“How do I break in a composite bat?” We often see this question from players who’ve just bought new composite bats and aren’t getting 100% performance. And rightfully so. Unlike wood baseball bats or alloy bats that come hot out of the wrapper, composite baseball and softball bats require breaking in to perform optimally.
Below, we cover 3 steps that you need to know when breaking in a composite bat. These steps will work equally well for both softball and baseball bats.
Why Do Composite Bats Need Breaking In?
Composite bats only perform at their full potential once they’ve done a couple of hundred hits. Despite marketing claims, composite bats need breaking in and are not “hot out of the wrapper.”
These bats require 200+ hits which could take a long time. For this reason, composite bats need to be ‘prepared’ before regular gameplay.
From our tests, we’ve been able to verify this: Composite bats perform better once broken in.
How Do I Break in My Composite Bat?
This process is pretty 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, you should have a bat that’s 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 it’s 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.
Step 1 – Take 50 Hits off a Tee at 50% Power. Rotate With Each Hit
Start at 50% power for 50 hits. If you start to crush the balls at full strength right at the start, you run the risk of cracking your composite bat. 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 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 four solid hits on each of the four faces of the bat.
The four hitting surfaces of the Demarini cf9 Fastpitch balanced drop 10. Each turn is what we’re calling a “quarter turn.”
Step 2 – Take Another 100 Hits From Soft-Toss at 75% Power. Rotate With Each Hit
For the second step, start with 50 swings either through a soft toss drill. During this step, use only 75% of the power you’d typically use to hit a baseball.
Transition to 100% power for another 50 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. For this step, the safety of your pitcher is critical, so ensure you have an L screen to keep them safe from dangerous hits.
Step 3 – Make 50 Solid Hits at Full Strength to Complete the Break-in Process
Once you’ve completed 150 hits, you can now work your way up to hitting at full strength. Break-in should only take about 50 good, solid hits to achieve the estimated 200 hits required to break in your composite bat properly.
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 instead of rubber cage balls which may ruin your bat. Using a tee or a soft toss won’t provide the force necessary to break in your bat effectively. You need to hit at 40 miles per hour or faster.
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 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 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 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. Read more about accelerated break-in techniques and their legality.
There you have it. Hopefully, you now have sufficient knowledge to fully and properly break in your composite baseball bat. Has breaking-in improved the performance of your composite bat? Please leave us a comment below.