In softball, there are certain things you would have to learn to be a professional in the game. One of them is how to perform a softball bat break-in in a batting cage.
First of all, there are different kinds of bats available such as composite bats, alloy bats, and aluminum bats, which you may or may not know. However, with the softball bat, knowing the reason behind the need for a break is very important.
However, if you do not know how to break in a composite softball bat or if you do not know what a composite softball bat is at all, you need not worry too much as this article is here to fill you in with all the details and much more.
That said, let us begin:
What is a softball bat?
A softball bat is a standard bat made from various materials that are convenient for flexibility, allowing you to make multiple swings with little to no strain on your arms.
The fact that there are lots of softball bats out there that are made from various materials means that whichever one you choose to go for is entirely up to you and what you are looking for in a softball bat.
How to break in a composite softball bat
Performing a break in a composite bat isn’t the hardest thing you will ever find yourself doing, and I am sure you are probably wondering why there is a need for you to break in period in a composite softball bat. Well, the answer to this is quite simple.
Composite bats are made from majorly carbon fiber bat materials and so contain a bit of resin that needs to be loosened as the bat is used for the best possible results. Hence, the need for a break.
This is quite different from other bat types, such as an alloy softball bat, which you can make use of to achieve optimum performance from the get-go.
You also do not need to worry about your bat getting damaged in the process of making a break simply because this type of bat was built to be used this way, coupled with the fact that you won’t be making that break with all you have got, which is something to seriously take note of.
With that out of the way, let us take a look at how you can successfully break in a composite softball bat below:
Step 1: Recognize that you will need to make at least 150 bat swings at no more than 50% of your maximum strength to complete this break successfully.
Step 2: Get a batting tee and hit 50–60 balls off of it at half your strength, turning the composite softball bat sideways after each successful hit.
Step 3: Keep smashing those softballs, but increase your strength from 50% to between 60-70%.
Step 4: Next, proceed to do a soft toss while going at 75% arm strength and, at the same time, ensure that you turn the bat around as you hit the balls with a good bat speed.
Step 5: Repeat the process, but this time, use all of your arm strength and keep your bat turned as you smash each ball.
Step 6: Advance to the next level by purchasing a pitching machine or asking a partner to fill in for you if you don’t have one. Then proceed to hit the ball at full arm strength while ensuring that the softball comes at you at a slow speed for a start.
Step 7: Keep hitting as many balls as you can, but this time ensure the balls are coming at you much faster. You could tell your partner when to increase the speed, or you could simply set the controls to the right speed on the pitching machine.
Step 8: Continue with this process while you rotate the bat until you are convinced that your bat has been broken in and is ready to use at the utmost level.
How long can a softball bat last while in active use?
It is estimated that a softball bat can last up to 1000 swings, and this is even more so because of its break-in.
One thing to note about softball bats, in general, is the fact that their longevity is dependent on a variety of factors such as the frequency of use, temperature, and handling.
When it comes to frequency of use, a softball bat such as a new composite bat will have a limited lifespan if it is used very often within a particular period.
However, if you happen not to use your softball bat too often, it will last quite a long time and, in some cases, may even surpass the three-year mark.
In the case of temperature, softball bats are known to react quickly to very low temperatures.
This means that constant use of the bat during extremely cold periods could cause the bat to lose its performance and even lead to breakage and total condemnation in extreme cases.
Finally, handling a softball bat determines how long the bat will last. Handle it the wrong way or drop it carelessly too often, and the bat could develop cracks and break over time.
Handle it the right way, and the bat will serve its purpose for a reasonable amount of time before its eventual demise.
Signs that your softball bat may no longer be useful
Detecting that your softball bat is no longer useful is not exactly rocket science. There are usually signs that show over time as you use it. Here they are explained below.
Visible cracks and hair bristles
This particular sign may not mean that your bat is no longer useful, but if you notice that these cracks or hair bristles affect your playing performance, it is time for you to let it go and get a new one.
The sound of your bat
If you begin to hear funny sounds whenever you make use of your bat, different from the deep pop sound that typically comes with a well-functioning softball bat, this may mean that the bat is getting weak and needs to be changed.
Also, when the bat fails to make the usual deep sound you are accustomed to, it will affect your performance, which is enough notice for you to make a change for a new one.
Vibrations in your hands
A good softball bat does not give you any vibrations in your hands whenever you strike a softball. However, if you begin to notice a tingling sensation each time you strike a softball, that may be a sign that your bat is damaged and needs a change.
Alternative techniques to softball bat break-ins
Unknown to some players of softball, there are techniques one can use to ensure that a softball bat reaches optimum performance without the need to perform a softball bat break-in.
These techniques are usually used by players who do not want to go through the stress of having to make a break for their bat.
However, these techniques are considered to be illegal and are not permitted in leagues that prohibit them. Nonetheless, it is still of high importance that you know what these techniques are, as every piece of information regarding this topic should not be overlooked.
That being said, let us take a look at each of them below:
The rolling technique
This bat rolling technique entails inserting the softball bat into two machines called rollers that alter the density and composition of the bat to make it seem as though it was done using a break-in.
These bats oftentimes do not pass through the worthiness tests that are done for bats before they are used in a game, which is why they are illegal to use in most official games.
The barrel compression technique
The barrel compression technique, just as the name implies, is used to compress the barrel of the bat, but this time without the rolling process, but rather with a barrel compression device.
This same technique has the same effect as the rolling technique as it alters the fiber composition of the bat, giving it more flexibility and causing it to be less hardened.
The vise technique
The vise technique is done using a vice to compress the bat, although the effect of this method makes it the least favorite on this list simply because it negatively affects the bat itself.
While the performance of the bat would certainly increase, this would only last for a short time, after which the bat would break into bits and be permanently damaged after a few hits.
The hammer technique
The hammer technique is used by players who want to alter the shape of their softball or baseball bats. This technique is done by simply striking the barrel of the bat with a hammer or a specially made bat hammer used to break bats.
This technique, unlike the vise technique, does not affect the lifespan of the softball bat in question.
As such, you can make use of this technique without having to worry about the lifespan of your bat since it has proven to offer an improvement in the capability of a new softball bat.