After your body, your bat is the most important tool for achieving great hits. It is important to take proper care of your softball bat so that you do not cause damage or void the warranty. This will guarantee that it lasts a long time.
Breaking In Your Bat
Many manufacturers’ composite bats require breaking in to function their best. Breaking in your bat is easy, but it must be done correctly or you risk breaking the bat itself. Your bat should come with instructions, but most manufacturers recommend 150 to 200 hits with a regular play ball. Start with 40 to 50 percent power, and work your way up to full-strength swings as you near 200.
Some manufacturers have different processes and will instruct you that no special break-in period is necessary. There is also no break-in necessary on aluminum bats, nor on bats that have composite handles and alloy barrels.
Aluminum and composite bats are strong, but there are several things to avoid during bat use, and they all apply to both. Do not use your bat in weather below 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; the balls are harder due to the temperature and may cause cracking or other damage to your bat. Use an old bat under cold conditions. Conversely, it is also bad to store a bat somewhere hot, such as the trunk of your car, and some manufacturers caution against playing with a bat in excessive heat.
Do not tap your bat on metal cleats to knock the dirt out of them. Hit only dry regulation balls because wet balls are heavier and can cause dents. The same can happen if you hit a baseball with a softball bat. Using your bat in a batting cage with cage balls will cause very identifiable damage that will void most manufacturers’ warranties. Again, save your nice bat by using an old or wooden bat.
Bats have a finite number of hits they can make, so limit the number of people using a single bat if you want to extend its lifespan. Manufacturers recommend rotating your bat ¼ turn after every hit. This will extend the life of your bat by avoiding the flat spot that would be created by always hitting with the same side.
Avoiding hot storage was covered above, but there is more to it than that. Don’t toss your bat into a bat bag with lots of other bats; they will bang together and can get damaged. Carrying your bat in your own bag is best, but it still needs some protection from the other gear in your bag. Keep a bat sleeve or a towel in your bag to slip on or wrap around your bat so your cleats don’t damage it. This applies to both types of bats.
Washing and Other Care
Aluminum and composite bats should be washed only with mild dish soap, warm water, and a soft rag. Harsh cleansers and scrubbing pads can damage the finish of your softball bat. If your bat has sticker residue, you can rub some olive oil on it with a soft rag to remove it. Make sure to follow up an oil treatment with a soapy treatment.
Inspect your bat regularly for damage. Many manufacturers have warranties which specify that continued use after damage will void the warranty. Composite bats may show spider-web cracks, which are an indication of damage. Straight cracks are usually just in the paint, not the actual bat.
Most manufacturers’ warranties are voided by abuse, use in commercial batting cages, use in cold weather, and any alterations to the bat. Regarding alterations, even suspected alterations can void a warranty. This is true of aluminum and composite bats.
Take proper care of your bat and it will last for many years and all the singles, doubles, and home runs you can hit!