Cheating is a common thing in most sports and boy, it has advanced from self-inducing drugs, match-fixing to tweaking sports equipment performance. A good example is baseball and softball bats that many “unethical players” modified to increase durability and play performance.
While there are several recommended ways to break-in a new baseball or softball bat, short-cut always seems tempting to players who choose alternative methods to expedite the break-in process. Legally, break-in a fresh out of the wrapper composite baseball bat is generally done in two ways:
- Batting practice
- Hitting Off a Tee
All these methods are meant to ensure your bat is game ready but not all are approved. There are illegal ways of breaking in bats including bat rolling and shaving.
Bat rolling is considered an illegal method of increasing bat performance and it’s prohibited in major league play or tournaments. However, it’s so ironic that new composites baseball or softball bats have to be rolled first during testing before they are considered ideal for play.
Rolled baseball bats can be used in slow-pitch baseball and have reduced break-in time, allowing you to enjoy an optimum bat’s performance from the moment you unwrap it. Also, rolled baseball bats have reduced normal wear and tear.
Essentially, bat rolling is an accelerated breaking-in process that involves repeatedly passing of a bat in a rolling machine — which squeezes the bat, altering layers of composite fibers, reducing its stiffness to create a “sweet” spot and more trampoline effect. The effect that allows balls to bounce back off the bat at high speeds.
With the increased need for more effective bat rolling methods, new technologies have been introduced to ensure quality rolled bats. These include heat rolling, which is typically the process of pre-heating a bat before rolling. The idea is to temporarily reduce stiffness and stretch the fibers, and ostensibly make the process easier.
The main challenge with rolling a bat is usually applying uniform pressure with every rolling cycle to avoid damaging the bat — breaking or chipping. However, with new equipment like the compression testers which allow close monitoring and regulating of rolling pressure, the risk of damaging the bat is greatly reduced. But these are not cheap either, so maybe you can use a simple kitchen scale. It’s effective because it yields accurate data.
Unlike bat rolling, which by default is becoming a standard industry parameter for new bat pass certification, bat shaving is now considered illegal to the highest order when it comes to breaking in bats.
Bat shaving, however, is an expedited method of breaking in and it involves removing of bat inner materials to increase the ball-to-bat bouncing effect. Shaving a bat does exactly the opposite to bat rolling — reducing the bat’s durability and this is simply because you’re thinning the wall that offers the much-needed support for multiple batting.
Nevertheless, reduced durability is compensated by increased distance to hit the ball. Bat shaving uses specialized equipment like a digital lather to drill down the inner wall of the bat, thickening the walls.
When it comes to shaving a bat, there are standard practices also to ensure proper shaving. While you can shave down the bat however you like, it’s not advisable to shave the handle and rather stick shave the bat’s end loading. But since the laws are not enforced, some players will shave even the handle to increase it’s flexibility while batting.
Remember that rolled and shaved bats are all considered illegal and attract potential league penalties in addition to voiding the bat’s warranty. That’s why extra measures are being taken in sanctioned league plays to ensure no use of shaved or rolled baseball bats.
There are still mixed reactions on the efforts the policymakers have so far put in to stop the spread of illegally shaved and rolled bats. This is so evident since no major bat manufacturers have since come out to actively show support against bat shaving. Maybe the reason there is much effort in crimping down illegal shaved and rolled baseball bats is because of the recent survey that shows how insignificant this practice in a large market.
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