Navigating the Bat Maze: Choosing the Perfect Bat

Looking to buy your first serious baseball bat? You’ve come to the right place.


7/3/20244 min read


Choosing a bat for your young ballplayer involves a maze of considerations. From certification to material, price range to sizing, here's your comprehensive guide to find the perfect bat that suits both their swing and your budget.

Certification Matters: Check the Stamp

Before diving into the bat world, check league regulations. Ensure the bat carries the necessary certifications like USA Baseball, USSSA, or BBCOR to comply with league standards. For Travel Ball at this age, Reds players typically equip themselves with USSSA stamped bats. You can read more about the East Shore League Bat Rules here:

The Right Price Range: Balancing Budget and Quality

Finding the ideal bat doesn't have to break the bank. Explore different price ranges that align with both quality and your budget. Sometimes, a mid-range bat can offer the perfect blend of performance and cost-effectiveness. Brand-new bats can be as cheap as $50 or up to $500. In short, you generally get what you pay for. But, there are enough duds the industry has hyped by vendors and manufacturers that you should be wary of sales pitches and marketing videos.

BatDigest offers a great listing of ranked bats for every category so that you can research the numbers prior to dropping them. Rankings are based on swing weights, technical advancements, durability, resale value, exit-velo, and a few additional categories.

Check out rankings prior to any purchase here:

How much should you spend?

Consider (1) How many games you’ll play with the bat. Spending more than $10-$15 per game feels exorbitant. (2) How many years will you use the bat—are you growing out of the bat soon? (3) What is your budget today?

Where to Buy a Bat: Retailers and Beyond

Every year there are more online places to buy bats. We have had decent success with just about any of them. Just Bats is the largest online specific retailer. Be sure to use their Bat Coach Tool to get the bat that best matches your needs based on the player's height, weight, and skills.

In terms of overall volume, Dicks Sporting Goods is the behemoth in the space—but plenty of their business is brick and mortar.

Without surprise, Amazon’s bat section has a serious bat offering. Because of its multiple vendor models (many big vendors have an Amazon store), you can find almost everything there.

Barrel Material Matters: Alloy, Composite, or Hybrid?

The bat's barrel material impacts performance. Alloy bats offer durability, while composite bats provide more power and a larger sweet spot. Hybrid bats blend these materials, offering a balanced performance.

Composite is a generic term that is, by some measures, a modified plastic that maintains specific characteristics. Aluminum is a metal. Not every company’s aluminum and composite material are the same. Bat manufacturers add certain things to aluminum to make an aluminum alloy, and composites can be crafted in various ways.

Generally, composite barrels tend to

  • cost more,

  • swing lighter, and

  • have bigger barrels.

Aluminum barrels

  • swing heavier,

  • have longer durability and

  • sting your hands more.

But, of course, each of those broad categorizations by the material has many exceptions.

One-Piece vs. Two-Piece: Understanding the Difference

Baseball players, here are your options:

  • Single-piece aluminum

  • Single piece composite

  • Two-piece composite (both handle and barrel made of composite)

  • Two-piece hybrid (handle made of composite and barrel made of aluminum)

    Generally, a two-piece bat carries with it two benefits.

    1. Designing the handle and barrel separately allows engineers to focus on each part for their good. For example, the handle can be built to reduce vibrations and be durable, while a barrel can be built with a lot of flex to maximize the trampoline effect.

    2. The joint is designed to absorb the barrel’s vibrations on mishits in most serious two-piece bats. This makes the hit feel much smoother. For this reason, almost every two-piece bat we have swung in the last 5 years feels better than single-piece bats.

Single-piece bats have the distinct advantage of being stiff. This stiffness lends to more power transferred from the swing to the ball. This is why bigger hitters, especially those in the NCAA, use stiff single-piece bats.

However, stiff bats also carry with them the reverse effect. That is, mishit balls with a lot of vibration in the barrel make it directly to the hands. Smaller hitters who see above-average pitch speed often find this hand sting unbearable. It is the number one complaint about any particular bat. Factors like cold weather, high pitch speed, and faster bat speed positively correlate with hand stings.

What is Better? Choosing Between One-Piece and Two-Piece

It's not about which is superior; it's about finding what suits the player's style. Power hitters might prefer one-piece, while versatile players may favor the flexibility of a two-piece bat.

Right-Sizing: Swing vs. Printed vs. Scale Weight

Consider the weight that feels comfortable during a swing. Again, swing weights for each bat are notated in the rankings here:

If this is the first time you are buying a serious bat, you’ll incorrectly think that the printed weight on a bat is both useful and comparable. That is, a 30/20 of one brand and model feels like a 30/20 of a different brand and model. Sadly, it just isn’t the case.

Here are some rough definitions of the three things.

  • Printed Weight: The claimed weight that is printed on the bat (i.e., 28 ounces)

  • Scale Weight: The actual total weight of a bat. (not always the same as the printed weight).

  • Swing Weight: The amount of force required to swing the bat is highly dependent upon the weight distribution within the bat.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing to know is the swing weight.

Used or New: Weighing Options

Used bats might offer cost savings, but ensure they're in good condition. New bats come with warranties and guaranteed performance, balancing investment and risk.

This Year’s or Last Year’s Model: Timing Matters

Last year's models often come with discounted prices, offering quality at a lower cost. However, this year's models might feature new technology and improvements, justifying the higher price tag.

The Best Bats Lists: Research and Reviews

Explore expert reviews and "best of" lists to narrow down choices. But remember, what works best for one player might not suit another.

Navigating through these considerations arms you with the knowledge to make an informed decision. Remember, the perfect bat is not just about hitting home runs; it's about boosting confidence and enhancing the game for your young slugger.