Aluminum & Composite Softball Bats
Aluminum and composite softball bats have taken over fastpitch softball. I cannot remember ever seeing a wood softball bat in all of my years coaching.
Aluminum bats were the standard for many years and a favorite of the players. The "crack of the bat" was suddenly replaced with a ping. With wood baseball bats, the length was also typically the weight. So if a bat was 30 inches long, it weighed 30 ounces. With the advent of the aluminum bat, suddenly the "drop" bats became available. As a result, bats that were 31 inches long weighed only 21 ounces, affording more plate coverage, increased control and bat speed.
© Helmut Steinwender
Aluminum bats were more durable than their wood counterparts, and although they cost considerably more, because they would not crack or chip, generally lasted much longer and cost less over the long term.
Generally lighter aluminums (and their alloys) are thinner and more durable offering a larger sweet spot on the bat's barrel. Aluminum bats enhanced with alloys also introduced the double layer bats, which resulted in more spring of the ball when hit with these bats. Some of the bats resulted in the action taking by the ASA and other softball organizations to outlaw some of these bats and start the bat stamp process. Every year ASA determines what are "legal" bats, based on hit velocity and so forth, and publishes that list to its website
. This website will also show you what the stamps look like.
© Ron Mayhew
The one drawback of the aluminum bat was that they tended to do poorly below 50 degrees, if not crack outright. This led to the advent of composite softball bats. Composite bats appeared in the 1980s, with the first being made of titanium. They were stronger and denser and were the first identified as safety concerns because of the speed with which the ball came off these types of softball bats. These bats may be also made from graphite and other material. They are usually thinner walled resulting in a lighter bat that increases a player's bat speed. In addition, this material also creates a more durable "sweet spot" or ideal hitting area of the bat. The "ping of the bat" is now replaced with more of a thud. The composite softball bats also reduces the "catching of bees" when swing the bat and not cleanly hitting the sweet spot, creating bat vibration, particular with wood or aluminum bats. The composite softball bat also does better in cold weather, but the break in of the "sweet spot" is critical to maximizing its performance. Whereas hitting the heavy yellow dimpled pitching machine balls with an aluminum bat was a big mistake, as it would deaden the bat, some people actually recommend breaking in the composite bat by hitting these balls.
Before buying either an aluminum or composite bat, make sure you check the sanctioned bat list, whose link is provided above, to assure yourself that you are not buying a banned bat. A banned bat will not be permitted to be used in a game. Umpires typically look over all bats prior to a game to assure the safety of the players.
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