When composite bats first came onto the baseball scene in the late 1990s, the reaction was mixed. Several decades later the opinions on composite bats are still mixed, but now there is a track record to study that helps us to understand these bats better. Ever since composite bats were introduced, they seem to have been at the center of one controversy or another.
What are some common problems with composite bats and how do those problems affect you? If you plan on buying a composite bat in the near future, then it helps to understand their history, and how they have been received in certain leagues. Today, players all over the world and at all age levels are using composite bats. But that does not erase the fact that there are plenty of issues that composite bats create in a variety of game situations.
Composite Bats and Cold Weather
A fact of life for baseball players in large sections of the world is that you have to play the game in cold weather. For years, players were looking for an alternative to aluminum bats because aluminum bats tend to sting on contact in the cold weather. Wooden bats are fine, but many players started to look towards composite bats for cold weather conditions.
The problem with composite bats is that they start to experience problems at temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the problems include cracking, splintering and shattering on contact. As it turns out, composite bats did not offer the cold weather solution that players were hoping for, which brought wooden bats back to the forefront in cold weather.
Composite Bats Need to be Broken in
Composite bats are usually constructed using a handle and a barrel that are connected in some way. Unlike metal or wooden bats that are constructed as a single unit and can be used in a game situation right out of the box, composite bats must be broken in before they can be used in game situations.
Before you break in your bat, you need to check it over for any imperfections that would cause you to have to return the bat. Many manufacturers will not take a bat back once you have made contact with a baseball, so that is why you want to check your bat out before you get started. You will want to check the barrel for any cracks, and then make sure that there are no cracks where the barrel meets the handle. As long as everything is in order, then it is time to go to the batting cages.
How to Break in or Condition a Composite Bat
The best way to break in a composite bat is to hit about 300 balls either off a tee or from a slow-pitch machine with approximately 50 percent of your normal hitting power. You should rotate your bat every 75 pitches to make sure that you are breaking in the entire bat. After 300 pitches, you can start to increase your swing speed until you eventually reach 100 percent. At that point, your composite bat is ready for play.
It is critically important to remember to not break in your composite bat using batting cage balls with colored dimples on them. These balls are much denser than standard baseballs, and you will damage your bat if you try to break it in using these balls. The best approach is to get a set up for your backyard that consists of a pitching machine and a net to break in your bat properly.
Why Some Leagues Have Banned Composite Bats
As we mentioned earlier, composite bats are very polarizing pieces of equipment in the baseball world. There have even been a few instances where composite bats were banned by entire leagues for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at a few of the more significant composite bat issues, and find out if there was a solution that eventually favored the use of composite bats.
Has Little League Really Banned Composite Bats?
In December 2010, Little League International issued a statement saying that it was banning all composite bats from being used in competition. The reason the bats were banned is because Little League discovered that the speed at which baseballs left composite bats was much faster than aluminum or wooden bats, and that posed a safety threat to players.
Since this ban, composite bat manufacturers have worked with Little League International to create minimum requirements that bats must meet to be legal in Little League play. Parents should always check to make sure that a composite bat is approved by Little League International before purchasing that bat for their child.
NCAA Bans Composite Bats
In 2009, the NCAA decided that composite bats were not regulation bats and could not be used in NCAA baseball events. The NCAA said that it gathered data from the previous year’s College World Series and decided that composite bats caused baseballs to travel further, faster and in a more unpredictable manner than aluminum or wooden bats. To this day, composite bats are still banned in NCAA play.
Composite bats have come a long way in a short time, and they can be excellent tools to help young players learn good swing mechanics. But before you invest for yourself or buy your little hitter a composite bat, you need to understand the proper ways to use the bat, and know in what situations the bat may not be allowed.