In almost every competitive sport, rival teams tend to look for ways to outperform each other. Unfortunately, some players prefer winning at all costs, even if it means cheating to get an unfair advantage over opponents.
Almost all softball leagues and tournaments will warn participants of the risks associated with cheating through the use of an illegal bat. The tight regulation on bat usage leads to the question, what is a banned bat in softball?
Illegal bats are those that aren`t approved for competitive or amateur play by relevant regulating bodies. The softball governing bodies include the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), Independent Softball Association (ISA), and the National Softball Association (NSA). Initially, not many people knew about the potential benefits associated with bat modification. For instance, in the 1850s, hollowing out wooden bats became a common practice for baseball players looking to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.
A modified bat can provide an unfair advantage to the batsman, mainly because it generates more hitting power. The need to regulate competitive and amateur leagues arose from the increased use of non-conventional bats to gain an unfair advantage.
In recent times, manufacturers have developed tendencies of thinking outside the box when designing bats. Although creativity and innovation are highly welcomed in softball, the use of bats that do not satisfy regulations can lead to penalties and even disqualification.
Notable Developments in Bat Regulation
In the 1960s, several amateur softball players were keen on determining the limits of softball bats. This period was termed the experimental phase in American softball history as several modifications were made on bats.
Players resulted to making bats hollow or even adding foreign substances inside the bats to increase overall hit power. In 1969, after Easton introduced their aluminum bat release, other manufacturers decided to jump in and develop aluminum bats as well. Aluminum bats were preferred mostly due to their ability to make good hits.
Then came the introduction of titanium to softball bats. As a relatively powerful element, titanium can produce a tough but light substance when alloyed with aluminum or iron. Manufacturers did not waste time as1993 saw the release of the first titanium bat. Several producers followed suit and titanium bats flooded the softball accessory market.
Titanium was a massive hit as it allowed for faster hits of up to 103 miles an hour. The increased exit velocity made titanium bats highly risky, especially since they increased the risk of injury. Softballs moved too fast to be considered safe enough for amateur or even league play.
Due to the risk of injury and unfair advantage, most leagues proceeded to ban the use of titanium bats. However, some tournaments allowed the use of the high-risk titanium bats, which made manufacturers continue in their research to develop the bats.
Companies such as Louisville Slugger altered the initial designs to make them less dangerous. However, the modifications only made the bats riskier as some bats could even achieve injury-causing velocities of up to 105mph.
The USSSA and ASA took the initiative to disqualify bats that exposed players to the risk of sustaining injuries. As such, the bodies opted to set regulations based on specific lab-conducted procedures. This led to the authorization of an exclusive set of bats that meet standard regulation. For USSSA, the accepted exit velocity is 103 mph or under and ASA allows a maximum speed of 98mph.
A doctored or juiced bat is one that is physically altered to have enhanced features. When juicing bats, inertial and elastic properties are usually modified from their initial values during manufacture. This provides an unfair advantage as the bat can exceed the labeled level of performance.
Using altered bats can lead to severe injuries, especially to fielders and pitchers expecting the balls at slower speeds. The following are common bat doctoring techniques that are guaranteed to make your bat illegal.
End loading is a common practice that continues to be used by some softball or baseball players to gain an advantage over competitors. An end-loaded softball bat is one whose weight has been altered and moved towards its barrel. An end-loaded bat gives an opponent unfair advantage as it provides greater momentum and swing speed. This enables players to make stronger hits than they would with regular bats.
Using an end-loaded bat in a softball game can lead to point deduction, disqualification or get you dismissed for unfair play. End-loaded bats expose softball players to significant risks and are considered illegal and invalid for use by the ASA and USSSA.
Barrel shaving has been around for long and continues to plague the softball and baseball communities. Reducing the overall thickness of your barrel wall makes your bat more elastic. An elastic barrel translates to faster ball hits, which can win you games with ease.
While increasing the trampoline effect through bat shaving might give you an advantage, the resulting acceleration increases the chance of injury for opponents. Shaved bars usually generate more pace, and can reach speeds of up to 105mph.
Some softball players are always keen to gain an unfair advantage at all costs. After doctoring bats to gain an advantage, some players proceed to alter their external appearance. The outward modification is meant to make the bats appear legitimate and approved for competitive use. However, the ASA and USSSA continue to prohibit the use of doctored bats during play.
What to Keep in Mind
If you want to use your bat for competitive or even amateur softball games, then you will need to purchase products from licensed dealers. While some brands might appear attractive with some amazing capabilities, it is always advisable to check for approval from bodies such as ASA and USSA. The Independent Softball Association (ISA) and the National Softball Association (NSA) also provide a list of approved bats.
Therefore, before making any purchases, it is prudent to take your time and check the official rules of your league. Proceed to buy a bat once you are positive of its approval by the relevant body. This will ensure you observe the relevant softball regulations related to bats.