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Imagine going to a car lot and spending thousands of dollars on the biggest, fanciest truck on the lot and then being pulled over shortly after because the vehicle is not street legal. That’s what some people do when shopping for a bat.
They focus on which bat has the coolest design or feels the best in their hands and sometimes don’t pay attention to the bat’s stamp to see if it meets league guidelines.
At any level of baseball where hitters are allowed to use metal bats, it is important to have a clear understanding of the bat regulations for the respective league. Bats can be expensive, so understanding these regulations can save parents and players lots of money down the road.
While both BBCOR and USABat are stamps used to regulate bats, BBCOR stamps are required for high school and college leagues whereas USA stamps are required for Little League and other youth leagues as well as some youth travel tournaments.
Here are some other subtle differences between BBCOR and USABat:
How They Came to Be
BBCOR began being used in the NCAA in 2011. The old standard of metal bat for college baseball, BESR, had created a monster that needed to be controlled. That’s when BBCOR bats were first invented to both save the integrity of the game and prevent injury.
BBCOR stands for Bat-to-Ball Coefficient of Restitution. Essentially, this standard measures how hard a ball will bounce off the bat at the point of contact.
BESR certified bats eventually got to the point where they were so hot that they were dangerous leading to the NCAA and other high-level leagues adopting the BBCOR certification.
USABat is the official bat of USA Baseball, the body which governs most youth-level leagues in the United States. In January of 2018, USA Baseball adopted its new bat standards after its Baseball Bat Study Committee conducted extensive research on the topic.
Their goal in creating this stamp of approval was to create a metal bat with a more wood-like performance. Like the NCAA and NFHS, USA Baseball wanted to preserve the integrity and safety of the game; therefore, USABat was created.
As mentioned earlier, the leagues for which these bat approvals are required are different.
BBCOR is the official bat stamp that governs metal bat regulation for the National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Most travel tournaments that operate under NFHS rules require bats to be BBCOR stamped.
USA stamped bats are required in these organizations: Little League Baseball, American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), Babe Ruth Baseball, Cal Ripken Baseball, PONY Baseball, NABF, and Dixie Youth Baseball as well as Dixie Boys Baseball.
BPF stands for Bat Performance Factor. Its goal is to measure the trampoline effect a bat has when it makes contact with a ball.
BBCOR bats are allowed to have a BPF of no higher than 0.5 while USA-approved bats are allowed to be no higher than 1.15.
This is a big difference in performance, but remember, USAbats are used at the youth level where players are not as strong as in the high school and college ranks. In theory, a USAbat has more “pop” than a BBCOR bat, but it is all relative.
While 1.15 may seem high, the number was not just randomly chosen. The Baseball Bat Study Committee, made up of scientists and researchers, did extensive research to prove that 1.15 was a safe BPF for youth baseball.
Put simply, BBCOR bats are bigger than USA-approved bats. They must have a drop weight of -3. The drop weight means that the bat’s weight in ounces must have a difference of at least three in its length in inches.
For example, a bat that is 33 inches long must weigh 30 ounces. BBCOR bats Like this range anywhere from 29 inches to 34 inches with 32-34 being the most common bat sizes that high school and college-level players use.
USABat does not require a specific drop weight allowing players to use the size bat that best fits their needs. The most common drop weights for USA stamped bats are -12, -10, -8, and -5.
BBCOR bats may not have a barrel that exceeds 2 ⅝ inches in diameter. Most BBCOR bats have barrel sizes of exactly 2 ⅝.
USAbats like this range anywhere from 2 ¼ to 2 ⅝ inches. In most leagues, the barrels are not allowed to exceed 2 ⅝ inches. Bats with 2 ⅝ inch barrels are sometimes referred to as “big barrel bats”.
Years ago, some bats may have had barrels that were 2 ¾ inches, but that size barrel has since been banned in most leagues.
It is important to keep up with the latest bat regulations because bats that were previously stamped with approval can sometimes be decertified.
Take the Easton Ghost X for example. The 30-inch -10 version of the bat has been decertified for gameplay. However, other versions of the bat are still approved for game use according to USABat.
There is also a long list of decertified BBCOR bats that includes the 33-inch Louisville Slugger 2020 Meta, the 33-inch Reebok Vector-TLS, and the 33 and 34-inch Marucci Black bat.
Before being certified, a bat undergoes several rounds of extensive testing. With that being said, it is possible for bat testers to miss some of the slightest details in the process that may deem that bat illegal.
Even after approval, bats are sometimes purchased at retail price and tested at the Washington State University Sports Science Lab to ensure that the bat meets all requirements.
Most of the time, the team at the WSU Lab confirms the original certification of the bat. However, there are some bats that lose certification during this process.
If this happens, owners of the recently decertified bat are sometimes able to receive a refund depending on the bat’s warranty. These decertifications typically go into effect immediately, and USABat is required to announce it as soon as it becomes illegal for gameplay.
Some people are often confused as to why some bats are only decertified in certain sizes. This is because most manufacturers produce the different sizes of their bats slightly differently.
While the 33-inch Louisville Slugger Meta has been decertified, players are still able to use the 32 or 34-inch version. This is another reason it is very important for players to stay up to date on certifications and decertifications.
For an up-to-date list of bats that have been decertified, you can check out this link.
What happens if I use an illegal bat in a game?
If a player uses an illegal bat in a game, the batter is called out. To prevent this from happening, umpires sometimes perform bat checks before a game to ensure that all bats are legal.
Are composite bats allowed to be stamped with BBCOR or USA approval?
BBCOR and USA-approved bats can both be made of composite material. This is a common misconception as one of the main reasons BESR bats were deemed illegal in college in 2011 was that the composite bats had become too “hot”. While this is true, it does not mean that all composite bats are banned; they just have to meet the BBCOR or USA criteria.
Do bat companies make the same line of bats in BBCOR and USA stamps?
Yes, bat companies like Louisville Slugger, Demarini, Easton, etc. will make their same line of bats for the high school and college level as they do for the youth level. They just simply adjust their production depending on the stamp for which the bat is intended.
Which stamp do travel ball tournaments require?
High school travel ball tournaments typically require BBCOR bats. Youth-level tournaments often require either USA or USSSA bats. For more information about the USSSA stamp, check out our article BBCOR vs. USSSA.
What should I do if my bat becomes decertified?
If your bat all of a sudden becomes decertified, you should contact the manufacturer to see what steps you need to take to potentially get a refund. Depending on the manufacturer and/or the warranty on the bat, you may or may not be obligated to a refund.