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2018 Little league bat rules: Everything you need to know.

In Articles, How to by admin

New 2018 Little League Bat Rules

USA baseballLittle league international , Dixie Youth Baseball and Cal Ripken Baseball have adopted new bat rules for 2018 leaving baseball parents around the country scrambling to understand how it will affect their kids. Unfortunately, I see more questions than answers in the youth baseball community!
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How do I know what bat to buy for my young ballplayer?  Can we use the same bat for travel ball and little league?  How will these bats affect the play on the field?  Fortunately Turn Two Baseball has done the research for you and this post will answer all of those questions and more.

Before we get too far into the weeds, if you are just looking for USA Bats list of approved bats it is available right here.   Or you can view those same bats with reviews on amazon here . Local Little League organizations can also apply here for USABAT kit grants.  The chosen organizations will receive a package with 20 bats of different sizes to jump start their season.  Now that we have covered that I guess its time to head into those weeds.

Will the new rules affect us?

If you are not overly fond of reading here is the best video I have found on the subject from just bat reviews.

The new 2018 USA bat rules will affect you if you play Little league, Cal Ripken, or Pony baseball.  It doesn’t affect older players who are already using BBCOR bats or USSSA travel baseball players.  If you play in a rec league that is not specifically affiliated with one of these larger organizations then you will have to ask your league directly.

When will the new bats be available and how will I recognize them?

The new USA Bats became available on September 1st 2017.  Every approved bat will have one of the following USA Bats symbols on it.

usa Bats stamp

Can we use the same bat for little league and travel ball?

You can use your USA Bats little league approved bat for travel ball, but you may not want to because it may not have as much “pop” as other travel ball bats.

Did we really even need new bat rules?

Not really, but they do serve a purpose.

So why do we have them?

The short answer is that the new rules are an attempt to improve player safety and protect the integrity of the game.   Or,depending on who you ask, it is just a clever way to sell a lot of baseball bats in 2018.   My cynical side recognizes  2nd possibility and wanted to give it a voice here, but having played, coached, and watched a lot of little league baseball over the years, I can say that there is a lot more to it than that.  To paraphrase the official statement from little league international the rules are being adopted to provide a wood like feel best sustains the integrity of the game.

 

How do bat rules affect player Safety?

This answer is largely speculation on my part because the official answer from little league international is that the rule changes were not implemented as a safety measure.   I can definitely see where acknowledging that these changes were in part safety related would imply that little league baseball has a safety issue.  I can clearly understand not wanting to make that mental connection for people, but it doesn’t change the reality that their is a safety component to these changes.

The new bats have what is described as a “wood like feel”.  Common sense says tells you that means that the new USA stamped bats won’t be as “hot” as the bats that have been used in the past.  Clearly that is not welcome news if you want little johnny to hit a lot of home runs.  Everybody, including me, likes home runs.  Unfortunately home runs are not the only bi-product of “hot” bats, you also get a lot more scorching line drives.

I want to make it clear before I go on that I’m not one of those people that thinks the batter needs 18 pieces of personal protective equipment, or that every infielder should were a face shield all of the time.   At the same time I don’t think its controversial to say that nobody wants to see a kid take a line drive to the face. I know risk is part of the game, but I think Little League in particular was brewing a perfect storm to see a rise in the frequency of these accidents that can be so devastating when they happen.

How is Little League Unique in terms of safety?

These days there are a lot of different rule sets and leagues around the country.  Little league has a few key differences from these other organizations, but the most relevant issues to this discussion are the length of the base paths and the make up of the teams.

Little league has age groups ranging from tee ball all of the way up to high school age, but it’s heart is really in the younger players with things really getting interesting in the 9-12 year old bracket.   This age group still plays on the same size infield that 4 and 5 year old t-ball games are played on.  That means that means forty six feet between the  pitching rubber and home plate, and sixty feet between each base. Meanwhile the other leagues gradually extend those distances for every age group to prepare the players for the full size fields they will see in high school.  The natural result of this is that the pitcher and all of the infielders are closer to the batter.

Another thing that is somewhat unique about little league baseball, (particularly when compared to travel baseball) is that the leagues accept any kid who wants to play.  These leagues also make an effort to split the teams as equal as possible and require that all players get a chance to play.

I love that little league creates a fair environment for players of all skill levels, but it does create a situation where there is a real skill gap between many of the players.  This is particularly true in smaller towns. With reduced turnout in these areas each team may not have enough skilled players who sign up for little league, to ensure that all of the infielders are able to properly protect themselves from a power hitter with a hot bat.

I may have painted a dark picture in the last few paragraphs, but the reality is that baseball (much like skateboarding, football, or even riding a bike) has natural built in risks.   While I’m not arguing that safety was the primary reason for the 2018 bat rule changes, I do think it is a factor that Little League International wanted to be proactive about.



How does changing the bats affect the integrity of the game?

Baseball is a beautiful and complex game.  Much of the magic is in the detailed strategies and nuances of situational defense.  If you have every taken a team of 10 year old boys to a wood bat tournament then you know what I’m talking about.  I’m not here to say if it is better or worse, but their is a difference.  The game was originally played with wooden bats, and at the highest levels it still is. That is what little league International is aiming for.  I don’t know if the new bats will actually give the feel of hitting with wood,  but that appears to be the goal.

What are the best USA Bats available?

Searching for the best bats bat reviews gives you a little bit of everything.  If you want bat review I would get them from amazon because they are less likely to be biased.  I haven’t personally tested all of the bats on the market,  which means that I can’t give a conclusive answer here.  What I can say that when all of the bat manufacturers are held to a tight standard it should make bat performance more streamlined.

Conclusion

For years choosing the perfect bat has been a point of stress for a lot of parents, but this doesn’t really need to be the case.  As Dr. Suess stated so well “the questions are complex, but the answers are simple”.   This statement holds a lot of truth for youth baseball.   In this case the best advice is probably to pick a bat from the USA approved bat list that fits in to the parents budget and is the players favorite color.  After all a $300 bat won’t fix a $0.10 swing, and besides the rules will probably change again soon anyway.