The first thing you will need are the league rules for which bats are allowed. Sometimes this is called and “allowed” list, sometimes an “illegal” bat list depending on how the league approaches the issue. This changes with girls fast pitch bats as well as adult softball slowpitch bats. Also, the competitiveness of the league will influence which bats are allowed. In the 1990’s baseball had “allowed” bat lists, but softball bats which were brushed aluminum did not enhance a hitters power enough to influence the speed at which the bat comes off the ball. Today’s new thin walled aluminum bat technology greatly influences how fast the ball comes off the bat and has force softball leagues to now create “allowed” or “illegal” bat lists.
The new thin walled bats enhance a batters power because they “give” slightly as contact is made between bat and ball. The wall then “pops” back to shape as the ball is coming off the bat. This means the bat is giving the ball extra speed and power that the batter using a brushed aluminum or wood bat could never achieve. If you have not purchased a thin walled aluminum bat before – try it – your batting will improve instantly – it is amazing!!
Additional materials to consider are bats that are enhanced with titanium or graphite lining which can decrease the sting your hands get when you don’t hit the sweet spot directly (yes, it happens to all of us!).
When you get to the sports equipment store you are going to be hit with a lot of numbers. Bat weight, length and barrel size. The most important to know is barrel size, slow pitch softball is 2 1/2 inches, fast pitch softball is 2 3/4 inches. Weight will depend on how strong you are, you want a bat that is light enough that you can bring it around quickly which is called “bat speed”. If you get a bat too heavy for your strength you will have a slow bat speed and you will not be hitting it very far and bringing it around late to hit the ball means you will usually be hitting it right down first base making for an easy out. The other measurement is length, that is based on your height. There is a good grid at this website that has a height/weight matrix to help you choose a bat. http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/info/index.jsp?categoryId=222939 But remember the best judge of which bat to buy is just trying it out. Some batting cages also have a baseball softball equipment store where they let you try out the equipment. (Although, do not take too many swings, those of us who have invested in good bats NEVER use our favorite bats at the batting cages unless they have real softballs, a lot of them have plastic balls of the same weight and size as softballs.
How to find a bat that works for you. Look for people on your team that are about the same skill, size and strength as you are. Look at their bat. Ask to borrow their bat if they are on your team. Do not get hurt if they keep it in their bag and only use it or they say ‘no’. When someone has found a bat that truly enhances their performance, and they paid upwards of $500.00 for the bat, they may need to keep it fresh to keep them at the top of their game.
If you still don’t know where to start, pick up some of the ones that are most popular right now. The Easton Synergy line is SWEET!. DeMarini is also popular with women adult softball players.