The brand-new USA Baseball bat standard—USABat—takes effect for all levels of play below the NCAA and NFHS on Jan. 1, 2018. But today marks the first day manufacturers can start selling bats under the new standard.
USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport of baseball, has participated with a variety of national organizations to adopt a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats, defined as those used by those 14 years old or younger. The USABat standard replaces the 1.15 Bat Performance Factor standard (BPF). Both standards establish limits on barrel performance, but the USABat standard mandates a more wood-like performance.
Informed by the research of leading scientists on the USA Baseball Bat Study Committee and supported by the American Amateur Baseball Congress, Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball & Dixie Boys Baseball, Little League Baseball and PONY Baseball, USA Baseball concluded that recent advancements in science, engineering, technology and materials used to create non-wood bats now allow manufacturers to construct youth bat that can perform at a wood-like level through the entire range of lengths and weights of youth bats.
USSSA youth baseball is not implementing the rule change, allowing their players 14 years old or younger to continue playing with a bat marked with the 1.15BPF stamp.
Similar to the NCAA and NFHS BBCOR standard, which USA Baseball says helped eliminate discrepancies with different length bats to provide a more direct measure of bat performance, the new USA Baseball bat standard aims to allow youth baseball organization to reach the goal of establishing a wood-like standard to help provide for the long-term integrity of the game.
The new standard comes without a drop-weight limit, allowing young players to use bats made with lightweight materials, all while performing like wood. Barrel diameters can increase to 2-5/8". Performance value will get limited to the highest performing wood.
Whether the BBCOR standard at the NCAA or the new USABat standard, performance tests are based on the coefficient of restitution from a bat-ball impact. The scale of results is different between the two standards, though, since they use different test balls and tests speeds.
Current league-approved bats will remain in use through Dec. 31, 2017, but come Jan. 1, 2018, only the new USABat will work in leagues and tournaments of the participating youth baseball organizations. All new bats created under the certification will comes with a USABat licensing mark.
USA Baseball has provided a list of certified bats here.
— Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.