Testing and evaluating of youth baseball bats has evolved into a science. So much so that the standard has also evolved to where USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport of baseball in the United States, is adopting a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats that will go into effect on January 1, 2018. The new USA Baseball bat standard (USABat), was developed by a USA Baseball committee of scientific experts.
Effective on January 1, 2018, Little League Baseball® will adhere to the new USABat standard. No bats previously approved for use in Little League Play (Junior League Baseball and below) will be permitted to be used in any Little League game or practice, or other Little League function, event, or activity.
What this means for local Little Leagues, and Little League baseball players in the Tee Ball through Junior League Divisions, as well as Little League Challenger Division®, is that all current Little League-approved bats can be used during the 2017 Little League regular season and throughout tournament play, but can no longer be used starting in 2018. All of Little League’s current bat regulations will remain in effect until December 31, 2017. Be aware that this new bat standard effects Little League Baseball only. There are no changes to the bat standard or regulations for Little League Softball®.
1. What is the definition of Bat Standard?+
A: A “bat standard” is a measuring tool used within the bat manufacturing industry to ensure that all commercially available bats perform at an acceptable level.
The new USA Baseball bat standard (USABat) administers rules for youth baseball bat performance based on precise, scientific measurement. Similar to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Federation of State High School Sports Associations (NFHS) BBCOR standard, which helped to eliminate discrepancies with different length bats, and thus provide a more direct measure of bat performance, the new USABat standard will allow youth baseball organizations in the United States to reach their goal of establishing a wood-like standard, a standard that will provide for the long-term integrity of the game.
2. Why is USA Baseball involved?+
A: Several national member organizations asked USA Baseball, as the national governing body, to take the lead in this process to establish a new standard. Many other national governing bodies set and enforce standards for the equipment in their respective sports. To that end, USA Baseball established a Bat Study Committee of leading scientists and conducted theoretical modeling, field testing, and lab testing. The committee shared its findings with the national member organizations, who then endorsed the new USABat standard.
3. Which national member organizations are implementing this new standard?+
A: Along with Little League Baseball®, the following organizations are participating (in alphabetical order): American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball, and PONY Baseball.
4. Does this change effect all divisions of Little League Baseball®?+
A: No. Tee Ball, Minor Division, Major Division, Intermediate (50/70) Baseball, and the Junior Baseball divisions will use the USABat Standard. The Senior League Baseball Division will continue to be governed by the BBCOR bat standard.
5. Will there be a new USABat Standard for softball bats?+
A: No. Only baseball bats will be effected by this new standard. Information on Little League-approved softball bats can be found under rule 1.10 of the current year’s Little League Softball® Official Regulations, Playing Rules, and Policies.
6. How will the Little League Challenger Division® and Senior League Challenger Divisions be affected?+
A: Starting in 2018, the USABat Standard will be applied to all bats used by the Little League Challenger Division® and Senior League Challenger programs.
7. Will 2017 models, and older baseball bats still be allowed to be used in the younger Little League® baseball divisions, or during any other Little League activities, including practice or games?+
A: No. Starting on January 1, 2018, all bats must be marked with the USABat label in order to be used in Little League Baseball®. All bats marked with the BFP 1.15 will not be permitted to be used in any Little League activities, including practices or games.
8. What will the new “approved” USABat label look like? +
9. How will a consumer know that a bat is approved for Little League play?+
A: All new bats that bear the USABat licensing mark will be permissible for play in the leagues and tournaments of the participating youth baseball organizations. In Little League, the new bats will be used in the Tee Ball, Minor, Major, Intermediate (50/70), and Junior League Baseball Divisions.
10. How is the USABat standard different from the BBCOR standard?+
A: Both the USA Baseball and NCAA bat performance tests are based on the coefficient of restitution from a bat-ball impact. The scale of results is different, however, since they use different test balls and test speeds. The testing difference is necessary to address the various levels of play in the respective age groups.
11. Why the change to a wood-like standard?+
A: USA Baseball's national member organizations believe that a wood-like performance standard will best provide for the long-term integrity of the game. However, wood is a scarce resource. The new bats will be designed to perform much like wood, where its performance will be limited to the highest performing wood.
12. Do I have a choice to use Bat Performance Factor (BPF) or USABat bats in Little League®?+
A: No. The Bat Performance Factor (BPF) will no longer be in effect. Starting in 2018, all Little League Baseball® divisions, excluding Senior League baseball, will operate using the USABat standard. The Senior League baseball division will continue using the BBCOR standard.
13. Does this change mean that Little League® will no longer be using BBCOR bats in the Little League® Junior League and Senior League Baseball Divisions?+
A: Yes and no. The Senior League baseball division will be the only division of Little League Baseball to continue to use the BBCOR bat standard. The Junior League Baseball Division will use the new USABat standard.
14. Will each Little League® division have its own size, weight, and drop limits?+
A: The new standard will not have a drop-weight limit, so young players can use bats made with light-weight materials.
15. Can the BPF bats be recycled or traded in for new USA Baseball-approved bats?+
A: USA Baseball has not set up any program for trading in, or recycling, BPF bats. We encourage you to contact your bat manufacturer for more information.
16. Do the 1.15 BPF or BBCOR designations no longer matter in Little League®?+
A: The BPF has been replaced by the USABat Baseball Bat Standard for Junior League, Intermediate 50/70, Major, Minor, and Tee Ball Baseball Divisions. The BBCOR baseball bat standard will continue to be used by the Senior League Baseball Division.
17. Will the Little League® Intermediate (50/70) Baseball Division and the Junior League Baseball Division be using the BBCOR standard or the USABat standard?+
A: Even though considered teenage divisions, the Intermediate (50/70) baseball and Junior League baseball divisions will use USABat Standard.
18. Is safety the reason for the change?+
A: No. Youth baseball continues to be one of the safest of all sports for youth participants.
19. In 2018, will an umpire be required to inspect a bat before it is used in a game?+
A: Yes. Regulation 1.10 states that the bat must be a baseball bat which meets Little League® specifications and standards as noted in this rule. (See complete explanation in the current year’s Little League Baseball® Official Regulations, Playing Rules, and Policies). It shall be a smooth, round stick, and made of wood or of material and color tested and proved acceptable to Little League standards.
20. What will be the barrel size of the new bats?+
A: The bats approved using the USABat Standard will be made in 2 1/4- and 2 5/8- inch dimensions.
21. Will it matter if the new bats are composite or alloy barrel?+
A: The USABat Standard will apply to both composite and alloy barrel bats.
22. Are the 2¼ inch Little League® Major Division bats going to be manufactured according to the USABat standard?+
A: Yes. The 2 1/4 bats will be produced, however 2 5/8 barrel bats will be permitted in the Little League Baseball Major division.
23. Will Little League® continue to have an approved bat list on the LittleLeague.org website?+
A: There will be a USABat-approved bat list on the USA Baseball website. This same information will be accessible through a link on the LittleLeague.org website.
24. When will the bats be available for purchase?+
A: Bats branded with the USABat Standard are anticipated to be available in retail stores beginning in September 2017. The majority of youth baseball organizations in the United States that are USA Baseball members have agreed to abide by the new standard.
25. What stores/sports equipment retail outlets will sell the new bats?+
A: Sports equipment retailers that currently sell youth bats will begin selling the new bats in September of 2017. The new bats will also be available via online retailers and the bat manufacturers’ websites.
26. How will the new bat standard effect retail cost?+
A: Baseball bat prices can vary significantly. It is expected that bats using the USABat Standard will maintain the status quo in terms of pricing.