buying guide

batter up!

You can't play baseball or softball without the right bat. But how do you choose the best bat for you? Bat specifications have changed dramatically over the years, from the types of materials used to variations in length and diameter to the design regulations themselves.

Since the 2011 season, high school and college baseball leagues have required BBCOR certified bats for standardization purposes. Other bat regulations vary by league, so it can be difficult and even overwhelming to find the right bat for you or your kid. Academy Sports created this guide to help you make the perfect selection, using three key considerations:

Whether you play softball or baseball, you should choose a bat that feels comfortable and meets your specific league's standards. Explore the rest of this guide to discover the best bat for your needs.

  • league regulations
  • bat size
  • material

baseball bats vs. softball bats

At the youth level, there's not much difference between softball and baseball bats. As players age and gain more experience, a few differences emerge due to the sports' distinct histories:

Length and Weight: Softball bats are typically longer than baseball bats.

Barrel Diameter: Softball bats are also narrower than baseball bats.

Slow-pitch bats are used for recreational softball and come in both men's and women's sizes.

Fast-pitch bats are made for women of all ages who play competitive softball.

Whether you play softball or baseball, you should choose a bat that feels comfortable and meets your specific league's standards. Explore the rest of this guide to discover the best bat for your needs.

league regulations

Before buying a new bat, make sure it's compliant with your league's regulations. Use the specifications below as a guide, and ask your league about their unique rules and requirements.

League Level Bat Length Barrel Diameter Materials
Little Leagues No more than 33" No more than 2 1/4" Varies
High School and College Leagues No more than 34" No more than 2 5/8" Varies
Senior Leagues No more than 36" No more than 2 5/8" Varies
Official MLB No more than 42" 2 5/8" One smooth, round piece of solid wood, typically ash, maple or birch

bat size: hey batter, batter...

measuring yourself for a bat

There are several ways to find the best bat size. Follow these guidelines based on where you are in the buying process:

if you don't have a bat

Put your arm straight out. Have someone measure from the middle of your chest to the tip of your index finger. Then, reference our size chart to see which size bat is the right fit for you. You can also practice swinging different sizes of bats to see what feels the most comfortable while still meeting your league's requirements.

if you already have a bat

To check if a bat you already own is the right size for you, grab the handle and touch the top of the bat to the floor. If your palm can reach the handle without stretching your arm or bending your knees, you have the right size bat. You can also place the top of the bat's handle on the middle of your chest. If you can reach out and grab the barrel of the bat, it's a good size.

measuring a child for a bat

Start the search for your youngster's first or next bat by using either of these methods. If they don't fall under one size, let them practice swinging a few different sizes until they find a perfect match:

size by height

Players 3'4" and under should start with a 26-inch bat. For every 3 inches of growth after 40 inches, add 1 inch to the bat length.

size by weight

Bats for players who weigh under 60 pounds are typically between 26 and 29 inches long. Players between 60 and 120 pounds usually use bats 27 to 32 inches in length, while players over 120 pounds can use bats anywhere from 28 to 34 inches long.

bat sizing charts

most popular length by age

Age Length
5-7 24-26"
8-9 26-28"
10 28-29"
11-12 30-31"
13-14 31-32"
15-16 32-33"
17+ 33-34"

bat weight: are you a heavy hitter?

Drop weight is determined by the weight of a bat in ounces and its length in inches. The lighter the bat, the greater its drop. Here's the formula to calculate your bat's drop weight:

drop = (bat weight in ounces) - (bat length in inches)

For example, a 25-ounce bat that measures 30 inches long will have a drop weight of -5.

how do I choose my bat's drop weight?

High school and college leagues regulate drop weight at no lighter than -3. Other leagues set their own regulations, so you should ask about your league's specifics rules before choosing a bat. Then, find a weight that feels good to swing while meeting the rules of that league.

pro tip: If you play softball, drop-weight regulations don't apply. You can use whatever drop you like most!

Remember that being a strong hitter doesn't necessarily mean you need a heavier bat. In fact, heavier bats can slow swing speed and power if you're not strong enough to wield them properly.

to improve slow swing speeds

If your current bat speed is slow, it's probably because your bat is too heavy. Test out different, lighter weights to find the right drop for you. The right drop will help you balance high bat speed with a strong, powerful hit.

to control fast swing speeds

If your current speed feels a little too fast, it may be time for a heavier bat. The extra weight will increase momentum to improve your hitting distance and timing. Go up one ounce at a time until you find the new weight that feels right.

common drop weights and lengths by league and sport

little league 1 1/4" baseball bats

Age Length Drop
Under 7 24-26" (-13.5)-(-12)
8-9 26-29" (-13.5)-(-10)
10-11 28-30" (-13)-(-10)
12-13 29-32" (-10)-(-9)

pony league 2 5/8" baseball bats

Age Length Drop
Under 7 24-26" (-12)-(-10)
8-9 26-29" (-12)-(-10)
10-11 28-30" (-10)-(-8)
12-13 29-32" (-9)-(-5)
14+ 31-34" (-3)

high school/college 2 5/8" baseball bats

Age Length Drop
14-15 31-33" (-3)
16-18 32-34" (-3)
18+ 32-34" (-3)

fast-pitch 2 1/4" softball bats

Age Length Drop
Under 7 24-26" (-13.5)-(-10)
8-9 26-29" (-13.5)-(-10)
10-11 28-31" (-13)-(-8)
12-13 29-33" (-12)-(-8)
14+ 31-34" (-10)-(-8)

bat material: swing the fences

Some leagues require bats made of specific materials, while others let you choose. Wooden bats are typically reserved for Major League Baseball since younger leagues prefer the performance of more modern materials.

popular materials for high school and college baseball include:

  • Composite bats
  • Hybrid bats
  • Alloy bats

Use this chart to learn more about the differences between today's most advanced bat materials.

Bat Type Materials Used Pros Cons Fun Fact
Composite Reinforced carbon
  • Larger sweet spot
  • More balanced
  • Less vibration and bat sting
  • Most expensive
  • Fragile
  • Requires a break-in period
  • Can only be used in temperatures above 65 degrees
Banned from high school baseball in 2011
Hybrid Composite and alloy
  • Less bat sting
  • Alloy barrel doesn't require a break-in period
  • Can acquire bumps or dents
  • Susceptible to cracking
  • Not legal in all leagues
Hybrid bats are made using variety of processes
Alloy Metal or aluminum
  • Most popular
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Does not require a break-in period
  • Small sweet spot
  • More bat sting
  • Loses hitting power over time
Louisville produces over one million aluminum baseball bats per year

make it a grand slam!

Now that you know how to find the best bat for your sport, size and playing style, make a short stop at your local Academy Sports to test out our full range of bats and find the perfect fit for you.

Need some help rounding the rest of your baseball gear bases? Check out all our baseball guides to knock your next game out of the park: