How to Break in a Baseball or Softball Bat: Step-by-Step Guide
As technology has changed, the evolution of baseball bats has grown with it, and the need to prepare your tools for action has become a part of the game. When you buy a wood bat, you don’t need to worry about breaking it in. It’s ready off the shelf. Similarly, when you buy an aluminum alloy bat, for the most part, these bats are ready to go too - they’re “hot out of the wrapper.”
But when you start looking into composite bats, likely your greatest weapon for success, the following tips on how to break in a bat will allow you to work your new lumber up to its fullest potential.
In this guide, you’ll learn the following:
- Why you need to break in a bat
- How to break in a composite bat and a softball bat
- What bat rolling is and if it’s legal?
Why Do I Need to Break in My Bat?
Many people often wonder why they need to break in a bat. You may be questioning why these expensive bats don’t come ready to go directly from the manufacturer. These are valid questions, but the need to break in a bat is simple: Composite bats just aren’t at their full potential until they’ve been through at least a couple hundred hits.
Most single or double wall aluminum alloy bats are ready to go as soon as you take the plastic wrapper off. Some will have an increase of pop, or power, as time goes on, but generally speaking they are at their fullest potential as soon as you bring them home.
While all bats are manufactured to meet certain specifications depending on league and sanctions, bats that are fresh off the machines haven’t been tested or used. With some of these materials, especially composite, they’ll improve in quality after getting a few hundred swings in. Some people are concerned about the life of the bat being hurt by this process, but as we’ll cover, you won’t be using full power or strength while breaking a bat in.
When it comes to composite bats, it simply takes longer to get your bat to its peak performance, which is why you always want to break it in before playing a regular game.
But How Do I Break in My Composite Bat?
The process of how to break in a composite bat is simple. If you follow these easy steps when you first get your bat, you’ll be ready to go when the season kicks off. Depending on your stamina, this process often won’t take any more than an hour to complete. You’ll need to put in anywhere from 150-200 swings to properly break in your bat, so you may want to have some teammates around to help.
To break in your bat, you’re going to:
- Hit the ball off a tee
- Soft toss against a fence
- Have a teammate pitch to you
Most bats have a rotation index on them that’ll serve as your guide during this easy 3-step break-in process. In most instances, you can use the logos on your bat to break the barrel up into four parts:
- Hit regulation baseballs off a tee about 100 times - remember to rotate the bat a ¼ turn with each swing, and don’t swing at full power at first. Increase the power level as you get more swings. Increase the power level as you get more swings.
- Next you should take about 50 swings of soft toss or front toss, while again remembering to rotate the bat a ¼ turn with each swing.
- To complete the break-in process, face live pitching with a pitcher who is throwing at least 40 miles per hour. Take 50 swings of batting practice and rotate the bat a ¼ turn with each swing.
You can also follow this same process if you’re trying to learn how to break in a softball bat. Be sure to keep the following in mind when you’re breaking in your bat:
- You should never swing a composite bat unless it’s at least 70 degrees - you risk denting or breaking your bat by doing so.
- You should hit regular baseballs or softballs when breaking in a bat - rubber balls found in batting cages won’t have the same effect and may even damage your bat.
- If you miss-hit a ball off the handle or hit a weak foul ball, don’t rotate the bat and don’t count this swing in your count.
Should I - and can I - ever roll my bat?
If you’re at the fields enough, you’ve probably heard about bat rolling. Bat rolling is when you place your bat in a rolling machine to compress it. Rolling your bat creates a trampoline effect when contact is made. A trampoline effect means that when your bat makes contact against the ball, the ball will jump off much quicker than with an un-rolled bat. Not only is bat rolling considered illegal, but it will also void the manufacturer’s warranty and isn’t worth the trouble.
If you’re playing in high school or college sanctioned leagues, you should be aware that bat rolling is illegal. Most of the past decade, the use of doctored bats has been on the rise, causing a danger to the health of all players, especially pitchers. It’s easy to detect if a player is using a bat that’s been rolled. You can simply take a piece of paper, wrap it around the bat, and actually feel the lines in the barrel.
And there you go! Hopefully your new composite bat is good to go. But if your current bat lost all it's pop, you can always get a new baseball, fastpitch, or slowpitch composite bat from our store. Also, be sure to check out our glove break-in guide to get your glove in top shape.
This article was originally published on August 7, 2016, and has been updated with new information.