On January 1, 2018, USA Baseball, the organization that governs baseball in the US, implemented new methods and standards for bat performance testing along with significant changes in the rules that cover the bats themselves. If you have children who play baseball in the US, these regulations will have an impact on the bats they are allowed to use. This article will explain these changes and how they potentially affect you and the baseball players in your family.
Baseball Bat Construction 101
Before we get into details, let’s first provide some context on how a baseball bat is made.
Originally, bats were machined from a single piece of wood, typically ash, maple, birch and more recently bamboo. The lighter woods like ash and bamboo are easier to swing, while a heavier maple bat has more clout when it contacts the ball.
But generally, since wood bats tend to be on the heavy side, equipment manufacturers began to work with other materials such as aluminum or formulations of different substances known as composites. These newer bats can be made in a single piece, similar to the way bats were originally made, or in sections, where the barrel (the top part of the bat that contacts the ball) is affixed to a separate handle.
Anyone who has ever hit a baseball with a one-piece bat knows that if the bat doesn’t meet the ball just right, the resulting vibrations can be irritating if not downright painful. Two-piece bats tend to mitigate this problem.
Selecting a bat really comes down to the individual player. The bat needs to be long enough to be able to reach across the plate, light enough to swing effectively, but heavy enough to actually drive the ball when contact is made. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference and choice.
Overview of the New Regulations
The new standards adopted by US Baseball apply to every child under 14 years old who plays in officially sanctioned Little League® games, or in organizations that are a part of Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Baseball, PONY Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball, and the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC).
However, if your child plays for a United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) travel team or plays in USSSA sanctioned tournaments, the new regulations do not apply because the USSSA has chosen not to adopt them. Tee Ball and Softball are also excluded from the new regulations.
The exact wording of the new USA Baseball Bat standard (USABat) and as published by Little League® Baseball is as follows:
The bat must be a baseball bat which meets the USA Baseball Bat standard (USABat) as adopted by Little League. It shall be a smooth, rounded stick, and made of wood or of material and color tested and proved acceptable to the USA Baseball Bat standard (USABat).
Beginning with the 2018 season, non-wood and laminated bats used in the Little League (Majors) and below, Intermediate (50-70) Division, Junior League divisions, and Challenger division shall bear the USA Baseball logo signifying that the bat meets the USABat – USA Baseball’s Youth Bat Performance Standard. All BPF – 1.15 bats will be prohibited beginning with the 2018 season. Additionally, starting in 2018, the bat diameter shall not exceed 2⅝ inches for these divisions of play. Bats meeting the Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard may also be used in the Intermediate (50-70) Division and Junior League divisions. Additional information is available at LittleLeague.org/batinfo.
At this point, many parents are probably wondering what this all means and if it’s even really necessary. We’ll explain the details in a minute, but the short answer to the “is it necessary” question is yes—for the most part. These regulations are intended to level the playing field, as it were.
The reason is that bats made of aluminum or other composite materials have different performance characteristics than the traditional wood bat. These regulations establish the performance parameters of all bats to ensure that they generate essentially the same energy when they come in contact with a ball. Thus, the baseball leaving the bat is a matter of the skill of the hitter as opposed to the type of bat she or he is using.
Also, although it’s not really something Little League Baseball wishes to publicly acknowledge, the change is addressing a safety issue as well. As young players develop physically and athletically, a bat that is designed to amplify the speed of the ball coming off of it can be somewhat dangerous, particularly to a pitcher standing in the way of a hard-hit line drive. That will always be a risk inherent in the game, but the new regulations ensure that the risk is no greater when using an aluminum or composite bat than when using a wood bat.
Key Points to Consider
Let’s break down Rule 1.10 into its key points with a brief explanation of each.
BBCOR—This is the key aspect of the new regulations. BBCOR stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution. Huh? Simply stated, the BBCOR rating measures the energy lost when a bat contacts a moving ball. The BBCOR value reflects the so-called “trampoline effect,” which determines how much speed the ball has coming off of the bat. So the higher the BBCOR rating, the faster the ball moves when hit.
The BBCOR limit was intended to both neutralize extra hitting power resulting from aggressive bat design, as well as to slow down the ball coming off of the bat to protect pitchers. Ultimately, the intent behind the BBCOR limit is to ensure that all bats, regardless of what they are made of, will perform in essentially the same way. The thinking is that this step will help to protect the long-term integrity of the game.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) established a maximum BBCOR value of 0.50 for sanctioned bats. This number approximates the performance of a wood bat (it is in fact slightly higher). The NCAA and NFHS implemented the BBCOR limits several years ago when an analysis of game statistics demonstrated an increase in batting production, which was largely attributed to newer designs of aluminum and composite bats.
When USA Baseball set about to revise the existing rules governing its sanctioned bats, the BBCOR approach made sense except for the fact that the tests required the use of different balls and ball speeds, which would accurately reflect the abilities of younger, less-developed players. When it was all said and done, the USA Baseball and BBCOR ratings were very close (within about .005 BBCOR).
Barrel Diameter—The allowable barrel diameter has increased by 1/8 of an inch to 25/8. Previously, the legal diameter was 2 ½.
Drop Weight—The drop weight of a bat is simply an expression of its length (in inches) minus its weight (in ounces), indicated as a negative number (preceded by a minus sign). For example, a 30-inch bat that weighs 20 ounces would have a drop weight of -10. In other words, the greater the drop weight, the lighter the bat. This is a moot point, however, because the new USA Baseball regulations do not specify a mandatory drop weight.
Material—The new approved bat can be made of wood, aluminum, or composite material, so long as it complies with the new standard. A list of all of the currently approved bats can be found at USABat, here: https://usabat.com/
Markings—All approved bats will display the following logo:
Note, however, that this logo only needs to appear on aluminum or composite bats. Wood bats will not need to display the logo.
Why Are the New Rules Necessary?
Up until December 31, 2017, Little League bats had to conform to a Bat Performance Standard (BPF) of 1.15. Similar to BBCOR, the BPF rating is also a means of testing the trampoline effect of the baseball leaving the barrel of the bat. The BPF standard was implemented when it became clearly apparent that new bat technologies were having a significant effect on offensive production at all levels of play. The BPF standards were also implemented to not only level the playing field in terms of relative skill levels, but to protect players—particularly pitchers—as well.
What Should You Do Next
First of all, if your daughter or son plays Tee Ball or softball, there’s nothing that you need to do. Whatever batting equipment they have been using is not affected by the new regulations. Additionally, if your kids are using wood bats, you’re still good to go—no changes are necessary.
But if your child’s bat has this logo:
it will need to be replaced by one of the new, compliant bats. Of course, the affiliations of your baseball organization will also come into play. If you are sanctioned by any of the agencies referenced earlier, a bat with this 1.15 BPF logo will not be allowed in the game. On the other hand, some organizations may simply choose to ignore the new rule.
Indeed, there are some people who are affiliated with Little League Baseball who feel that these new regulations are unnecessary. But the reality is that without them, there is little if any control over the kind of bat that players use. And with the ongoing improvements to material and bat-manufacturing technologies, bats with an extremely high “trampoline effect” could be at best unfair from a competitive perspective and at worst downright dangerous.
Some Final Thoughts
Longtime, die-hard baseball fans have long believed that to get the true effect of baseball that the game should be played with wood bats. It’s certainly an argument steeped in tradition, but as the entry-level age of kids playing Tee Ball and baseball dropped, changes in bat construction were inevitable.
Arguably the biggest reason that aluminum and ultimately composite bats were introduced was the weight of the bat itself. Wood is not the lightest material, and a bat long enough to be effectively swung at a pitch—even a slow pitch—can prove heavy and unwieldy, particularly for a smaller child.
As non-wood bats came into use and gained in popularity, construction methods and technologies evolved as well. But even up to the late 1990s, there were no standards in place despite the fact that the improvements to the bats themselves were resulting in improvements in hitting production that were far beyond what would be typical for players at their respective age and skill levels.
Over time, various legislative initiatives were launched to try to curtail the use of aluminum and composite bats and requiring that only wood bats be allowed in competition. Little League Baseball took the lead, and with the mission of trying to create standards that would ensure that bats, regardless of how they were made, performed the way a wood bat performed, the organization spent almost 6 years conducting scientific research in order to establish a standard. The BPF 1.15 standard was the result.
To anyone who’s ever hit a baseball with a wood bat and felt that sweet spot where the ball just effortlessly leaps off of the barrel, it’s a magical experience and arguably one that every child should at some point experience. But as we’ve seen, as new ball players show up at the diamond before their fourth birthday, a big wood bat simply won’t work.
The most important thing is to develop love and passion for the sport. Learn to play, master hitting, have fun, and the big wood bats will come, soon enough.
Get Your Regulation Bats at Wayne Sporting Goods
Founded in 1955 by Alvin Galczenski, Sr., Wayne Sporting Goods Co., Inc. has been family owned and operated by the Galzenski family ever since. For three generations, the Galzenskis have combined traditional family and business values with a powerful and comprehensive vision of the future. The result is a multi-faceted sporting goods emporium that not only carries a wide range of athletic equipment and attire, but that is also fun to shop at. The guiding principles of the founder are still very much in evidence at Wayne Sporting Goods, more than 60 years after they were first put into place.
If your child needs a new, approved baseball bat, Wayne Sporting Goods is the place to find it. We have one of the area’s most comprehensive selection of baseball bats made from wood, aluminum, or composite materials, in a wide range of sizes and weights to suit any player at every level. If you’ve ever played the game, you know exactly what it feels like when you pick up the perfect bat—it’s almost like the bat chooses the player.
Come in and talk to our experts, and we’ll help your budding star to find exactly the right bat to make his or her baseball diamond adventures fun and successful. And if you can’t make it into the store in person, shop online and give us a call for advice. We’ll be happy to help you any way that we can.