A youth baseball bat that costs $330. A set of catcher’s gear that is $400. A glove that costs $280. Baseball has never been a low cost sport, but what is happening with youth baseball equipment?
I have nothing against expensive bats or the parents who have the wherewithal to buy Johnny a new one every year. I do have a problem with the idea an expensive piece of equipment will make your kid a better player. The technology may have gotten infinitely better, but you can’t buy your kid a swing. Success at any aspect of baseball comes from practice and more practice. Sally can only become a better hitter by putting in the work at which point she could hit with a broomstick. To quote Crash Davis in that epic of epics Bull Durham, “You don’t need a quadraphonic Blaupunkt. What you need is a curveball.”
While I don’t have anything against expensive bats, I do have a couple of questions. Why does this year’s version cost 50% more than last year’s? Nothing has changed but the color. While BPF (bat performance factor) isn’t the be all and end all measurement, doesn’t it stand to reason if manufacturer Y’s 201X model bat has the same BPF, barrel size and barrel length as the 201Z model then in the hands of the same hitter both bats are going to “perform” the same? My suggestion, hunt around for an unused bat from one or two years prior and save yourself a fortune.
And what exactly is the point of making a bat which can only be used in temps above 50o? For 50% of the baseball playing world, you need a second “cold weather” bat or a bat warmer accessory which they conveniently have for an additional $30 or, of course, you could move house (NB: I’m not sure this is statistically correct.)
I do like some of the advances in catcher’s gear and youth gloves though I’m still not convinced the costs are justified. I like the technology coming over from hockey into catcher’s gear, for example, gel pads in the knees of the shin guards which provides better protection, enabling better protection from lighter weight equipment. Companies such as All-Star are putting out mini-versions of the same technology pro catchers use and let’s face it, getting hit by a baseball at any age hurts a lot, so why not keep a young catcher engaged by protecting him well.
Youth gloves have come a long way too. The smaller finger stalls make the gloves manageable so the kids can get a properly sized-glove without compromising their ability to catch the ball which, after all, is the primary purpose of a glove. My son has an Akadema youth glove which is an actual baseball glove that won’t become so soft and lose its shape so quickly midway through one season it’s dangerous. As with bats, my advice is to look for a sale or get last year’s model.
In the end, I’m all for technological advances in baseball equipment. I’d love to get the latest and greatest bat for my kids every year, but honestly, they are fine swinging last year’s model. If you have the means to get the latest high-end gear for Johnny, then knock yourself out. Just don’t believe he is going to start hitting like Mike Trout because of what he’s swinging.