Softball bat rolling is a doctoring technique that tends to make the bat hotter than it should be at a given time. Similar to your boots, a bat gets better as it is broken in. If you have some experience with these units, you probably know that all-composite bats don’t have great hitting distance right ‘out of the wrapper.’ However, their performance improves with age and with the more strikes they make.
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How is it so?
A softball bat is made using multiple layers of composite fibers attached using resinous glue. When you take the bat out of the wrapper, the bat is stiff and has a low trampoline effect. As you use the bat, the hitting force breaks the walls which in return decreases the stiffness and increases the trampoline.
To be precise, most all-composite bats have a batted-ball speed of 98 mph when brand new. The Bat Performance Factor (BPF) improves by a notable 2.5-3.5 mph after the first 500 hits. The bat is even juicier after the 1000-hit mark.
However, as you can tell, getting your bat past the 500-hit mark could take some time. This old school way of opening up the bat becomes more complicated since you have to turn the bat by a quarter inch in between the hits. This process is not only lengthy but can be quite demanding.
But that’s where bat-rolling technology comes in.
How does bat rolling work?
Bat rolling is all about speeding up the break-in process of a bat. It involves pressing against the fibers of the bat using an external force. This accelerates the break-in process. The good news with bat rolling is that it lets you enjoy the full potential of the bat right out of the wrapper.
Now, before explaining to you the process of rolling a softball bat, do know that this technique is only done on composite bats. It is not possible with aluminum bats.
Tips of how to roll a softball bat
Rolling a softball can be done in several ways. You may, for instance, pay for a professional to do it for you using a bat rolling machine. This could cost you anywhere between 40-100 bucks. On the other hand, you could purchase the machine and use it to juice your bats. A brand new machine could cost you a few hundred dollars depending on where you get it.
So, assuming that you have access to a bat rolling machine, then here are some tips for evenly rolling your bat.
A bat rolling machine comprises of 3 rollers that run parallel to each other. The 3 rollers may take different configurations depending on the brand. However, the standard vice has 1 roller at the bottom and 2 others at the top. These rollers have space between them enough to fit a bat.
To roll your bat;
- Insert it perpendicularly to the 3 rollers. Turn the upper lever to lower the 2 top rollers down and press the bat against the bottom roller. Apply ¼ turn of pressure and turn the side lever to pass the bat between 7 to 10 times.
- Secondly, increase the pressure to a half turn and pass the bat another 7 to 10 times. Keep adding a quarter pressure increments up to the 1-1/4 turn of force and passing the bat utmost 10 times per turn.
- Do this repeatedly to cover the entire face of the bat. Remember that you need to evenly roll out your bat for optimum performance.
- After rolling the entire face, the next step involves rolling the bat parallel to the rollers. The essence here is to ensure that the bat is broken in in all dimensions. To do this, unscrew the top lever and pull out the bat.
- Next, run it parallel to the rollers by inserting it from the sides.
- Lower the top rollers and apply a quarter turn pressure.
- Rotate the side lever 5 times
- Increase the compression force by a quarter turn and make 5 more rolls.
- Increase the pressure up to the 1-1/4 turn of force.
- Next, slightly turn the face of the bat and repeat the whole process again ensuring that you cover the entire face.
Important: Ensure that you don’t roll the tapered side of the bat and the end cap too. The pressure may wreck these ends.
Other method of breaking in a softball bat
Using a bat rolling machine is the most common way of improving a bat’s performance. However, several other techniques can also be used to accelerate the break-in process;
Use a vice grip
This is doubtlessly one of the cheapest methods. It involves placing your bat between the vice grips and applying about half an inch of pressure. When using a vice to break in your bat, remember to wrap it with a padding material to prevent leaving ugly marks on the bat.
What should you know about using a vice?
While a vice is seemingly an inexpensive way of juicing your bat, you should know that it also reduces your bat’s durability more than any other technique. This is because, unlike a bat rolling machine, a vice actually breaks the fibers rather than stretching and relaxing them. This reduces the durability of the bat drastically and it may not survive several hundred hits.
Before artificially breaking in your bat, do know that you may not be allowed to use it in competitions. These accelerated break-in techniques give you an advantage over your competitors, and obviously, won’t be allowed.
Just to show you how strict these rules are, the USA Softball requires the manufacturers to design bats that won’t exceed the 98mph batted-ball performance even after being broken in.
Only a few bats meet these rules. Therefore, most of the approved bats won’t gain any notable advantage even after being artificially broken in using a bat rolling machine.
Rolling your softball bat helps in accelerating the break-in process. This improves its performances and puts you a few steps ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, you won’t be allowed to use a doctored bat for games. In fact, according to the latest rules, most of the bats come pre-broken in and won’t benefit much from artificial doctoring.