USA Baseball, the national governing body for the sport of baseball in the U.S., in conjunction with participating national member organizations has adopted a new method for measuring bat performance in the testing of youth bats. Informed by the research of leading scientists on the USA Baseball Bat Study Committee, and supported by its National Member Organizations, - including the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball & Dixie Boys Baseball, Little League Baseball and PONY Baseball - USA Baseball has concluded that recent advancements in science, engineering, technology, and the materials available to fabricate non-wood bats, now allow the manufacturers to construct youth bats that can perform at a wood-like level through the entire range of lengths and weights of youth bats.
The USA Baseball bat standard (USABat), which applies to bats that are classified below the NCAA and NFHS level of play, was implemented on January 1, 2018.
Similar to the NCAA and NFHS BBCOR standard, which helped to eliminate discrepancies with different length bats and thus provide a more direct measure of bat performance, the USA Baseball bat standard establishes a wood-like performance standard for youth baseball bats, a standard that will provide for the long-term integrity of the game.
- USABat is USA Baseball's certification standard for youth baseball bats that establishes a wood-like performance for non-wood bats
- Beginning January 1, 2018, participating National Member Organizations, which include the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball, Dixie Youth Baseball & Dixie Boys Baseball, Little League Baseball, PONY Baseball and the NABF, adopted the USABat Standard for youth baseball bats. Additional organizations adopting USABat include Dizzy Dean Baseball and a wide variety of city and county parks and recreation departments around the country
- Following the implementation of the new standard, metal and composite bats must feature the USABat certification mark to be authorized for play in youth leagues within the participating National Member Organizations. Solid, one piece wood bats may be used with or without the USA Baseball mark
- For non-wood and multi-piece wood youth baseball bats (non-TeeBall bats), the USA Baseball mark signifies that the bat has undergone lab testing to confirm that it performs at a wood-like standard and has been certified under USABat
- Bats with the BPF 1.15 stamp are no longer permitted in leagues that have adopted USABat. Some older youth divisions will allow both USABat and BBCOR certified bats
- Retailers and licensed bat manufacturers began selling certified baseball and tee ball bats featuring the USA Baseball mark on September 1st, 2017
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Which NMOs and other organizations have implemented the USABat standard?
To date, the following organizations are participating:
American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC)
Babe Ruth Baseball/Cal Ripken Baseball
Dixie Youth Baseball
Dixie Boys Baseball
Little League Baseball
Dizzy Dean Baseball
Q. What specific leagues and divisions have adopted USABat?
- Nolan Ryan, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente division tournaments
Babe Ruth & Cal Ripken
- Tee Ball
- Cal Ripken Baseball
- Babe Ruth Baseball (13-15)
Dixie Youth & Dixie Boys
- Dixie Youth Baseball
- Dixie Boys Baseball
Little League Baseball
- Tee-Ball Division
- Minor League Baseball Division
- Little League Baseball (or the Major Division)
- Intermediate (50/70) Division
- Junior League Baseball Division
- Shetland 6U
- Pinto 8U
- Mustang 10U
- Bronco 12U
- Pony 14U
- Rookie Division 10u
- Freshman Division 12u
- Sophomore Division 14u
- Dizzy Dean Baseball
- 6-year-old division
- 7-year-old division
- 8-year-old division
- 9-year-old division
- 10-year-old division
- 11-year-old division
- 12-year-old division
Q. Why the change to a wood-like standard?
USA Baseball's national member organizations believe that a wood-like performance standard will best provide for the long-term integrity of the game. The USABat standard does not have a drop-weight limit, so young players can use bats made with light-weight materials.
Q. Why not just use wood bats?
Wood is a scarce resource. Metal and composite bats also tend to be more durable and lighter weight than wood bats. USA Baseball Approved Bats (USABats) are designed to perform much like wood, where their performance is limited to the highest performing wood.
Q. How is the USABat standard different from the BBCOR standard used by the NCAA and NFHS?
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. That said, the two standards establish similar performance limits for bats.
The performance of BBCOR and USA Baseball bats are nearly identical (within about 0.005 BBCOR). The primary difference between the bats is USA Baseball bats do not have the -3 drop weight restriction. The lighter USA Baseball bats are easier to swing (particularly for developing hitters); this can result in higher batting averages, but not higher hit ball speed. The lighter USA Baseball bats will produce slightly lower hit ball speeds than the BBCOR bats. Since USA Baseball bats can be produced in a -3 drop weight, and would be nearly identical to BBCOR bats, we see no reason why BBCOR and USA Baseball's bats could not be combined in play for leagues choosing this option. However, we note that mixing BBCOR and USA Baseball bats increases the range of player ability using these bats. Rules ensuring players of comparable ability are on the field will lower the likelihood of an advanced hitter putting an inexperienced pitcher at risk. - Dr. Lloyd Smith and Dr. Alan Nathan
Q. Why is USA Baseball involved?
The 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.
Q. Who were the scientists on the USA Baseball Bat Study Committee?
- Alan Nathan, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois
- Dan Russell, Ph.D. Professor of Acoustics at Penn State University
- Glenn Fleisig, Ph.D. Research Director of American Sports Medicine Institute
Q. Is safety the reason for the change?
No. Youth baseball continues to be one of the safest of all sports for youth participants. USA Baseball and its National Member Organizations believe a wood like performance standard for non-wood bats will benefit the long term integrity of youth baseball.
Q. How will I know which bat to buy?
All bats that bear the USA Baseball mark are permissible for play in leagues and tournaments that require USABat. A full list of certified bats can be found here.
Q. Are wood bats still allowed?
Yes. Solid, one piece wood bats are approved for use under USABat with or without the USA Baseball Certification Mark. Multi-piece and composite wood bats must feature the USA Baseball Certification Mark to be approved for play.
Q. How are USABats certified?
Bats must undergo performance testing and receive a final approval from USA Baseball to receive USABat certification. A bat maker's first step in this process is to produce a bat design sample and submit it to the Washington State University (WSU) Sports Science Lab for performance testing. Submissions that pass USA Baseball's Performance Test Protocol become eligible for certification. To clarify, this means the bat has been performance tested in a controlled lab setting to confirm that it performs at a wood-like standard. The bat maker must then send a sample of the same design to USA Baseball for final approval of graphics. USA Baseball's certification gives the bat maker rights manufacture the same design for retail sale that passed testing at WSU with the graphics that were approved by USA Baseball as well as add the USA Baseball mark on the bat's handle. All approved bats are added to the USABat Approved List at USABat.com.
Q. How does a bat decertification happen?
In order for USA Baseball to ensure the integrity of the USABat standard, USA Baseball reserves the right to compliance test any bat on the USABat approved bat list at any time. Compliance tests are undertaken to ensure that production bats sold at retail meet the USABat standard and are identical to the bats submitted by the manufacturers during the initial certification process. In the event of a compliance test, select bat models are purchased at retail and tested at the Washington State University Sports Science Lab using the original certification test process. If the test reveals the bat model being sold at retail does not comply with USABat performance and design requirements, the bat is deemed noncompliant and the decertification process begins.
Q. What does bat decertification mean?
Bat decertification means that production bats being sold at retail of a previously approved USABat model are not in compliance with the USABat standard. To clarify, the USABat standard requires that bats manufactured for retail sale match the design that was initially certified by USA Baseball in both performance and design. Once a bat model has been decertified, it is no longer approved for play in leagues that have adopted USABat and subject to league rules concerning the use of illegal or unapproved bats.
Q. When is a bat decertification announced?
USA Baseball is obligated to announce a bat decertification once compliance testing has been completed and USA Baseball receives conclusive evidence that a bat model is not compliant with the USABat standard.
Q. Why not wait until the end of the season to announce a bat decertification?
Both USA Baseball and the bat manufacturer are obligated to announce a bat decertification once compliance testing has been completed and after USA Baseball has conclusive evidence that a bat model is out of compliance with the USABat standard. The use of a noncompliant bat in leagues that have adopted USABat compromises the integrity of the standard and creates an uneven playing field across youth baseball.
Therefore, in order to maintain integrity with the performance metrics set by the USABat standard, noncompliant bats must be decertified and removed from play immediately.
Q. What happens if my bat is decertified?
If a previously approved USABat is decertified, the bat manufacturer is obligated to provide consumers with relief and to take any other steps necessary to make such parties whole. USA Baseball will post information on how to contact the bat manufacturer at https://usabat.com/decertified-bats/ in the event a USABat is ever decertified.
Q. Why are certain bat lengths decertified and not others?
For certified bats, each model length is typically designed and produced slightly differently than the others. Because of this, individual lengths and drops of a USABat are classified as unique designs and subject to bat certification separately. It is possible that certain bat lengths could be found to be out of compliance under the USABat standard while the remaining lengths and drops of the same model family are still design and performance compliant.
Q. Does the standard impact Tee Ball?
Yes. Under the USABat standard, certified tee ball bats will feature the USA Baseball mark and text which reads ONLY FOR USE WITH APPROVED TEE BALLS.
Q. What bats are recommended for coach pitch and machine pitch leagues?
Both tee ball bats and standard youth bats featuring the USA Baseball certification mark are recommended for coach pitch and machine pitch leagues. Coach pitch and machine pitch leagues that permit the use of USABat tee ball bats should only use approved low compression baseballs. A full list of approved low compression baseballs can be found here: https://usabat.com/approved-tee-balls/
We have compared the performance of tee ball bats using tee balls and youth baseballs. Low compression tee balls reduced bat performance by 0.04 BBCORR (a substantial amount). Further, the dynamic stiffness of tee balls is a factor of 10 lower than youth baseballs. The reduced stiffness will correlate to lower impact force, and the reduced COR correlates to lower hit ball speed. Both factors will significantly reduce the likelihood a player is injured if they are hit by a ball. As hit ball speed depends much more on the bat speed, than the pitch speed, these trends would also hold true for tee balls used in coach pitch games. - Dr. Lloyd Smith and Dr. Alan Nathan
Q. Can I use a Tee Ball bat that does not feature the USA Baseball mark?
All Tee Ball bats must feature the USA Baseball mark and accompanying text. Tee Ball bats that were produced and/or purchased prior to the implementation of the new standard can be certified using an Approved Tee Ball Sticker via the USA Baseball Tee Ball Sticker Program.
Q. What is the USA Baseball Tee Ball Sticker Program?
The USA Baseball Tee Ball Sticker Program is an initiative designed to allow for the continued use of tee ball bats that were manufactured prior to the implementation of the new USABat standard. Through this program, parents, leagues, and coaches can place approved stickers marked with the USA Baseball logo and language which reads, ONLY FOR USE WITH APPROVED TEE BALLS on their older model tee ball bats. Stickered tee ball bats are fully compliant as approved USABat Tee Ball Bats. Stickers will be available through August 31st, 2019. All new approved tee ball bats feature a permanent USA Baseball logo and do not require an additional sticker.
More information on USABat Tee Ball Stickers and a link to order can be found here.