Softball is a team sport that is a younger relative of baseball. Though the games are similar, there are some key differences such as the size of the ball (softballs are larger) and the pitching style, which is underhand in softball versus overhand in baseball. At the youth level, there is no difference between a softball bat and a baseball bat; however, that is not the case at the adult level. For example, softball bats tend to have narrower barrels and be a bit longer than baseball bats. When it comes to fast-pitch softball bats, they quickly taper from the barrel area resembling the shape of a bottle. Slow-pitch softball bats are similar in design to a baseball bat.
The first softball bat can be traced to 1887, when George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, invented the game. Hancock was among a group of Yale and Harvard alumni who had gathered at Chicago's Farragut Boat Club. The story goes that a Yale man threw a boxing glove at the Harvard grads, and one of them hit the glove back with a stick, apparently a broom handle. Hancock then came up with the idea of creating a softball by binding the glove with its laces, and an indoor game of softball was under way. Hancock wound up writing down rules and developed a soft, oversized ball and rubber-tipped bat for the game. Wooden bats were then used until the introduction of the aluminum bat in 1970.
Aluminum bats were first introduced in 1970 by bat manufacturer Worth. Shortly after, Worth made the first one-piece aluminum bat and the first little league aluminum bat. In the late 1970s, manufacturer Easton hit the scene with a stronger grade of grade of aluminum. Then in 1995, manufacturers Louisville Slugger and Easton developed the strongest, lightest grade of aluminum bats to date.
In 1993, single-walled titanium softball bats were introduced. This advancement allowed bat barrels to be much thinner compared to aluminum and yet still withstand the impact of the ball without denting. In an effort to produce higher performing bats using mainly aluminum alloys, designers started experimenting with barrels that had two or more layers of metal or metal/composite hybrids. These are also known as multi-walled bats.
In 2000, composite bats made a major entrance into the market, and it wasn't long before composite softball bats were competing with the leading aluminum bats. All-composite bats are among the highest performing softball bats. Today, there are various composite choices to choose from such as all-composite bats, bats with composite outer shells over aluminum barrels, bats with composite handles and aluminum barrels, and some all-composite double-wall bats.
The Amateur Softball Association of America regulates softball bats used in ASA Championship Play, which is a tournament from which the winner may advance to higher levels of ASA play. In 2000, the ASA first adopted the ASA Bat Performance Standard based on batted ball speed. Advancements in the scientific development of bats prompted the ASA to adopt a new bat performance standard in January 2004, which takes into account the batter's swing speed. Every bat model is required to comply with the standard before it can receive certification marks.