There comes a time for all softball players that the bat needs to be replaced. This raises the question of how long softball bats last, what I should expect, and what factors affect the outcome. Well, I can tell you that the answer isn’t easy, and there are so many affecting factors so luckily you arrived here as I’m about to explain it to you!
A softball bat will last anywhere between 1 to 5000 swings, depending on many things. Generally, slowpitch bats last longer than fastpitch bats, whereas composite is the most durable material. In addition, things such as how often you practice, swing power, and temperature affect the lifespan.
1 to 5000 swings isn’t a satisfying answer, I know. Some bats have experienced difficulties in manufacturing, and it has gotten unnoticed so that they will break after a single swing. Of course, this is very rare.
Then, great quality bats will last for thousands of swings, which is often years. So, for you to get a bat from the latter category, let’s learn more about what bats last the longest and the other factors behind them.
- How Long Will Fastpitch & Slowpitch Bats Last?
- Softball Bat Lifespan Estimates By Material
- Other Factors Affecting Softball Bat’s Lifespan
- How Do You Know If Your Softball Bat Is Broken?
- My Favorite Softball Equipment
How Long Will Fastpitch & Slowpitch Bats Last?
The first difference between softball bats that we should examine is the type of softball bat you intend to get. As we know, there are two main types of softball: fastpitch and slowpitch.
1. Fastpitch bat
Fastpitch softball is the more serious category of softball where the pitcher throws the ball twice or even three times the speed of slowpitch. This requires a more lightweight bat because they need to swing on time as the ball comes in so fast.
So, the weight range of a fastpitch bat is 15-26oz (425-737g), whereas it is 26-30oz (737-850g) for slowpitch. That being said, there can be only half the material on a fastpitch bat as there is in a slowpitch bat. Meaning, the fastpitch bat doesen’t have as much material and weight which makes it less durable.
However, they are still made for faster-traveling balls, so they aren’t fragile either, but less durable than slowpitch bats, on average, I might add.
Generally, fastpitch bats last for a year in heavy use before the need for change.
2. Slowpitch bat
Slowpitch is a softball type that is more relaxed and slow than fastpitch. In slowpitch, the pitchers doesen’t use a windmill motion that explodes the ball out of their hands. Instead, they throw it regularly underhand. If you are interested in why softballs are thrown underhand, check out my fascinating article about it.
Anyways, as the batters have more time to swing and there won’t be as much power generated from a fastball, the bat needs to be heavier to get a decent speed behind it.
This means that a slowpitch bat has more material, making it thicker and bulkier. On average, this makes it last longer, especially when the ball isn’t making contact with it as fast.
If you play both softball types, I highly recommend that you learn can you use a fastpitch bat for slowpitch softball and vice versa.
Generally, slowpitch bats can last two to three years before they break.
Softball Bat Lifespan Estimates By Material
Material is as big of a factor in the lifespan of a softball bat, if not even bigger than the softball type. There are three types of bat materials: Composite, Alloy, and Wood. Generally, only composite and alloy are used in softball, but wood has a purpose in some situations.
To learn more about the differences between composite, alloy, and wooden bats, I recommend that you read my resource.
Composite bats are considered the most durable material of all for softball. This is because of their construction. Composite bats are made by layering the material on top of each other, generating a more durable construction, among other things.
For this reason, composite bats don’t get dented. However, they do get cracked, so be on the lookout for those within your batting journey with the bat.
One difference that composite bat has when compared to other materials in terms of durability is the break-in period. When you buy a composite bat, it isn’t in its peak performance yet. You need to strike the ball with the bat 150 to 300 times before it is properly broken in.
This will not only boost its performance like crazy, but it improve its durability and lifespan as well. In fact, composite bats will improve even beyond that. Some manufacturers say that up to 1000 swings, and after that, the performance will start to decrease.
2. Aluminum (Alloy)
Aluminum, also called alloy bats, aren’t as durable as composite or wooden bats, but they aren’t fragile either. As alloy bats are made from a single piece of metal and are otherwise hollow, they get dented. However, the material won’t crack though.
On the plus side, you won’t need to break in an aluminum bat, so after you purchase one, it’s good to go without delays!
Wooden bats are very durable as they are made from solid pieces of wood. This makes them immune to denting, at least in the same way alloy bats do. However, they will get cracks as composite bats.
An important thing to know about wood is that not all wooden bats are the same. In fact, there are many different types of wood used for wooden bats. The most popular ones are maple, ash, and birch.
- Maple – Bats made out of maple wood are the hardest and heaviest as it’s density is the highest out of the three kinds of wood. They are very stiff and offer little to non-flexibility.
- Birch– Birch bats are heavier than ash but lighter than maple bats as the density is between the two kinds of wood. They offer moderate flexibility and are quite fast to swing.
- Ash – Ash bats are the most lightweight choice of the tree woods as its density is the smallest. They offer flexibility and a better trampoline effect on the ball, giving it extra speed when hit.
That being said, wooden bats aren’t widely used in softball as they doesen’t fit the game. They are used in training and slowpitch, though. Wooden bats are perfect for training as they are true to your skills, lack performance compared to metal bats, and are heavier. Thus, your skills will improve the best with it.
When purchasing a new softball bat, you really need to think about how the material affects its durability. In addition, there are major differences in performance between materials as well.
Here you can see a bat comparison between softball types and materials to give you a rough estimate of whether they last a long or short time.
|Material||Fastpitch Bat||Slowpitch Bat|
|Composite||Good lifespan||Long lifespan|
|Alloy||Short lifespan||Good lifespan|
|Wood||Good lifespan||Long lifespan|
Other Factors Affecting Softball Bat’s Lifespan
In addition to the type of bat and the material, various other factors affect how long your softball bat will last. So as I said before, it depends, but you can make an educated guess based on everything said here. Now, let’s see the other affecting factors.
1. Batting frequency
Naturally, how often you strike that softball drastically affects how long it will last. For example, if you are a recreational player playing once every other week, it will last years longer than an advanced player who takes softball seriously and trains four times each week.
This would mean that the recreational player trains 26 times per year, whereas the serious player trains 208 times per year. So, that’s almost a ten-time difference between the batting sessions.
2. Swing power
Another huge factor is the strength of the batter. If a strong player swings each time with incredible power, it will wear to the bat much faster when compared to a player that likes to slap and bunt half of the swings.
It makes sense if you think about it. The harder the ball makes contact with the barrel, the more damage it will do and the faster it will crack, dent, or lose its performance.
If you didn’t know that temperature affects softball gear, especially the bats, you do now.
In one of my articles, I went through the subject of what is too cold for softball and concluded that temperatures below 32°F (0°C) are too cold for softball; however, that doesen’t include the bats as it is far sooner.
Most manufacturers don’t recommend softball bats below 50°F (10°C). However, the same recommendation for composite bats is 60°F (15°C). If you don’t want to crack or dent your bat prematurely, keep this in mind.
The way you treat your softball bat will also make it break faster or last longer. This includes the way you throw the bat on the ground after at-bat and where you store it.
For example, don’t store your bat in a very humid and cold place. Instead, store them in a room temperature dry place to get airflow.
5. Bat quality
Have you heard the saying you get what you pay for? Well, most of the time, that is accurate, and so it is in softball bats.
If you buy a $40 bat for softball and want it to last for years, it probably won’t. However, if you invest $200-$350 in a quality bat, it will likely exceed your expectations.
A higher price often results from better design, high-quality materials, a good warranty, and you name it.
6. Balls used
Did you know that there are differences between softballs as well?
Generally, softballs have two different kinds of center materials: kapok fiber or polyurethane and cork or rubber centers.
- Kapok Fiber & Polyurethane (PU) – Kapok fiber is collected from a tropical tree and polyurethane is a synthetic material used in the center of a softball. These materials are harder than the others and are white in color. These balls are used in professional and advanced softball matches, often fastpitch.
- Cork & Rubber – Cork is a bark tissue that is harvested from a tree as well. Softer softballs are made from granulated cork or a mixture with rubber and are brown in color. Recreational and slowpitch softball matches use these balls as they have shorter flight distance and lower injury risk.
Harder softballs make more damage to a softball bat as they are denser and less forgiving, whereas softer softballs won’t make such an impact.
This is yet another variable on how long your softball bat will last.
In contrast, if you were to buy a softball bat from an unknown brand on Amazon, the quality wouldn’t be as good and durable. Thus, the brand matters in how long it will last.
How Do You Know If Your Softball Bat Is Broken?
There are so many variables that determine the lifespan of a softball bat. However, all bats have an expiration date at some point, so how do you know when your softball bat is broken? Let’s find that out next.
A Sobtall bat is broken if the ball won’t fly as fast or far as it used to. By looking at appearance faults such as large cracks and dents, a loose or pushed knob are indicators of a dead bat. Finally, an attenuated pop or a ping sound and increased post-impact vibrations can tell of a broken bat.
So essentially, you can spot a broken bat by looking at its performance, appearance, and by listening to its sound. Let’s take a closer look at what these mean in real life.
When you first purchase an alloy or wooden bat or have finished breaking in a composite bat, they work like a charm.
However, after hundreds or thousands of swings, they will lose their ability to perform well. So, when you are at a bat and notice that the ball won’t fly as far or fast as it used to, it tells you that the bat is worsened considerably.
It might not be broken yet; it makes you think about buying a new bat. If you have a composite bat, you know of its incredible pop and its ability to give power to the ball. If you see that it doesen’t pop anymore, it’s time to change it.
Composite and wooden bats will get cracked, and alloy bats will get dents. If you spot minor faults on the barrel, it doesen’t matter as it won’t affect the performance. This is especially true with cracks. On the other hand, dents are more severe, and even a medium-sized dent can make the bat unusable.
You should also examine the knob and see whether it is loose and makes it hard to use the bat. In some situations, the handle can be pushed inside of the barrel, so be on the lookout for that as well, and see whether it negatively affects your batting. If it does, it’s time to change your bat.
Last but not least, the sound. Composite bats will produce a more pop sound, whereas aluminum bats will produce that beautiful ping sound.
If the sounds doesen’t sound good anymore and are decreased in volume or sound kind of sad, you know that the bat has gone worse. Oh, and be on the lookout for rattling as well.
In my recent article about why softball bats rattle, I explained that a small piece has become loose inside the bat, which is nothing to worry about. However, a loud rattling noise can indicate that a big chunk or many small ones have become loose, which can be a problem.
4. Post-impact vibrations
Do you know the feeling when you miss the sweet spot, and it hits on the side of the bat? This can sting a bit as it produces vibrations that travel to your hands.
If you notice that the vibrations are more severe and become much easier than before, it tells you that the bat is close to breaking point and should be changed.
My Favorite Softball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here are my top softball equipment recommendations that I think will take your game to the next level.
- Bat: My favorite certified fastpitch softball bat is the Easton Ghost. This bat has a double-barrel construction which is incredible if you are looking for a great feel and are a fan of satisfying pop and sound. The handle is a great bonus as it’s great to hold on to and very thin. The technology used for this bat provides great durability and flexibility. This bat comes in various styles and sizes.
- Softball: The best softballs, in my opinion, are the Franklin Sports Official Softballs. These affordable yet official featured balls are perfect for practice if you want to train with a similar ball as in a real game. These balls have the official 12-inch circumference and weight. The yellow color makes it easy to spot, and the flat seams enable minimal air resistance so that they will fly consistently and far.
- Glove: Rawlings Liberty Advanced Fastpitch Glove should be introduced to every softball player. The 12.5″ size makes it a breeze to catch and secure softballs. The glove is very comfortable as it’s made from full-grain leather, and the pull-staps will perfect the fit. The design is breathtaking as well. Be prepared for a little break-in time tho.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.