Bat standards are an ever-evolving way to measure bat performance and control the maximum power that these sticks are capable of producing.
The most well-known of these standards is the NCAA and NFHS BBCOR Standard that regulates high school and college bats.
The goal of this standard (and, to a lesser extent, the new Youth Baseball Bat Standard) is to help make the game safer by ensuring that batted balls do not leave the bat at deadly speeds with the potential to gravely harm the opposing pitcher or infielders.
Starting at the beginning of the new year (January 1, 2018), the USA Baseball organization, which is responsible for governing over the sport of baseball in the US, will be using a new method for measuring the performance of youth baseball bats.
If you are a parent of a youth baseball or softball player, you’re probably curious about this change and how it will affect the game and your son or daughter’s current youth baseball bat.
This article will help you understand the new 2018 Youth Baseball Bat Standard and what these changes mean for you and your youth player.
What Will This New Standard Change and Why?
The executive director of USA Baseball, Paul Seiler, called this new standard “another step forward in making our game more uniform at the youth level and ensuring the long-term integrity of the game.”
In other words, aside from making the game safer for youth players, the new standard will also limit the differences between youth bat models, especially in terms of performance, bat length and other features.
The new “USABat Standard” hopes to achieve the same goal as the BBCOR Standard by creating “wood-like performance in youth baseball bats,” regardless of their material.
This means that while youth players will still be permitted (and encouraged) to use metal bats, the performance of these bats will mirror what a wood bat is capable of, despite being much, much lighter.
Similar to the BBCOR Standard, this new Youth Baseball Bat Standard will be based on the coefficient of restitution from a batted-ball impact.
This helps measure a bat’s performance by understanding the maximum trampoline effect capable, which determines how fast a batted ball can travel.
The BBCOR Standard, for example, limits certified bats to a maximum value of .50 and thereby reduces the trampoline effect on batted balls.
This test also accounts for bats that perform better once broken in.
It is not yet clear how the new Youth Baseball Bat Standard will compare to the BBCOR Standard or what the maximum value for these youth bats will be.
That said, one key difference between these two standards is that the BBCOR Standard, for high school and collegiate play, restricts bats to a drop weight of -3.
The new USABat Standard does not have a restriction on the length-to-weight ratio of youth bats.
This helps ensure that all young players can find a bat weight that they are comfortable swinging.
After all, youth players range in not only age, but also in size and strength.
Additionally, BBCOR bats are limited to a single barrel diameter, but the new Youth Baseball Bat Standard permits barrels with 2.25-inch barrel diameter and 2.625.
Again, this helps make a wider range of bats available to young players.
Why Not Just Require Wooden Baseball Bats
There are three primary reasons why the USA Baseball chooses to issue these standards that mimic the performance of wood bats, rather than just require all players use wooden bats.
The first reason is simply environmental: wood is a limited resource, unlike the composite materials found in many metal bats.
Secondly, wooden bats are much heavier. The lightest wood bats have a drop weight of -8, which is much too heavy for the majority of youth baseball players.
By tuning metal bats to perform like a wood bat, you get to experience the lightweight swing that young players need, but limit the potential danger of an out-of-control trampoline effect on batted balls.
Lastly, the bat industry would suffer tremendously if composite and alloy bats were eliminated.
Many bat companies have built themselves around engineering these non-wood bats.
Do I Need To Replace My Son Or Daughter’s Youth Baseball Bat?
The immediate answer to this question is no.
The new Youth Baseball Bat Standard does not go into effect until 2018, which means your son or daughter’s bat is fine for the remainder of 2017.
That said, when 2018 does roll around, you may have to replace your child’s bat with a new one that carries the USA Baseball stamp.
Since the maximum value of the Youth Baseball Bat Standard is not yet published, It is not clear which older (2017 and before) models will be permitted under the new standard.
However, because this new standard was issued in the early part of 2017, bat manufacturers have had ample time to adjust and create a bat that fits within this new standard for their 2018 lineups.
Thus, any of the top youth baseball bats should feature the USA Baseball seal and be certified under this new standard.
If you are planning to buy a new baseball bat in 2018, this is an important piece of information, as some individuals try and buy last year’s model to save money.
However, in this case, you may be safer to choose a 2018 model that is guaranteed to qualify for play under this new regulation, as it may take time for older models to be tested under the new standard.
It is also worth mentioning the leagues that will be adopting this standard:
- Little League
- Babe Ruth
- Cal Ripken
If your son or daughter does not play in one of the above leagues, like a USSSA-governed league or AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), than they do not have to worry about this new USA Baseball standard.
However, that may change down the road.
What About Tee Ball Bats?
Unlike baseball bats designated for youth play, tee ball bats do not have to undergo any testing to receive approval under the USABat Standard.
That said, they do have to carry the USA Baseball mark, if they are being used in a tee ball league governed by any of the above associations.
Most leagues also require that tee ball bats have an additional stamp that reads: “Only For Use With Approved Tee Balls.”
This helps umpires and other officials know that the bats are specifically designed for tee ball play.
When Can I Buy A USABat Certified Youth Baseball Bat?
As aforementioned, the introduction of this new standard in the early part of 2017 was designed to give bat manufacturers ample time to test and design their bats to meet this new regulation.
Unlike BBCOR and softball bats, which have already had most of their 2018 models released, youth bats are expected to take a little longer.
Youth baseball bats regulated by the new 2018 Youth Baseball Bat Standard will be available around the start of September 2017.
Once these bats are released, we will issue out Youth Baseball Bat Buying Guide, which will detail all of the best youth baseball bats to buy for the new year.
As we get closer to the beginning of September, and the release date of many of these USABat certified youth baseball bats, we’ll update you with more information and, eventually, our guide on the best of these bats to buy for the new season.