Composite fast pitch softball bats are constructed of carbon fiber and reinforced with plastic. In order to maximize performance, experts recommend a break-in period for any new composite bat in order to strengthen and compress the fibers. While there are several illegal methods of breaking in a composite softball bat, the method approved by the American Softball Association involves hitting at half speed from a tee and gradually working up to full-speed hits for a total of 200 swings.
Getting Your Equipment Ready
Make sure your bat needs to be broken in. Fast pitch softball bats that are 100 percent alloy, or that have an alloy barrel, are good to go right away, with no break-in period necessary. Composite bats, however, have carbon fibers that need to be loosened before the bat reaches optimum performance. The fibers can be loosened during just one break-in session that will take about an hour.
Many fast pitch players hesitate to use a new composite bat mid-season, thinking that the break-in process is too time consuming. However, breaking in a new bat shouldn’t take more time than a normal practice batting session.
Don’t be tempted to skip the process of breaking in your composite bat, since a fresh bat won’t perform as well as one that’s been broken in correctly.
Use real leather softballs. It’s important to use high quality, regulation-sized softballs with leather skin and good stitching to break in your bat. If you’re breaking it in at a batting cage, go to a cage that uses real balls instead of the rubber ones with pock marks. The pock marked-balls can damage your bat and hinder its ability to perform well.
Don’t break in your bat during very cold weather. The softballs should be at least 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C) in temperature. A cold ball can cause damage to your bat before it is broken in properly.
Have access to a batting tee. Breaking in a bat requires hitting a certain number of balls at half-capacity before you move on to full-strength fast pitch hitting. The easiest way to bat at half-capacity is to bat off of a tee, rather than having someone pitch to you. If you don’t already have a tee, buy one at a sporting goods store and keep it as part of your practice equipment.
The alternative to using a tee would be hitting half-speed pitches or slow pitches. This would break in the bat effectively, but it might not be great for your batting form. Hitting half-speed pitches, especially when they have an arc, can mess with your form and timing.
Breaking in the Bat
Rotate the bat between swings. Rotating the bat between swings will ensure that the entire barrel gets broken in. Many composite bats are marked around the diameter so you know exactly how much to turn the bat. It’s important to rotate the bat during the entire breaking-in process so the bat won’t get damaged or neglected in any one area.
Take 100 swings from a tee. Using the correct form, hit about 100 balls from a tee. You’ll be hitting the ball at about half of your normal power. These first 100 swings at half power will begin the work of gradually breaking in your bat.
To make the process go faster, have someone help you by setting up new balls on the tee before every swing.
You can take more than 100 swings if you desire. However, don’t do less than 100, since the bat needs to be broken in gradually. Moving to a full-speed swing too quickly could damage the bat.
Hit 50 short lobs. Have someone lob pitches from a short distance, and aim to take about 50 swings this way. Hitting a short lob will require a slightly faster speed and harder contact, continuing the gradual process of breaking in the bat.
Short lobs are often used to help batters work on their form. Work with your coach or a friend to swing 50 times this way.
If no one is available to pitch short lobs, you can use a pitching machine. Adjust it to pitch slowly and without an arch so you don’t have to change your form to make contact.
Hit 50 fast pitches. To finish breaking in your bat, hit 50 regular fast pitches at full speed. You’ll notice at first that your hits don’t travel as far or as fast, but as you gradually break the bat in you’ll be able hit at full capacity. Keep hitting fast pitches until you’re comfortable with how your bat is performing.
After 50 pitches, your bat should be broken in. However, if you’re not quite willing to use it in a game, use it during batting practice a few times to make sure you’re used to the way it hits.
A composite softball bat is usually lighter and has a higher damping rate than an aluminum bat. The higher damping rate causes the bat to have less vibration and a more forgiving sweet spot. Many composite softball bats outperform aluminum bats.
Once your composite softball bat is broken in, use it only for games andnot during batting practice. Composite softball bats are known to have a peak performance period. After the peak, performance starts to decline.
Check with the American Softball Association to ensure your bat meets the organization’s standards for legal equipment. New rules and regulations were passed in 2004.
Do not utilize wall thinning, barrel shaving, loading, painting or accelerated break-in techniques on your bat. Any bat that is noticeably altered by rolling, vising or hammering will be disqualified for use.
Things You’ll Need
New composite softball bat
How to Choose a Softball Bat
How to Clean a Softball Bat
How to Hit a Slowpitch Softball
How to Improve Bat Speed
Sources and Citations
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