Slow-Pitch Softball Bat Terminology
I have always enjoyed watching softball and baseball games. I am a great spectator. But when it came time to purchase a serious bat for a family member, I was at a loss. I went online to research the type of bat that might work best and learned that in the world of slow-pitch softball bats, you have to know the lingo in order to understand what you are looking at. So, after a few hours of researching terminology, I decided to organize what I had learned and put it out there for others like myself who feel lost when it comes to doing more that just eating a hot dog in the stands.
The first thing I have learned is that there are at least eight different softball organizations, and they all have their own opinion about which kind of slow-pitch softball bat they will allow to be played in their leagues. So when you start to shop for a bat, the most important stamp of approval you need is from the ASA, which stands for Amateur Softball Association of America. These guys are the United States’ governing body and provide an official tournament database and information about Olympic, adult and youth divisions. Most of the slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball divisions are linked to the ASA, so before you buy that $300 bat, make sure it is approved by the ASA if you are playing in one of their divisions.
Other common abbreviations are USSA, which means United States Specialty Sports Association; NSA, National Softball Association; and ISA, Independent Softball Association. The ISA is an organization that sponsors fast-pitch softball tournaments and a world series.
Next you’ll see ISP, which is the nation’s largest collegiate sports marketing company. The ISP refers to themselves as “America’s home for college sports”. You will also see ISF, which is the International Softball Federation.
Finally, there is SSUSA and ISSA. These are the Senior Softball USA and International Senior Softball Association organizations. These organizations are for men and women over the age of 40.
Now that we have all the softball organizations that you will see listed figured out, the next task is to make sense of the “bat lingo”. Bat descriptions will have terms like handle flex rating, VRS rating, swing weight rating (MOI), end loading, extended barrel, wall thickness, and BPF. All of these are closely linked and have to do with the ease of swinging a bat, batted-ball speed, and the feel of the bat both before and after hitting the ball.
The handle flex rating refers to the flexibility of the bat. A handle flex rating can be anywhere between 100 and 60, with 100 being the stiffest handle and 60 being a handle with maximum flexibility. There is a lot of debate about which handle is better. Some slow-pitch softball bat manufacturers, like Louisville, believe a stiffer handle is better, while others such as Easton and Demarini, focus on the more flexible handle. Next is the BPF, or Bat Performance Factor. This determines one bat’s performance over another and places limits on a bat’s “springiness”. A rigid wall has a BPF of 1.00. All slow-pitch softball bats must have a BPF of 1.20.
Also related to the flexibility and springiness of a bat is the wall thickness. A thinner walled bat will produce a greater trampoline effect off of the bat, thus giving the player better performance. Slow-pitch softball bats are available with single-walled barrels and double-walled barrels. Where double-walled barrels are supposed to give a
better performance, the strength of the new composite single-walled bats allow the bat wall to be quite thin without compromising the integrity of the bat.
The next group of words, extended barrel, sweet spot, VRS, swing rate, and end loading, deals with actual ball-to-bat contact and the feel of the bat.
A slow-pitch softball bat with an extended barrel allows for a larger sweet spot for hitting the ball. The sweet spot is the optimum place to hit the ball.
The new lightweight composite slow-pitch softball bats offer a lighter swing rate, or moment-of-inertia (MOI). This allows for a player to swing faster with less effort. With the new light weight bats, however, comes lots of vibrations and sting when the ball is hit. So a consumer needs to have a high VRS rating on the bat. VRS refers to the vibration reduction system. A high VRS means the vibrations will stop faster, and reduce the sting felt by the batter. A bat with a lower the VRS rating will produce longer lasting vibrations and increase the sting.
Finally, bat manufacturers will use end loaded as part of the bat description. End loading is when a polyurethane material is added to the end of the bat barrel to add weight. The material fills 1- 4 inches of the bat barrel. The concentration of mass in the barrel moves the sweet spot further out and creates more momentum, thus giving the bat a higher MOI.
So there is slow-pitch baseball bat buying 101. Now that things make a little more sense, visit www.softballslowpitchbats.net and find the perfect bat for the slow-pitch softball player in your life. Happy Shopping!