Composite baseball bats are praised for their swing, lightness, and overall performance. Players often prefer them for competitions, and they’ve become an internationally accepted standard for baseball.
Compared to other varieties (including aluminum bats), composite bats have higher performance ratios and allow for a further, stronger hit.
But did you know that you need to properly break in your composite bat before you can use it?
The break in process is something that most people would associate with horses (or shoes), and it actually has the same effect on your new composite bat.
A new composite bat will never hit peak performance in the same way as one that’s been around the field a couple times, and there’s actually a scientific reason or two for this. If you’re still wondering “Do I really need to break in my composite bat?”, then read on to find the answer!
An Introduction To Composite Bats
Let’s start with an introduction to composite baseball bats.
While wooden or aluminum alloy bats are made from one material throughout, composite bats are (partially or completely) made from carbon fiber.
Composite materials allow for a further hit, but with a lighter feel. The trampoline effect (that’s the amount of bounce) is also considered superior with a composite bat, and many players feel that composite bats help them reach their maximum potential when hitting.
Just try one — you’ll notice a difference right away.
What Is Breaking In?
A new composite baseball bat that’s just been purchased and taken out of the box hasn’t seen any playing time.
Other than a handful of testing hits, new bats haven’t been used yet. Composite bats are made from composite materials, which can literally be “tight” when the player unboxes it for the first time.
Think of the first time you wear a new pair of shoes; they can be a little tight around the ankles until you’ve walked them through the break in process. The tight fabric is similar to the fibers contained in the new bat.
The break in period for a bat gets it used to hitting, and slowly loosens these fibers for a more effective bounce.
How To Break in a Composite Baseball Bat
The recommended average is 200 to 300 hits. Here’s the thing: hits have to be distributed throughout the bat, which means there’s a method to it.
You can’t break in your composite bat just by hitting it 300 times in a row. Below is a step-by-step guide to the break-in process:
• Start with hits at 30% to 40% of your total hitting capacity. A soft toss will be key in helping you keep your hits softer, and don’t forget to rotate the bat!
Think of the power you’d use to swing at a weak foul ball — that’s the strength we’re looking for in these first hits. If you’re using a batting cage, be sure to choose the soft toss setting.
• Gradually increase hitting strength as you near the end. At a batting cage, change the setting from soft toss to medium or hard.
• Keep the rotation index in mind. This means you should rotate the bat a quarter turn as you hit, to make sure the hits remain evenly distributed (and that you don’t create a singular dead spot in your new favorite bat).
• Use real baseballs from the start; this ensures that your process of breaking in the bat is as standard as it can be. Using a regulation ball is the best way to get your bat ready for it’s first game.
Do All Composite Bats Need Breaking In?
Yes, it is important to properly break in every bat that is made with composite fibers.
Composite bats can have optimal performance only after they have been broken in with repeated practice hits. Factors like the ball-exit-speed-ratio improve considerably as a result.
If they have not been broken in, it puts the player at a serious disadvantage for a few hundred swings when they begin using the bat in games.
If you just can’t get things right with a new bat, then go back to your break in process and give it some more time.
What Happens With Unbroken Bats?
Hitting will unfailingly be worse, and the hitter may find it impossible to swing and hit the ball with their full power. The bat not being fully broken in can ruin a player’s game, and it has nothing to do with their skills in the game.
Composite bats perform better and are also more comfortable to swing. If you haven’t taken the time to break in your bat, it simply won’t be game ready.
Many of the great things about a composite bat will only be useful to the player if their bat is fully broken in.
Is Breaking In A Bat Legal?
According to the NCAA, it’s completely legal to break in your composite baseball bat before tournament or competition use.
This counts as long as the breaking in has been done according to recommended methods, using a regulation ball, and no alterations have been made to the structure or weight of the bat.
Are There Illegal Ways Of Breaking In Bats?
Yes, there can be.
Illegal ways of breaking in a composite baseball bat would be any ways that aren’t covered by NCAA regulations.
Legal breaking in of composite bats is a long process that is done by increasing the amount of hits (and thus stress) on the bat.
Illegal methods to break in your composite bat include what’s called “bat rolling” or any structural modifications to the bat. Bat rolling involves compressing a bat between two rollers to accelerate the break in period.
Outright bat modification, like in the bat rolling mentioned above, is considered cheating, and makes a composite bat illegal for competition playing.
How Does Breaking In A Bat Work?
Breaking in a bat allows for the bat’s carbon fiber interior to “relax” as it gets used to the amount of stress.
It’s one reason why most bats are so individual to players: another bat just won’t perform the same!
Resources differ about just how many hits it takes to put enough stress on the entire barrel. The commonly accepted standard is 200 hits and up.
Estimating that you can hit about 50 balls in about an hour, this process will take at least 4 hours. Remember, this is assuming you can hit balls for 4 straight hours.
We recommend pacing yourself and aiming for an average of 50 balls in each hitting session.
To The Batting Cages
The recommended and legal way to break in your composite baseball bat is simple: considerable use. Hitting accelerates the breaking in process, but it can be hard to find someone to do live pitching for you throughout the whole process.
The pitching machine at a batting cage is a great option when live pitching just isn’t practical. The recommended number of hits for breaking in the average composite bat is at least 200 to 300.
Some believe the sweet spot is a little less, but we’ve found that with anything less than 200 the bat still feels barely used!
However, it is important to note that many batting cages use yellow dimpled balls that can damage your bat. Before you take your first swing, make sure that yellow dimpled balls won’t be flying your way.
What About Professional Services?
If you don’t have the spare time to break in your bat, professional services exist.
Should you be paying someone else money to get your personal bat ready for playing? Many feel there is no substitute to breaking in the bat yourself, but there are a handful of baseball players who do this (and swear by it).
As with bat buying, we recommend that you choose a reputable sports retailer if you are going to go with this option.