It is clear that all associations believe that altering a bat not allowed as spelled out by their rules but let’s clear the air; there is not any law that states a rolled bat is illegal. It would be hard for a prosecutor to prove that a rolled bat is any hotter than a bat broken in by hitting baseballs or softballs repeatedly. There have not been any landmark civil suit cases to date. There has been one court case to date about altering bats but this was a shaved and a painted bat: “Oklahoma City, OK—The Amateur Softball Association (“ASA”) is pleased to report that the U.S. District Court for Western Oklahoma has awarded ASA $100,000 in damages and attorney’s fees totaling approximately $12,000 against the first two defendants in the Association’s ongoing attempts to rid the game of softball of illegal equipment including painting and other techniques used to alter bats”. This was not damages to a person but to the ASA organization and it was three years ago. Association can suspend you if a bat is found to be altered but bat rolling is virtually impossible to detect, without a shadow of doubt. Unlike shaving or end loading a bat the effects of rolling are not easily detectable. A bat would need to be cut long ways and scientifically examined to find a pattern of resin break down consistent with rolling; And I am not even sure this is a option to do, I am just speculating.
I will now go into what each association’s rules are in regards to rolling.
Rule 3 Equipment
“We have had several questions pertaining to bats and what is legally permissible to do to a bat. One item that appears to keep coming up is the rolling of bats for quicker break in of the fibers. There are those who maintain that rolling of one’s bat is perfectly legal. According to Rule 3 Section 7 NOTE: ‘The characteristics of any approved equipment can not be changed. Examples’. Therefore, according to our rules, rolling of one’s bat is illegal and would make that bat an altered bat according to Rule 1 Altered Bat: When the physical structure of a legal softball bat has been changed”. They specifically mention bat rolling but as I stated earlier there is no way to detect rolling.
“Altered Bats – Excessive Pressure
Included in the USSSA view of what is an altered or doctored bat are any bats that are subjected to pressure
in any manner that exceeds that of striking the bat against an approved ball traveling at game like speeds.
Such excess pressure would include, but is not limited to, any compression, rolling, placing in a vice,
hitting a stationary object such as a pole, etc”. Again the same type of verbiage
“An altered bat is considered altered when the physical structure of the legal bat has been changed in any way, or when an illegal or non approved bat has been made up in such a way as to appear to be a legal bat. Examples of altering a bat are, but not limited to the following: Painting a bat, replacing the handle or shaving the handle or barrel or the taper changed in any way. Such as by sandpapering or applying a solvent to the surface such as fingernail polish remover or by any other means. Removing or replacing the plug or changed in any way other than factory repairs. Had the knob removed/ replaced or changed in any way or had anything removed or added to the inside or outside of the bat other than the legal way to tape the bat the specified and appropriate place as described in the NSA Rule Book”. There is nothing specific about rolling but some could see this as a way to say it is illegal.
Bat rolling is a very hot topic among softball associations, players, and bat companies. Associations are trying to level the playing field as best as possible with their resources. Only one bat company has made huge commitments to keeping altered bats off the field of play. Easton has made reveal composite and started stamping there end caps where the cap meets the bat. This, I’m sure, has made a slight dent in altered bat use but without testing bats at the parks with a precise compression tester there is no end to bats going above the mph legal limit. ASA has made such a machine but it is archaic at best. The machine can tell if the bat is over the 98mph limit but it will not tell you by how much. Bats that are broken in by batting practice can be deemed illegal because they are over that limit and with that the owner is at risk being labeled a “cheater”. Bat companies are to blame, for the most part, because there is an unspoken competition as to whose bat can change in batted ball speed the most after being broken in. This would be the bat everyone seeks to obtain and thus sales go up. With all that being said bat rolling is no different than a well broken in bat, so why spend days, weeks, or even months breaking in your bat when you can get it rolled? With such a drastic difference between new and broken in bats, you need to get your bat rolled or spend days breaking it in to level the playing field. If it was increasing distance like shaving does I can see the argument of cheating but we are talking about apples and oranges. Bat rolling simply speeds up the break in process with out any detection.