically boils down to your hitting style and simple preference.
All of the Pro Model bats (or Custom Pro Model, should you chose that route) have a unique profile because every hitter is different.
Everything down to the knob is thought of and carefully crafted to fit the needs of the player. One of the last steps for every Marucci bat is a bone rub finish.
This process has been done to bats for decades. It allows the wood to close its pores and offer the absolute best wood density possible. Superior wood density means a stronger, better bat.
Even though big leaguers do not use metal bats, they still know hitting better than anyone. Their knowledge was invaluable during the design and testing of the Marucci CAT6.
This metal stick is available as a BBCOR-certified bat, senior league bat (drop 5 or drop 8), a junior big barrel bat and even a bat for tee ball.
It has a fast swing speed and its AZ3000 alloy is extra durable, so you know the bat will not quit on you halfway through your season.
Perhaps the greatest innovation of the CAT6 is its Anti-Vibration Knob. This has been scientifically proven to reduce bat sting on the hands to an almost imperceptible level.
In fact, it dampens vibrations by over five times more than the closest competitor does.
From a hitting perspective, this helps improve confidence at the plate because there is little to no worry about bat sting plaguing the mind when you take a hack.
The CAT6 is relatively new to the scene, when it comes to metallic bats, but it has made quite a big splash and there is ample evidence to suggest that Marucci will continue to improve this already great bat in the coming years and beyond.
Mizuno finds its roots in Japan. What started as a small shop that eventually started selling baseball products has turned into a large company that produces its own sports merchandise.
Mizuno moved to The United States in 1961. The company creates products for a number of sports. So, they don’t offer any specialization in baseball.
Mizuno sports a small variety of baseball bats that will meet all of your basic needs. However, the biggest benefit I’ve found with Mizuno is that they provide a consistently lower price than many of their competitors.
Mizuno offers a number of bats for less than $80. They are the only brand I found a quality metal bat for less than $50.
I’ve consistently heard concerns about the taping and grip for Mizuno’s bats. It seems that the grip deteriorates quickly and batters are forced to replace it.
While this isn’t a big concern, it does offer a problem. Replacing the grip is quite simple, but shouldn’t need to be done as quickly as some players have reported.
Mizuno offers a discounted price compared to its competitors, but that discount may come with a loss of quality. Some players have reported a perfect bat.
However, others have reported that they need to work on the bat (specifically the grip) within the first month of using it. However, Mizuno does offer a 1 year warranty on their metal bats.
Where Mizuno truly stands out is their wood bats. They only offer a 120 day warranty on their wooden bats.
These bats have been tested to show durability and consistency. In a small study of the stars of MLB, it was found that, roughly, 3.5% of players use Mizuno’s bats.
Best Mizuno bats
Since their creation in 1994, some of softball’s greatest athletes have been endorsing the Combat sports group and their bats.
While they predominantly focus on fast and slow-pitch softball bats, Combat also produces baseball bats that carry BBCOR certification or those designed for senior leagues and other types of play and league certification.
Although this seemingly limits the scope of their specialty, it has actually allowed them to become an industry-driving force when it comes to composite, one-piece bat technology for softball.
Marucci may have the market cornered on professionally inspired designs, thanks to their advisory board full of Major League Baseball stars, but when it comes to softball expertise, Combat may just have them beat.
They endorse some of the best slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball players in the country.
The benefit of Combat bats lies in their dedication to a specific type of play – softball. Even though they offer baseball bats, their true prowess is in their fast and slow-pitch bats.
The Maxum series is generally focused on fast-pitch softball bat, but it has variations for BBCOR certification, youth baseball, senior league baseball and senior slow-pitch softball.
There are other pro-inspired fast-pitch Maxum variations that follow the specifications of certain pro players, such as Madison Shipman, an All-American shortstop for the University of Tennessee.
The Maxum combines the speed of an ultra-light swing weight with a sweet spot that is up to 40% larger than other fast-pitch Combat softball bats.
As a one-piece composite bat, the 2016 Combat Maxum has an overall stiff feel to it that is helped by the liquid resin injected into the bat’s carbon fibers through a process called Precision Molding.
This helps promote the bat’s durability while maximizing the trampoline effect on batted balls.
Combat Portent G3
Available as a slow or fast-pitch softball bat or a senior league baseball bat, the Portent G3 offers an affordable bat choice with several features to improve your play and ability at the plate.
The Portent G3 is also a one-piece bat and it undergoes the same Precision Molding process as the Maxum.
Again, this process helps strengthen the carbon fibers to improve the lifespan of your Combat bat.
While the Portent G3 has a smaller sweet spot than the Maxum, it includes Combat’s Performance Enhancing Disc (PED) Technology.
This disc rests in the end of the bat and precisely fine-tunes the barrel’s compression for optimal pop upon contact (very similar to Easton’s SLiD feature).
Thus, even without the larger sweet spot, the Combat Portent G3 is capable of explosive potential.
Pair this with the bat’s balanced swing weight and you have a bat capable of driving balls through the infield for consistent base hits.
Rawlings is one of the biggest names in baseball. They’re more known for their gloves (the golden glove award) than their bats, but both are quality products.
Rawlings offers good pricing. Rawlings’ newest bats have a sleek, modernized look.
Rawlings offers some of the biggest sweet spots around, but you’ll have to pay to get their best bats. The sweet spot makes for better power on all parts of the bat.
The biggest complaint with Rawlings bats is that it doesn’t have enough vibration reduction in it. When hitting the ball anywhere but the sweet spot, a number of hitters reported that there is a significant “sting”.
Even the highest priced bats seem to sting a hitter’s hands. This creates a pretty significant concern for hitters; is added power worth the need to ice your hands down after the game?
Rawlings wooden bats are a great investment. They’re worth the price. I love the designs of these bats – Rawlings has classic looking bats as well as some more modern looks.
The bats also come with surprisingly little sting when hitting a ball of off the sweet spot. Players state that there is a great balance to most of the Rawlings bats.
With as much positive feedback as I’ve gotten on Rawlings, I’m surprised to find that only 4.3% of MLB players use a Rawlings.
Best Rawlings Bats
Every hitter is different and needs a stick that fits their unique hitting style and situation. These needs do not always mean finding a bat with the right profile, but could simply be finding a bat that fits a specific league’s requirements, or one that fits in the player’s budget.
The baseball and softball bats listed are some of the most popular models that each brand offers.
However, they also present options to fit any player’s unique situation or desires when it comes to a baseball or softball bat.
By reading this guide, you have already begun the first step towards your perfect bat – research.
Research is key to finding the absolute best bat that matches your hitting profile.