Imagine this. You practiced an entire season to get out there and get the hits of your life. After a couple of nice hits, one of the league officials came in to interfere. Officials call you in, take you to the disciplinary room, and…… You can see where this is going, right?
While most softballers know when they’re using an illegal bat, others make a genuine mistake. So, if you’re in the first category, I can’t help you because you’re doing it with full knowledge.
But if you’re in the second group, keep reading because I’ll explain what softball bats are illegal – so you don’t get hammered by a ban.
What Softball Bats Are Illegal?
As a rule of thumb, bats made of titanium, altered bats, and damaged bats are not legally used. However, it is not that simple. Any multi-wall bat with a barrel that has composite in it is illegal (in some leagues).
· Carbon-Fiber or Composite Bats
If a bat is made of a composite blend, typically carbon fiber, as opposed to other metals like aluminum, the bat is considered to be illegal in some leagues. So, before you use a high-end composite bat to the field, make sure it has the league stamps/approval.
· Tweaked/Doctored Bats
On the other hand, some bats are altered or tweaked a little bit to juice it up. A tweaked bat with a little bit of weight added to change the weight distribution sometimes gives the batsman the feeling that it is on steroids.
While having a better swing, a doctored bat is very illegal to play with. Even I would never recommend my mentees to play with such a bat because it is both illegal and unethical.
· Shaved Bats
A shaved bat, typically means that the inside of the barrel has been shaved and thinned to make the bat perform better. So, it also puts you in the way of a ban hammer because shaved bats are considered “tweaked” or “altered”.
All in all, a Bat with an ASA 2000, 2004, or the USA Softball All-Games Certification Mark is usually legal in all leagues unless it appears on the banned list.
How Do You Know If a Softball Bat Is Illegal?
The easiest way I recommend to everyone when they’re trying to figure out whether a bat is illegal is to see whether the bats have ASA 2000, 2004, or the USA Softball All-Games Certification marks. If they do, then it usually is legal.
However, I always stay cautious of some bats disguised as approved bats with such forged certification marks expertly painted for the bat. Additionally, it is illegal in most leagues if a bat is composite with a blend of carbon fiber.
A bat with an extra notch or handle attached to the bat grip, a bat jack, and a bat with holes in the taper MAY not be listed in the ASA-approved list and are not approved for NFHS play. Conversely, wood Bats made to ASA specifications do not need ASA certification and are played in many major leagues.
I also look for shaved bats or bats with an end load. End-loaded bats have a disproportionate weight distribution. And as the bat has been altered, you can’t use them in most leagues. But some leagues do allow end-loaded bats.
What Makes a Softball Bat Legal?
A bat with a barrel diameter of around 2 inches with a length of 26 to 34 inches, and a drop weight ratio of -13, -8 is the standard measurement of a bat. It may vary with the players’ age.
Although an ASA certification or USA softball all games certification usually makes the bat legal, some bats with such certifications still are on the banned list. A bat with no slippery tapes, alterations, and made by the specifications of ASA usually makes a softball bat legal.
What Slow Pitch Softball Bats Are Illegal?
The bats need to meet the league and tournament rules, and the league listings must be checked, such as the ASA, USSSA, NSA, and Senior League Softball. Most proper slow-pitch softball bats will have the certification stamps.
Although it is legal to use a fast-pitch bat in a slow-pitch softball game, I never recommend it.
In addition, all the softball leagues ban damaged and tweaked bats. However, some leagues allow end-loaded bats for certain slow-pitch softball tournaments.
Note: Softball bats with the old ASA marks from 2000 and 2004 are no longer legal other than in Outlaw Leagues or some WSL Events. Likewise, softball bats with the old USSSA stamp (pre-2013) are no longer approved for any USSSA-sanctioned event.
Senior Softball USA (SSSUSA) says a bat must have a BPF (Bat Performance Factor) stamp of 1.21 or less. So, it’s likely that a bat without this stamp would be against the law. Also, if a bat says “Official Softball” on it, it is probably also okay for these leagues.
Are Composite Bats Legal in Softball?
All types of composite bats are not legal in softball. Certain composite bats with USSSA certifications with certain IBF factors can be legal. However, composite bats with ASA certification before 2013 might be illegal.
I always warn people that if you go with an ideal composite bat, you must check the ban list and whether your bat predates the updated ban list. Most of the time, composite bats with carbon fiber blends are banned from almost all the leagues, given a few certain exceptions. If you are interested in a composite softball bat, you need to regularly have a lookout whether the bat is legal or becomes illegal over the course of time.
How Do You Know If a Bat Is USA Approved?
Bats used in USA softball games are called USABats, and they must have a barrel diameter of 2-5/8 inches or smaller to be certified. There is a range of barrel sizes that are acceptable, including 2-5/8 inches, 2-1/2 inches, 2-3/8 inches, 2-1/4 inches, and 2 inches.
If a bat has the USA Baseball mark and is on the list of USA-approved bats, it can be used in the USA no matter how big the barrel is. I always tell the kids in my academy that the barrel measurements give you a general idea of what bats are approved, but some USA-approved bats are not made according to such specifications. You need to keep that in mind as well.
What Bats Are Illegal in USSSA Softball?
After 2016, for a bat to be used in a USSSA league or tournament, the bat must be either made of wood or the taper of a bat must have the permanent USSSA mark. In USSSA, a bat that comes from the manufacturer with a ball suggestion, limitation, or requirement, whether it’s permanent or not, is not allowed. The USSSA stamp has also changed over time, so a bat with an old USSSA stamp might become illegal now. And the ban list must be checked in order to know whether the bat is illegal.
What Bats Are Legal for High School Softball?
For a bat to be legal for high school softball, the bat should have a smooth cylinder with a knob. The bats that are no more than 2-1/4 inches on the thickest part of the bat and weigh no more than 38 ounces are usually legal for most high school softball.
· No Devices
The bats cannot have devices, attachments, wrappings, or any other form of latches on the bat. However, laser etching is permissible in many high school softball tournaments.
· No Sensors
A bat’s knob may be solid or house an embedded metric sensor, but if the sensor affects the performance, collects data during matches, or does not have an offline mode, the bat might become illegal.
· Safety Grip/Plastic Tape
The safety grips, cork, tape, or composition materials may not exceed two layers of continuous spiral for a bat to be legal. Moreover, a spiral with. Smooth plastic tape could call into question the legality of the bat.
· Approval Stamp
Every bat needs to have the USA/ASA authorized certification mark on it, and it can’t be on a USA/ASA Banned Bat list unless it also has the USA/ASA approved recertification mark on it. Plus, there is a list of allowed bat models published by USA/ASA and the bat has to be on it.
With All Said and Done
Recognizing a legal bat to play with can be quite a tall order. Depending on the league you want to play in, the specifications/definition of “what’s legal”, change from time to time. But if you check for stamps and certifications, you might be safe most of the time, if not all.
With a little preparation and research, you may not only save your precious dollars but also, most importantly, play legally and never get banned from any tournaments.
I hope my article and its thorough explanations and methods of recognizing an illegal bat can help you from wasting big bucks on a bat that’s no good to you. So, get your legal bat – no doctoring – put in the work and training – and you’re good to go. Cheers!