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A reader recently asked us whether or not you can use a baseball fungo bat for softball games, and our initial response was to instantly react with a resounding NO! However, there are some details as to why fungo bats are not the best idea for softball play, and you might find it helpful if we shared this information.
Baseball fungo bats cannot be used for softball games. Fungo bats also can’t be part of baseball play, either ~ unless the fungo bat is certified for use in any particular baseball organization.
And we have yet to find such a fungo bat.
What are called fungos are specialized baseball bats designed to help coaches hit fly balls and ground balls repeatedly, as part of softball or baseball practice drills.
By design they are lighter, to reduce fatigue and wear-and-tear to the joints of a coach, who might hit hundreds of balls per hour during intense workouts.
To ensure the fungo bat can still hit balls hard and far despite the weight loss, fungo bats are designed to be long with very skinny handles. This helps a coach use torque in swings to generate power (as opposed to relying only on weight; amplifying torque is a hitting technique very hard to use on pitched balls).
That design and look, of a soda bottle stuck upside-down onto a broomstick, is how you easily identify a fungo bat.
Those who have been around softball practices and had the opportunity to pick up a fungo bat to whack a few balls around might be quite impressed with the “pop” of the bat, and they might want to give one a try in a game.
Our answer to that is: don’t. The primary reasons are twofold: fungo bats are not allowed for game play by softball rules; and their design would leave them prone to damages.
A third reason and one that is only speculative is, players would not find success using fungo bats during real game play.
Let’s explore one of the favorite questions we ask: Why is that?
The main reason is that baseball fungo bats are not allowed in softball play due to rules by the governing entities under which play is organized. Bats in baseball and softball today, especially the metal versions, are carefully regulated for size and makeup.
For fastpitch softball bats, look for the following stamps which indicate it is legal for use according to the rules of the organization certifying (which would be the governing agency that the league is affiliated with):
- ASA (newer models might have USA instead of ASA in the logo): For Amateur Softball Association, this governing body for youth and amateur softball play changed its name to USA Softball in 2017. A stamp with either the ASA or USA Softball logo should suffice. Generally, the bats must meet the 98 mph certification for USA (ASA) Softball.
- USSSA: The United States Specialty Sports Association uses Bat Performance Factor (BPF) to certify bats, and that factor should be no more than 1.20 BPF.
- NSA: Same BPF standards as required by USSSA.
For baseball at the high school-and-younger levels, bats should be stamped with BBCOR, for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution, which is a measurement of a bat’s ability to launch balls forward (to put it in simplistic terms).
The BBCOR requirements were established around 2011 in response to injuries to defensive players due to being struck with balls being “trampolined” off special metals (titanium), barrels (double-barreled), or composite materials used in the barrels of bats.
Basically, metal bats began to be made that were just too good for hitting.
High school baseball bats also must not exceed 34 inches in length.
We were unable to find any fungo bats certified with any of those stamps. We’re not sure any fungo bats were ever measured to receive such a stamp, because fungoes are not designed for use in game play. They are practice tools.
That last statement, that fungo bats are not designed for game play, probably makes the certification thing a moot point.
The reality is, fungo bats have thinner and smaller barrels than game bats, which make using it to hit fast-moving pitched balls very difficult. Fungo bats are okay to toss the ball into the air to yourself to hit; they are not okay to hit balls thrown to you at 30 mph or more.
In fact, fungo bats just aren’t used for game play because of that thin handle. Savvy pitchers in both softball and baseball would just throw hard and inside if they saw a batter walking into the box with a fungo bat.
There is not enough barrel on fungoes to handle inside pitches; plus there’s the long thin handle. Wood fungos, in fact, would be cracked or otherwise broken by pitches struck too far inside or even outside.
As noted above, we believe any fungo bat, wood or metal, would be damaged if used in games for fastpitch softball. So the third reason that you can’t use baseball fungo bats for softball is the cost of replacing broken fungo bats.
The pitches just arrive at too-fast velocities, and the bats are constructed to be light, not necessarily strong. Repeated hard contacts would be very damaging.
Let’s pretend that a softball player, indeed, started using a baseball fungo bat in games:
- Initially it would be very hard to “square up” on pitches, that is, hit balls squarely at or near the center of the barrel. There would be a lot of foul tips or foul-offs.
- There also would be a lot of swings and misses due to the too-light weight.
- If contact is made, we believe that unless pitches are perfectly squared up, contact would cause stings to the hands of the hitter on the handle and knob. At the very least.
- A softball player might find some success using a fungo bat in games, if every contact is made perfectly on the barrel.
- A wood fungo bat would crack or break pretty quickly, perhaps during the first game.
- Metal fungo bats might last longer in game play, but eventually they would fail somehow, probably at the end of the barrel or at the knob, due to hard or unusually poor contacts with fast pitches.
- Pitches that would strike that long thin handle hard would hurt a lot, and also damage any fungo bat.
Fungo bat = 32 to 34 inches long, weight between 18 and 22 ounces
Regular adult softball bat = typically about 33 inches long, 30 ounces in weight
It’s the big weight difference, plus the long-handle design, that makes the biggest difference.
We say adult bat because it is at the high school level and up that fungo bats are typically used, because it is at those levels that players are drilled with many repetitions per practice session. Youth coaching is just less taxing on the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.
A final note: baseball and fastpitch softball pitching are quite different. Softball pitchers can have specialized softball gloves and softball cleats, and they pitch from a rubber that’s a lot closer to home plate than in baseball.
Because of the shortness of distance between the pitcher and batter, and heavier ball, we really don’t recommend using a fungo bat in softball games!