Softball teams are typically regulated by a softball association, like the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). These types of groups ensure that the game is played safely and fairly. One of the duties of the ASA is to test softball bats, and any bat that could possibly give one team an unfair advantage, or harm the players, is placed on an illegal bat list. Different types of illegal softball bats include bats made of titanium, altered bats, and damaged bats.
Wooden baseball and softball bats used to be the only kind available. Today, however, manufacturers make softball bats out of other materials, including aluminum, graphite, composites, and titanium. Titanium bats, first seen on the playing field during the 1993 season, allow players to hit the ball farther and faster. For this reason, titanium softball bats were banned and considered to be illegal softball bats before the start of the next season.
The walls of softball bats made out of titanium can be much thinner than those of other types of bats because this material is stronger. These thinner walls allow the ball to bounce off the bat much faster. This can be dangerous to players, especially pitchers, who are not expecting a ball to be coming at them about 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour) faster than it normally would. Also, a bat made of titanium can send a ball further, potentially giving one team that can afford a more expensive bat an unfair advantage.
Many times, softball bats will be modified to perform better. These are known as doctored, or juiced, bats, and they are also illegal softball bats. End loading and shaving a barrel are two of the most common ways to alter a softball bat to improve its performance.
By altering the weight distribution of a softball bat, players can improve the speed at which the bat swings, which can cause the ball to go faster and farther. This is often known as end loading and can easily by done by adding weight to the tip of the barrel end of a bat. This is accomplished by unscrewing the end cap on the bat and attaching some type of weight to the inside of the end cap before reattaching the cap.
Shaving the inside barrel of a softball bat can also cause the bat to perform better. Making illegal softball bats with this method involves removing thin layers inside the barrel of the bat. This can be done with a metal lathe. Although it does help make a bat perform better, a shaved bat is more likely to become damaged than other bats because its walls are thinner than they are meant to be.
Players can also disguise an illegal softball bat to look like a legal one. Although this does not make the bat perform better, it does give the illusion that a player is using a legal softball bat. Some artists even offer their talents in disguising illegal softball bats online for an extraordinary price.
A disguised bat is usually sanded and painted before details such as decals are added. Most painted softball bats even have a forged certification stamp from a softball association, usually the ASA. Expertly painted bats are often very difficult to distinguish from legitimate softball bats.