Only wooden bats are permitted in the major leagues. Nevertheless, there are many different types of bats, including different types of wood used for baseball bats.
With respect to wood type for major league bats, they use maple, birch, or ash (see below for more details).
The reason metal bats aren’t permitted in the majors is they can hit the ball further and harder due to the alloy being harder and the trampoline effect where the ball bounces more off the bat.
Despite that, alloy, aluminum, and composite bats are used by many players, especially in softball, and hence they’re popular bat options. Below is the definitive list of baseball bat options.
One vs. Two-Piece Baseball Bats
In a one-piece baseball bat, every bit of the bat is made out of the same material. This allows for a bat that is stiffer and stronger, and power-hitters love them because they usually want very little flex in their hits. Nowadays, most one-piece baseball bats are made of wood, aluminum, or composite materials.
In two-piece baseball bats, the handle is made out of a different material than the barrel of the bat. This results in less vibration in the handle since the handle and barrel are separate. These bats can have a trampoline effect when the ball hits the barrel since the design means the barrel will flex at the point of contact.
Often called a hybrid bat, these bats come in various designs, although no one has ever seen a two-piece bat made of aluminum parts.
Materials for Baseball Bats
The most obvious distinguishing factor in baseball bats is the material. There are materials typically used in manufacturing baseball bats. Some materials are not allowed to be used during competition games within leagues and are only suitable for recreational play.
Alloy bats are made with aluminum that is mixed with other types of metal, and this is done to get a much stronger bat in the end. The main advantage of using an alloy bat is that its barrel walls are more responsive and thinner.
Aluminum is durable, light, and is common when making baseball bats from Little League through high school and even college. These types of bats are easier to swing than bats made of wood, which is one of the reasons they are used so often for younger players.
When you use an aluminum bat, the ball “pops” off of it with a lot of speed, and these bats are great for beginners who are just learning the mechanics of swinging the bat correctly. A lot of people claim that they make the ball go further as well, but that is only a matter of opinion.
Composite bats are usually made of plastic, graphite, and sometimes titanium. Moreover, since they are lighter than aluminum, they are excellent for beginning players. The lower leagues, therefore, usually give their players a composite bat because they allow even beginners to learn much quicker.
They do tend to be more expensive than aluminum bats but are not as durable, and in fact, they are not allowed for certain types of games.
Hybrid bats are great because they offer the advantages of aluminum and composite bats, but eliminate their drawbacks. They usually have a spine and handle made of aluminum and a barrel made of titanium, graphite, and plastic.
These are very durable bats and seldom have dents or any other types of defects, even if you use them for a very long time. In competitive play, hybrid bats are not usually allowed, and their cost can be prohibitive for many players, which is why so many teams use aluminum bats instead of these hybrids.
Since the earliest days of baseball, wooden bats have been used. Both major and minor leagues utilize them, and you can even find them in batting cages. The types of wood can vary, however, and they seem to change frequently.
Some wooden bats are made with white ash, but they can also be made of maple, hickory, and even bamboo, with each having its own advantages. They vary in durability, strength, and thickness, but normally each league will decide for themselves which types of bats the players will use. Here are the three main types of wood used in baseball bats:
- Ash: more flexible and forgiving than maple wood; the disadvantage is that the grain of the wood can flake or splinter over time.
- Birch: very flexible and durable; the disadvantage is that it is a softwood that sometimes results in dents.
- Maple: one of the best species to use for wooden bats because of its density; the disadvantage is that it doesn’t always perform well in high-humidity areas, and it is less forgiving than other types of wood.
Types of Wooden Bats
- More forgiving when you have a hit-miss on its end
- This is the only wood that allows for a “flame” finish
- Less dense
- Very visible grain
- Close to the pop of a maple, which is top-notch
- If you’re new to wood, it’s easy to adapt to birch
- Less visible wood grain
- Gives you some of the ash’s flex
- Gives you bigger hits because it has the most “pop”
- Used by more pros
- Less visible grain so it does well when engraving
- The all-around strongest type of bat
Other Types of Baseball Bats
Youth Baseball Bats
Youth baseball bats are designed to be used by young players, between the ages of 7 and 12 years old. For competitive play youth bats are usually made out of wood or aluminum, depending on their league rules. Since they are designed for a range of ages they come in a variety of lengths from 23-32 inches long. The diameter of the barrel is around 2 ¼.
You can tell if the bat a youth league player is using is the appropriate size and weight by the way the ball flies if hit. If it is a good hit and should have gotten some distance, but it just wafts limply to the infield, the bat is too light. If the player is struggling with a bat that is too heavy, they will be hitting foul balls, if they’re hitting at all.
The obvious difference between a youth baseball bat and an adult baseball bat is the size. Bats designed for Adults are between 29-25 inches, with barrel diameters of 2 … inches. For gameplay, bats are wood or metal, and the governing body sets the requirements if you are playing for a league or college team.
Training bats are not used during a competition game. They are tools a player used to perfect different aspects of their swing. There are several different types of training bats, each one has a specific purpose.
This bat is usually used by the coach to hit fly balls. These are long and skinny, and make life easier for coaches who are constantly hitting balls and during practice.
One Hand Trainer Bats
A bat 18-28 inches long helps the player develop hand-eye coordination. They also help build strength and develop muscle memory.
Short Trainer Bats
Source: Tater Bats
These are used for the same reasons as the one-hand trainer bats, however, some are designed to be used with two hands.
These bats are weighted to help develop swing strength. They are good for working on a form, since swinging a weighted bat too quickly can cause an unnatural swing. Using them for warm-ups is recommended.
Hand-Eye or Soft Toss Training
These are weighted like a regular bat but have a narrow barrel to help develop hand-eye coordination and control. These are used during tee and soft toss drills.
Source: Bonsall Bat Company
These bats are flat and help a player develop a level swing.
Bunt Trainer Bats
These trainers are to help pliers practice their bunting skills.
Bats are further differentiated by their swing weight. This has nothing to do with the actual weight of the bat. Two bats can have identical weights but have a different swing weight.
Swing weight is the way the bat’s weight is distributed. Bats can be light, balanced, or end-loaded. The swing weight of the bat a player chooses is based on personal preference and the way they play.
- End-loaded- An end-loaded bat has its weight largely toward the end of the barrel. These generate more power because the weight distribution causes them to swing with a motion like a whip. This whip-like motion is why power hitters tend to prefer using an end-loaded bat.
- Balanced Bats- Balanced bats have an even weight distribution along the barrel. This allows players more control over their swing. A contact hitter is more likely to choose this type of bat.
Choosing A Baseball Bat
Clearly, the world of baseball bats is a lot more complicated than it seems. If you have a child in a youth league, play on a team yourself, or decided to dust off your glove and play recreationally, you may have questions about how to choose a bat. Youth, high school, and college leagues have a strict set of guidelines that need to be followed.
Different leagues and governing bodies have different rules for the size of the bats allowed in competitive play. Youth leagues have a range of drop weights since the ages of the players need to be taken into consideration.
- BBCOR College and High School Baseball: -3 Drop weight, Barrel diameter 2 … or less. Most wood bats are allowed, but wood composite bats must be marked with a BBCOR certification stamp.
- USSSA Senior League: Wide drop weight, wide barrel range diameter. Players under 10 use a -10 weight drop, 11 to 12 use a -8, and 13-year-olds use a -5. Regulations for this league are separated by age group.
- USA Baseball: No weight restriction, Maximum barrel diameter 2 …. Only USA-certified bats may be used.
Know what kind of bat you want, but prefer to shop online? We have you covered. Take a peek at our guide to the best online stores for baseball equipment.
Major League Guidelines
The rules concerning the type of bats allowed for use in the major leagues are strict. This is not surprising since it would be poor sportsmanship for one team to have an advantage because of their equipment.
The official league rules state that:
- The bat can not be more than 42 inches long.
- It can not be more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part.
- No laminated or experimental bats can be used in a game until they have been approved by the rules committee for the design and the way they are manufactured.
- A cupped bat is allowed, but the indentation can not be more than 1 inch deep and 2 inches wide and no less than 1 inch wide.
- The indentation has to be curved.
- Nothing intended to help the grip can go more than 18 inches.
- No colored bats during a game unless they have been approved.
- Any violation is grounds for ejection from the game.
Who knew there was so much involved in baseball bats! Hopefully, these facts about baseball bats have made shopping for a baseball bat easier. If you don’t play baseball, but enjoy learning sports facts, keep reading! Check out one of our other sports articles here.
What is the difference between balanced and end-loaded baseball bats?
- Balanced: with these bats, the weight is distributed evenly throughout the entire bat. They allow the hitter to enjoy great speeds without giving up control while they swing.
- End-Loaded: these have a top-heavy feel because a portion of their weight is concentrated towards the end of the barrel close to the end cap. They are sometimes difficult to control and are recommended for extra-strong hitters.
What’s the difference between youth and adult bats?
Youth Baseball Bats
- Usually made of wood or metal
- Usually used by players between the ages of seven and 12
- Most youth bats are 26-32 inches in length and have a barrel that is 2 ¼ inches in size
- If the player hits a ball that barely makes it to the outfield, the bat they’re using is too light
- If the player loses control or has a lot of foul balls, the bat is likely too heavy
Adult Baseball Bats
- Usually made of wood or metal
- Most adult bats are no more than 42 inches in length and 34-36 ounces in weight
- At the thickest part of the bat, the size can be no more than 2.75 inches in diameter
- The “drop” – or inches of length less the ounces it weighs – cannot be more than 3; for example, a 34-inch bat has to weigh at least 31 ounces.