New youth baseball bats came to market in September 2017, supporting the new USAbat standard. This site maintains a comprehensive list of USAbats that are on the market (or will be soon). Over the next few months, I’m going profile a few bats that I happen to think are particularly noteworthy (see USAbat Recommendations and Observations from Early Adopters).
This is the first such profile, the Easton S450.
When I first heard about the new USAbat standard last year, the biggest question I had was:
What options are there going to be for kids between the ages of 7 and 10? Specifically, will there be any light, 2 1/4″ models suitable for smaller players?
If you look at the bats on the USAbat list, you’ll notice that most bats are between drop 5 and drop 10 (see What Does Drop Mean?). A drop 10 bat such as a 29″, 19oz bat in the hands of a 7-year-old or even a small and light 10-year-old can be a frustrating experience, with many strikeouts and very few solid hits. My own smaller-than-average son did not begin to use a drop 10 bat until a couple months before his 12th birthday (30″ length).
A drop 10 bat is not so heavy if the bat is shorter. But while small players or beginners may be able to swing a 27″ or 28″ drop 10 bat well in practice, it doesn’t cover the outside part of the strike zone well. When kid pitch begins, typically at age 9, the tendency of many recreation league umpires is to call a strike zone that extends an inch or two beyond the outside edge of the plate. A small hitter with a 27″ bat can struggle to hit pitches that find the outside edge of the plate. I’ve seen it.
While there are a number of very light USAbat options for 5- and 6-year old T-ball, there currently aren’t many light bat options for 7- to 10-year-old players. But there are some. Here’s a list (if you see a blank screen below, hit the refresh button on your browser):
After eliminating all bats for T-ball and bats with drop between 5 and 10, there are 12 bats remaining. Of the 12 bats remaining, 6 of them are 2 5/8″ drop 11 bats. In my opinion, 2 5/8″ bats are difficult for many kids below the age of 11 to swing, especially the smaller and lighter kids, unless these bats are 28″ or shorter. So let’s eliminate the 2 5/8″ bats.
This leaves six 2 1/4″ bats that are drop 11 or 12 (or possibly four, as Easton has three different model numbers for Beast X Hyperlite that are identical, so far as I can tell).
The only two 2 1/4″ bats with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price under $150 are:
They are both at $70 or below. I think both of these are going to be very popular bats. Many parents don’t think twice about spending $50 or even $70 on a bat. However, $150 or more for a bat is too much for many families unless their player is an all-star or select team player.
I think the S450 is likely to be worth an extra $20 over the S350 if it turns out to truly weigh an ounce less. Bat weights from Easton and other bat makers are often inaccurate so I’ll want to weigh a few S450 and S350 bats as they come into our league.
Assuming the weights are as stated, a drop 12 S450 means that some 9-year-olds will be able to swing a 30″, 18 oz bat, and most 9-year-olds will be able to swing a 29″, 17 oz bat. Swinging a longer bat is very helpful when facing kid pitch for the first time, especially with strike zones that are often wider than the plate.
Bats that adhere to the USAbat standard are so new that I haven’t seen anyone in our league swing one yet. I greatly look forward to seeing both the S350 and the S450 in action, as I think these will be the two most popular bats for kids between the ages of 7 and 10. There’s a good chance I’ll test one or both of these and then publish a review on this site.
In my comprehensive bat guide, I mentioned the Easton S500 as being an ideal entry-level bat through the age of 11 or so. It’s looking to me like the S450 is going to be the USAbat to fill this same role. I could be proved wrong as other bats come to market, as the S450 could be superseded by better competition.
For the moment, however, the Easton S450 is going to be an obvious choice for many families with a 7- to 10-year old playing baseball in a recreation league.