Modern Slowpitch Softball Bats

Dan Hughes

When I began playing softball back in the early 1980's, the word "softball" was almost a misnomer.  The balls we used then were anything but soft.  The bats we hit them with were pretty primitive, too.  Aluminum bats made their first appearance in 1970, and by 1975 they overtook wooden bats in sales.

Aluminum softball bats were designed to hit the hard-as-a-rock softballs we used in those days.  The bats were heavy, with thick, rigid shells.  I used a 35-ounce bat, and I was a small guy.  Many bigger players used even heavier bats.

For safety's sake, today's softballs are much softer than the balls of the past.  They are even nicknamed "mushballs."  The bats we used on the old balls are ineffective with the new balls.  Unfortunately, many players who are old enough to have played before the switchover are still using those harder, heavier bats today.  And many younger players swing an older bat they bought at a yard sale, or the bat that Dad used in his glory days.

My cousin played softball with me in the early days, but he quit the game before the softer balls came in.  Last summer I took him to a ballpark with two bats - my old 35-ounce Adirondack Boomer, and a new 27-ounce Mayhem 98.  I asked him to first toss some balls up and hit them with the Boomer - the bat he had used back in the day - and then follow with the Mayhem.

I stood in the middle of center field.  He picked up the Boomer, and his shots consistently fell 20 feet in front of me.  Then he picked up the Mayhem and immediately complained that it was too light.  I told him to hit a few anyway.  Every one of his hits with the Mayhem sailed over my head.

So if you have players on your team who swear by their antique log, have them perform this same test.  Be sure they are tossing the balls up for themselves, because if they hit pitched balls they can't judge the difference as easily. 

When they give the bats a fair head-to-head comparison, they will see why they should retire Old Betsy. 

And finally, switching to a modern bat is just step one.  Step two is being sure the modern bat is a quality bat.  Unfortunately, you won't find a bat that hits for distance at the big discount stores.  The Easton Hammer, Cyclone, and Reflex are all sold at Wal-Mart, for example, but they just don't hit the ball as far as do the better bats.  Whenever I see a batter using any of these bats, I automatically bring my outfield in ten feet.


Copyright 2008