Article by John Matich
When Ty Cobb tried out for the Anniston Steelers, his father warned “Don’t come home a failure!”. After years of practice, self-promotion, and incredible performance, Cobb did more than just avoid failure, he became one of the greatest baseball players the sport had ever seen. His record of over 4000 runs has, to this day, never been beaten. When asked about his ferocious style of play, he later said: “I did it for my father. He never got to see me play… but I knew he was watching me, and I never let him down.”
Hitting enormous homers out of the park and tallying up run after run is the dream of every beginner who steps to the plate in baseball. But to get there, we have to master the bat. As good as he was, this was where Cobb, like all great players, started his own career in the sport.
This article will help you understand exactly what kind of bat you need so you can make the best start you can.
What is the best baseball bat for beginners?
There are a lot of things to consider when getting a baseball bat. Barrel size, MOI, regulations, materials… But when it comes to the right bat for a beginner, there are a few things that matter more than anything else.
These are the weight, length, and the material your bat is made from. As you’re relatively new to the game, you won’t have the familiarity to notice the tiny differences in bats, but you’ll benefit from getting the biggest differences right.
My advice: grab yourself a wooden bat of the right weight and length for you. Let me explain why.
A lot of people think getting a heavy bat would be the best idea as it’ll help them slug the ball out of the park, but this isn’t the case. Instead of getting the heaviest weight possible you want to get the RIGHT weight.
Baseball bats have something called a drop weight, which is the weight of the bat in ounces minus the length of the bat in inches. Bats can have a drop weight as low as -13, which is generally used in little league. The drop weight that will be right for you will depend on your age and strength, but there is an easy way to figure it out.
To test your bat’s weight, hold it directly outwards on an outstretched arm. If you can hold it like this for over 40 seconds without it dipping down, you’ve got the right weight. If you don’t have a bat handy, experiment with holding things that are the equivalent weight as the bat. You can work out the equivalent weight by reversing the drop weight formula.
Just as you don’t necessarily want the heaviest bat you can get your hands on, you also don’t want to longest. You want a bat length that works with the anatomy of your body to produces the right balance of power and control.
To find the right length of bat, try one of these methods:
1) Place the bottom of the bat in the centre of your chest, pointing sideways towards your outstretched arm. If the end of the bat reaches the tip of your index finger, it’s the right length.
2) Place the bottom of the bat in the centre of your chest pointing directly outwards. If you can grab the middle of the barrel, it’s the right length.
3) Stand the bat on the ground, barrel end down, parallel to the side of your leg. If the end of the bat reaches the centre of your palm (pressed downwards) – it’s the right length.
Do one or all of these and you’ll find the right length.
Baseball bats come in a couple of different materials. The most common are alloy, composite, and wood.
Alloy bats are made of metal, and extremely, sturdy, durable and all-around solid bats for a beginner. They come in a variety of designs, but in general you’re going want to a bat that can weather a lot of practice, and these more than fit the bill, so any will do.
Composite bats are made of reinforced carbon fibre polymer. They tend to have a better feel, as well as having better, more efficient power than other bat types. However, they are a lot more expensive and need to be broken in, making them a somewhat less favourable choice when it comes to beginners.
A wooden bat is made out of, you guessed it, wood, and aside from its classic looks, the wooden bat offers an advantage the other bats don’t have. And it’s a strange one. When it comes to performance, the wooden bat isn’t as good. It doesn’t generate as much power, which is why it’s the regulation MLB bat – because if they used anything else they’d be launching it out of the park or doing serious damage to the pitcher.
Because of its comparative lack of power, the wooden bat forces you to learn the fundamental skills of baseball hitting better. To get the most out of the bat, you have to get the most out of yourself as a player. This can make it a great bat to start out on, as it’s easier to learn on wood then transition to other materials than it is to do the reverse.
If you’re playing in any kind of baseball league, it will have its own regulations. So before you buy ANY bat (and certainly before you take the wrapper off), make sure you check your bat meets the specific regulations of that league. Otherwise, you’ll own a bat you can’t use.
Here are my recommended baseball bats for beginners.