What is Baseball or Softball Bat Shaving and What is Bat Rolling?

March 14, 2023

19 min read


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As a new baseball or softball player or parent, there's a lot to learn.

How to properly grasp a bat, take a new glove from stiff to game-ready, and whether or not using pine tar makes sense for young slugger, are just a few examples. 

Similarly, you may have heard fellow parents in the stands mention "shaving" or "rolling" a bat.

If you’re unfamiliar with these two terms, then you can learn all about them in this article, which will cover:

  • What bat shaving and bat rolling are
  • If bat shaving and rolling are legal
  • How to tell if a bat’s been shaved or rolled
  • How common bat shaving is

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What is Bat Shaving?

Shaving a bat refers to thinning the barrel from the inside. 

The process involves removing a cap from the end of the bat and sticking a lathe inside to remove shavings on the bat’s interior. 

A shaved bat is lighter and thinner, making it easier to swing. 

A baseball or softball also bounces off a shaved bat with greater velocity – giving it an increased trampoline effect. This means you can hit the ball farther. 

This increased performance has a cost though. Bat shaving will significantly decrease the lifespan and durability of your bat.

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What is Bat Rolling?

Bat rolling is a process to break in composite bats. 

Composite baseball or softball bats, unlike their aluminum or wood cousins, incorporate a reinforced carbon fiber polymer, AKA composite, into the bat’s design. 

When a bat is completely or almost completely made of this polymer, it’s commonly referred to as a composite bat.

Composite material has an advantage over aluminum alloys and wood due to its durability, weight distribution, and improved trampoline effect. And it also creates less sting on the hands.

In order to roll a composite bat, it must be fed through mechanical rollers that compress the barrel. This compression loosens the composite fibers in the barrel, “breaking in” the bat and bringing it to peak performance quickly. 

The major benefit of rolling is also a greater trampoline effect.

Rolling won’t damage durability as much as shaving, but it will shorten your bat’s lifespan. It also voids any warranties you have on the bat, of course.

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Photo: Bat Rolling Machine for sale on eBay. Attribution: photo by seller batrolling4u on eBay.

There are legitimate companies that offer bat shaving and rolling services.

However, this fact doesn’t mean that these practices are actually allowed in organized sports.

They often aren't.

Specifically, the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) and Little League both prohibit altering bats to enhance performance.

The NFHS even has a rule stating that injuries resulting from a modified bat could be liable to civil or criminal legal action. 

Official rules aside, many people will make the case for rolling bats. 

The argument goes that rolling isn’t enhancing performance, just mechanically speeding up the process of breaking the bat in. 

There are many opinions on bat rolling and since it’s not explicitly mentioned in all youth sports regulations, it’s become more of a gray area. 

Baseball and softball bat shaving, on the other hand, is not legal according to most commentators.

The explicit intention of shaving a bat is to increase its performance in an unnatural way, which is prohibited. 

You can also easily spot a shaved bat, by touch and sight. So chances of getting caught with one are also much higher than rolling.

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How to Tell if a Bat Has Been Shaved

While it’s almost impossible to tell if a bat’s been rolled, you can spot a shaved bat without much difficulty. 

Here’s the five best ways:

  1. The most sophisticated – and most expensive – option to root out shaved bats is by using a compression tester.
  2. If you don’t have access to a compression tester, then weighing the bat with a scale is another option.
  3. Most bats weigh slightly more than the number in ounces printed on the bat. Therefore, a bat weighing less than what’s printed is highly suspicious.
  4. You could also remove the end cap of the baseball or softball bat and look inside the barrel. While this is a reliable method, it can also be inconvenient.
  5. A final way to test is calculating the bat’s swing weight. Bat Digest has a great tutorial for determining swing weight.

How Common is Bat Shaving?

While most people know what shaved bats are, their use is far less common. JustBatReviews surveyed parents about bat shaving

Based on their participants who admitted to shaving a bat, they found that 1 out of 35 teams has a player that’s used a shaved bat at least once. 

To account for skewed results – their only survey participants were people who read JustBatReviews – they estimated that, in reality, 1 out of 90+ teams has a player that’s used a shaved bat at least once. 

They conclude that shaved bats are, in fact, quite rare.

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Final Thoughts on Bat Rolling and Shaving

Ours are competitive games, and when your ballplayer is struggling to escape a batting slump, it's only natural to look for ways to help them get an edge.

But while many baseball and softball players may know what bat shaving is, it seems very few actually engage in it.

Bat rolling appears to be more common, as you can more easily find these services online. 

As a player or parent, you’re responsible for knowing the rules of the league you play in, as well as adhering to them.

Always keep that in mind when making decisions about modifying your ballplayer’s equipment.

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About the Author

Mike Rogers

Co-Founder & CEO

Mike Rogers has spent a lifetime entrenched in baseball and softball as a player, a private instructor, a training facility owner, and the son of two college-level coaches.

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