As has become the annual custom since the introduction of aluminum bats in 1970, amateur softball and baseball players can head to the diamond this spring with bats that promise to incorporate the latest technology and best construction.
Stiffer handles, enlarged sweet spots and transparent shells are just a few of the features that will highlight spring releases for the season. Athletes willing to shell out a few (hundred) extra bucks can see for themselves if the products live up to the hype. Traditional industry leaders like Easton, Louisville Slugger and Nike will attack the spring market with bats incorporating the most complex composition technology and designs ever.
Calin Thomas, product manager of baseball/softball/wood bats for Easton, explains that many associations regulate performance capabilities of slowpitch softball bats used in organized play, so advancements in bat technology tend to Focus on enlarging sweet spots and lowering swing weights, rather than altering energy transfer. “In terms of performance, we are very compliant working with these associations,” Thomas says. “We want to give these players more performance along the length of the [bat] barrel.”
Whether players prefer the swing-speed benefits of an aluminum bat or the larger sweet spot consistent with composite bats, most manufacturers have covered all the bases for this spring.
For starters, Louisville Slugger’s spring line includes the TPX H2 Hybrid, the Triton 3X, the Exogrid and the Omaha. These four releases will emphasize the company’s “Power and Performance” theme. Louisville Slugger’s 2009 line is built with stiffer handles and larger sweet spots in mind. The TPX material says that a stiff handle creates more barrel flex, thus increasing the “trampoline effect” and creating more energy transfer.
Nike continues to establish a presence in the market with the release of the Aero Fuse Cx2, which employs a multi-wall carbon composite material to increase power, and an Aero Cap tip to quicken swing speed.
For softball, Easton will introduce its Synergy Reveal and Synergy Clarity bats. These bats, which feature the company’s new visual composite technology, use a transparent outer glass layer that allows users to view the bat’s inner construction. Designed in response to new test protocols from the Amateur Softball Association of America, the bats feature Easton’s strained energy optimization patent, which indicates whether the bat has been tampered with or altered. Discolored “delamination spots” larger than an inch indicate that the bat does not adhere to the ASA’s 98-mph exit speed performance limit. The Reveal is used for slow-pitch softball and the Clarity is for fast-pitch.