When you buy a wood bat or an alloy bat, you don’t need to worry about breaking it in. These bats come hot out of the wrapper.
However, with composite baseball bats, things are different. These bats need to be broken in to perform at full potential.
Below, we discuss how to break in your composite baseball bat. The break-in method described below works equally well for both softball and baseball bats.
Why Do I Need to Break in My Bat?
Composite bats only perform at their full potential once they’ve been put through a couple hundred hits. This is despite marketing claims as you’ll see about composite bats being “hot out of the wrapper”.
These bats require 200+ hits which could take a long time. For this reason, composite bats need to be broken in before regular gameplay.
From our tests, we’ve been able to verify what manufacturers have said in the past: Composite bats perform better once they are broken in.
We noticed a slight increase in exit speed after testing our Rawlings Quatro USABat.
How Do I Break in My Composite Bat?
This process is fairly quick and easy to do. Following the steps discussed below will ensure that your composite bat is game ready when you step up to the plate.
Within about an hour of performing the drills below, your bat should be fully broken in. Ask a friend to help out in case you get tired. This process requires about 150 – 200 good solid hits.
Never swing a composite baseball bat unless its at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Anything less and you run the risk of denting or cracking your composite baseball bat.
When breaking in your new bat, pick only regulation balls that are legal for use in an actual game. Anything else such as the yellow dimpled balls in batting cages may slow the break-in process or even worse, damage your bat and void your warranty.
Next, take about 75 swings either off a tee, soft toss or front toss. Remember to rotate your bat either a ⅛ or ¼ turn with each hit. Do this to ensure the entire barrel of your bat is being broken in uniformly.
Most composite bats on the market today use a rotation index that should guide you during the break-in process. Most times, however, the logos will serve as a good enough guide as illustrated below. This way, you have 4 solid hits on each of the 4 faces of the bat.
After the soft toss hitting drill, ask a pitcher with a good arm to accompany you to the field. If this isn’t possible, look for a pitching machine that can take real baseballs as opposed to rubber cage balls which may ruin your bat. You need hit at 40 miles per hour or faster. Using a tee or a soft toss won’t provide the force necessary to effectively break in your bat.
During this step, use only 50% of the power you’d normally use to hit a baseball. If you start to crush the balls at full strength right at the start, you run the risk of cracking your composite bat. Do this for about another 75 hits.
Should you mishit a ball or hit a weak foul ball, don’t count that in your tally of hits and don’t rotate your bat either.
Once you’ve completed 150 proper hits at half the power, you can now work your way up to hitting at full strength. This should only take about 50 good, solid hits to achieve the estimated 200 hits required to properly break in your bat.
Your bat should now be ready to play in a game. Depending on the vendor or the make, some bats may require more time to break in than others. If you feel your bat isn’t fully broken in, take as many practice hits as you need to complete the process.
When breaking in our drop 10, 2018 Rawlings Quatro USABat, we did notice a marginal increase in ball exit speed (about 1 mph faster after clocking 200 swings when breaking it in)
Accelerated Break-In Techniques – Should You Roll Your Composite Bat?
Bat rolling is an accelerated break-in method. It is used on composite bats to shorten the time needed to reach optimal performance.
This method works by compressing the composite fibers in the barrel and loosening them in the process.
As the process further compresses the barrel, it creates additional flex or trampoline effect on impact with the ball.
The first thing to remember is that bat rolling is illegal if you’re playing in a high school or collegiate league. Not only is it illegal, but it will ultimately shorten the lifespan of your composite bat and effectively void your warranty. It definitely isn’t worth the trouble.
Over the past 10 years, incidents of doctoring bats have increased significantly, endangering player’s lives (particularly pitchers)in the process.
We cover more accelerated break-in techniques and discuss their legality in our article how effective are accelerated break-in techniques? Do they work?
There you have it. Hopefully, you now have sufficient knowledge to fully and properly break in your composite baseball bat.
Check out our reviews for the best USA bats, BBCOR bats, wood bats, fastpitch or slowpitch bats for 2018. Similarly, check out our recommendations for best baseball gloves as well as our comprehensive guide on how to break in your baseball glove.
Finally, has breaking-in improved the performance of your composite bat? Please leave us a comment below.