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How do I choose the right bat?

Get a Fastpitch Bat
Make sure that you buy a bat marked "Fastpitch Softball" with an ASA stamp on it. Pixies can use bats marked "T-ball." Fastpitch bats are generally "bottle bats" with a big barrel that is preferred for players that are learning to hit softballs. Baseball bats and Slowpitch softball bats are not permitted in Fastpitch softball.

Get the Right Length
A good rule of thumb is that the bat should be no longer than the distance from the center of the chest to the tip of the player's outstretched finger tips (with the arm held out to the side). A standard joke among experienced coaches is that young girls show up with "glove's too small and bat's too big."

Division Typical Bat Length
6U 24-27 inches
8U 26-28 inches
9U & 10U 27-30 inches
12U 28-31 inches
14U 30+ inches

Get the Right Weight
Bats vary in weight using the designations -8, -10, -11, -12, etc. meaning the difference between length and weight. A 27 inch (-10) bat will weigh 17 oz. and a 27 inch (-12) bat will weigh 15 oz; those two ounces will generally make a lot of difference in swing speed. The lighter the bat, the higher the "minus number" with -13 generally being the lightest bats available. Lighter bats are generally preferable because swing speed is the most important factor in hitting the ball, not bat mass. Lighter bats are also more expensive (-12, -13). For girls struggling to make contact, this can be due to the bat being too heavy (or too long or both). For younger girls, lighter bats are recommended if within your budget (-12, -13). For older girls with powerful swings, you may want to get slightly heavier bats (-8, -9, -10).

Bat Materials
Bats are generally made of aluminum but composite bats are now available down to 28 inches in length. Composite bats have the advantage of superior weight distribution but are more expensive than aluminum bats. The latest and greatest technology is "hybird" which uses a combination of a composite handle with an aluminum barrel offering maximum "whip" and "rebound" in addition to balanced weight distribution. Hybrid bats are similar to graphite drivers in golf. Hybrid bats have the best resistence to "sting" in the handle (best vibration dampening). Be aware that composite bats may crack when used below 65F (some manufacturers say 70F) - this is actually due to the hardness of fastpitch balls increasing at cold temperatures (the balls have plastic cores that harden at cold temperatures). Many advanced batters like the feel of composite bats.

Where to Buy One
Academy carries decent low-price bats. For lighter, higher-end bats, especially in the smaller sizes like 28 (-13) and 29 (-13), go to Budget Sporting Goods on Wescott near Memorial park or Barcelona Sporting Goods on I-10 near Beltway 8. You can also order one online from these sources:

www.justbats.com
www.directsports.com
www.softballjunk.com

Get Batting Gloves
Unfortunately, most light-weight bats tend to vibrate a lot when they hit the ball, especially when the ball is hit slightly off-center (which happens a lot) and during batting practice in cooler weather . This will cause the girls to complain about the bat "stinging" when they hit the ball. Batting gloves lessen the sting considerably and provide more grip and control. They also help avoid scrapes to the heel of the hand when sliding on the basepaths. Plus, you look really cool when you wear them. Buy an inexpensive pair, they get lost a lot.