The accelerated break in technique that worked best was bat rolling. Apparently bat rolling was started in 1999 in California by a 17 year old named “Chepe” who used an English Wheel Machine. This paved the wave to the machines we have today. The first bat rollers were perpendicular only rolling devices which only allowed the rollers to meet the bat long ways on the barrel. Machines have evolved from perpendicular only to the dual action parallel and perpendicular machines we see today; Juiced Inc. was the first to come out with such a machine in 2008.
In 2010 the roller material evolved as well. Nylon was the substrate of choice until Juiced Inc. came out with a harder material called Delrin® plastic. This was a huge upgrade from the nylon rollers. Bats were able to be rolled at higher pressures without slippage and without leaving the marks nylon would. Bat manufactures started to change the way bats were made in 2011 and Easton was the first to make bats that would “surface crack” diagonal along the bat. These cracks would appear from extreme flex; either caused from rolling a bat or prolonged usage. These cracks normally signified when the bat was at its most flexible point or what some in the softball, baseball or fast pitch world would call a “hot” bat. Today’s bats have a more delicate top layer of composite in contrast to the amazingly durable composite bats of the past. It was not uncommon for a pre-2011 bat to last 3 to 5 years with 5000 to 7000 hits. The Delrin® rollers would make creases in the 2011 barrels’ top layer of composite as it was a result of the denser roller material.
In 2011 this prompted Panther Machines to experiment and implement another type of hard plastic that was a little bit softer but still had the hardness needed to break in the bats. The new polymer was able to roll the bats but not create surface cracks or creases on the bats where the outside of the rollers met the barrel (as common with the Delrin® rollers). By 2012 Easton, Miken, andWorth. Panther Machines also created an electric bat rolling machine in 2012 which gave the bat roller a distinct advantage while rolling.
Today most bats have a surface layer prone to cracking if too much pressure is placed on a bat by rolling the bat. This is why other techniques of bat break in have emerged onto the bat rolling world; things like heated rolling, BCTI machine (Barrel Compression Technique), and the good ole natural break in process. With new composites come new obstacles to get max performance from baseball and softball bats.
In 1999 composite bats started to make their way into the men’s softball market. Players started to realize that after usage (around 500 hits) the bats would start to hit the ball further. The 500 hits seemed like too long to wait and players would break in their composite bats a number of ways: Hitting the bats on trees or posts, beating it with a rubber mallet, squeezing it inside a vice, bat rolling and even rolling over the barrel with your car tire.