Chris Welch, General Manager, RBI Baseball Academy
For many 7th and 8th graders the question of, “What size and weight of bat should I use so that I’m ready for the -3 that is required for high school baseball?” is something that requires a lot of thought. It’s a very valid question and something that I would like to share my opinion on and hopefully help a couple hitters out. The hitters I am focusing on here are the hitters that are no longer in little league/cal ripken baseball but aren’t quite in high school yet.
In recent years, senior league bats (big barrel) are being made in a variety of different sizes and weights. The most common length bats being used for 7th and 8th graders are 31” and 32”. When it comes to length I always recommend asking a professional their opinion on which length bat is right for the hitter. Many people have general rules of thumb such as holding the bat out in front of you and seeing if you can hold it up, or holding it down to your side in your hand and having it touch the floor etc. Now while these rules of thumb can be helpful, there’s nothing better than getting an experienced coaches opinion when it comes to length. An experienced coach will take into consideration the player’s swing, what kind of hitter they are, and what have they used in the past to determine what the proper length is. All of these considerations can also be used to help determine the weight of the bat for the player jumping up to the big diamond for the first time. Some hitters may want swing a lighter bat (a drop 10, 9, or 8.5) because they themselves haven’t quite hit a growth spurt or because that’s what they feel most comfortable with. Some hitters may want to swing a drop 5 because they feel as though the extra few ounces gives them more power without sacrificing bat speed too much. I will happily dive deeper into Newton’s Laws of Motion at another point, but simply remember that mass, acceleration, and contact are the three big keys to the force that impacts the baseball from a hitter. Basically, get as much bat speed and as much weight into the ball as possible, and hit is square. So yes, a heavier bat will help you as long as you don’t sacrifice bat speed. From my experience, the majority of youth hitters will have more success with a lighter bat because they will sacrifice too much bat speed by using a heavier bat.
So, back to the point of my article. When you are in 7th or 8th grade (mainly an issue for 8th graders) what’s the best weight that you should use to be best prepared for high school baseball. For this I will refer again to the “drop” which for those who don’t know is the relationship between the length and weight of the bat. For example a 32” length bat that weighs 23 ounces is known as a drop (or minus) 9. A 33” bat that weighs 30 ounces is known as a drop 3.
While most hitters are looking to answer this question of what they should use, the most simple answer I can give them is that if you are a hitter that works hard and plans on training during the fall and winter of your freshman year then don’t be overly concerned about what size you are using the previous summer. What I mean by this is that regardless of whether you use a drop 9 or a drop 5, you will be giving yourself PLENTY of time to acclimate yourself to the new drop 3. Now, if you feel as though a drop 5 gives you a better chance of success in the months prior to becoming a freshman, as I mentioned before that’s a different story. For a hitter that is hard working and is going to be training in the fall and winter of their freshman year, they will be taking countless swings in the six and a half months that they are freshman prior to high school tryouts in New England. This gives them PLENTY of time to get used to the drop three bat. Most hitters that are looking to prepare themselves properly will be spending much of those months swinging a wood bat anyways and most wood bats now are about two ounces lighter than length (drop 2).
From my experience, if a hitter is even thinking about the question of what will best prepare them then they are usually the type of player that will be putting in the time and effort into their training.
We operate a 15U wood bat league at RBI that is designed for 8th and 9th graders . It’s a seven week schedule and even in those seven weeks I see hitters getting used to the added weight of the wood bat. I also see a lot of hitters that utilized a drop 5 bat the previous summer purely to make the “transition” to the drop 3 bat easier for them. Unfortunately because they used a drop 5 they probably sacrificed some performance on the field because they should have been using a drop 9 or 10. To me that’s a giant waste, especially for a hitter that works hard and would’ve had plenty of time to acclimate themselves to the drop 3.
If you are a hitter that probably won’t put in the time to get ready for high school tryouts in March, then maybe you have more to worry about than the size of the bat unfortunately. Preparing for hitting in March, even for multisport athletes (which we love here at RBI), isn’t really that time consuming. Taking 100-200 swings in a week during those football, basketball, hockey, cross country, etc seasons isn’t difficult when you really think about it. A couple hundred swings in a week from November to February will take you approximately 30-60 minutes out of your schedule per week. Then gearing up your training in the three or four weeks prior to the season will certainly add to your regiment. For single sport athletes that simply play baseball, the first thing I would recommend is to find a good training regiment for yourself, and then working on your hitting for at least two hours a week. In both of these scenarios a hitter has more than enough time to get used to the new weight of the bat.
So in the end, put your current season ahead of the next one when it comes to bat length and weight and in the off-season. Maximize your performance on the field NOW because in New England you have plenty of indoor months of training ahead of you to get ready for next year.
If you have any questions on this, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and always remember to practice perfectly!