The Basics of Choosing Baseball Catcher's Gear
A catcher is one of the most important positions in baseball. Make sure you have the right gear that’s both protective and comfortable so you can excel behind the plate.
To start, you’ll need the four basic pieces of catcher’s equipment: a mitt, mask, chest protector and leg guards. Add in accessories such as knee savers and throat protectors and you’re outfitted with a full suit of armor.
With all the gear needed, it can be a bit confusing to figure out what is best for your performance and protection, so we’re breaking it down to help simplify the buying process.
When you’re catching heaters behind the plate, you’re going to want something solid and reliable. Thankfully, catcher’s mitts have been designed to not only protect your hand and wrist, but to make those game-changing plays as well.
Catcher’s mitts differ from fielding gloves in many ways, starting with design. Fielding gloves have separate finger pockets, however catcher’s mitts are made to keep your fingers closer together and trade versatility for security. Catcher’s mitts typically have closed webbing, which provides added support and ample protection.
For more information on catcher’s mitts, check out “How to Buy a Catcher’s Mitt".
Another important piece of equipment in a catcher’s arsenal is the mask, which offers two main features: protection and easy removal. Not only can it keep your face safe from foul tips and wild pitches, but it’s quick to shed when pursuing a fly ball.
You’re going to have two options when choosing a catcher’s mask: there’s the traditional two-piece style and hockey style.
The two-piece style sits atop a batting helmet, which makes it easier to remove when catching fly balls and making plays at the plate. Although this mask is made with padding covering the forehead and jaw, it provides moderate protection compared to it’s hockey-styel counterpart.
The hockey-style mask looks like a hockey goalie’s helmet and is becoming the more popular option due to its superior protection. They may not be as easy to pull off quickly and can hinder your periphery vision. Most youth leagues now require catchers to wear the hockey-style mask, so be sure to check with your league before purchasing a mask.
Most manufacturers develop masks in two sizes: youth and adult. The reason there are only two sizes is because catcher’s masks are very easy to fit to your head. It only takes a few pulls of the straps to find that perfect fit.
Youth masks are designed for kids 12 and younger while adult masks are meant for players 13 and up. However, these assessments aren’t set in stone and you may even see high school players wearing youth masks, so choose whatever is the most comfortable.
The largest piece of catcher’s equipment is going to be the chest protector, which helps protect the shoulders, neck, chest and stomach from foul tips and wild pitches.
A chest protector’s armor is a durable foam-like material that contours to the player’s body for full protection. On the inside, there is a mesh like substance that will keep the player cool during the game.
Keep in mind that the more expensive chest guards are made from higher quality materials. The foam that surrounds the outer shell is usually lighter and softer, which helps for better movement. With cheaper protectors, you’ll find that they’re heavier and harder.
In terms of sizing, most chest protectors are easy to buy as long as you have the correct measurements. To find the right size protector, measure from the base of your neck to the top of your waist in inches. This length will be the size you’ll find online or on the store tag. For example, if you measure 15 inches, then you’ll want a size 15 chest protector.
Protecting the ankles, shins and knees, leg guards also provide comfort for a catcher who kneels for long periods of time. They extend from the top of the cleat all the way up above the knee. Leg guards are constructed of soft padding for comfort on the inside and a hard external shell on the outside to protect the catcher from balls and even other players.
When it comes to sizing, leg guards are just as easy to shop for as chest protectors. To find the right size, measure from the middle of the knee to the ankle in inches. If your measurement is 13 inches, then you’ll likely be a size 13.
Complete your suit of armor with additional catcher’s accessories like knee savers, throat protectors and catcher’s bags.
When you spend your time crouching for seven-plus innings, you’re likely to have some soreness in your knees. To combat this, think about buying knee savers. Knee savers are pieces of soft foam that attach to the back of your leg guards to help take some of the weight off your knees when crouching. When it comes to size you’ll find that one-size fits most leg guards.
These are strong pieces of plastic that provide even more protection to a catcher’s throat. They’re gaining popularity amongst the pros and are starting to be required in some lower-level leagues. Most are one-size-fits-all.
With all of this equipment you’ll need to lug around, it’s a good idea to get yourself a catcher’s bag. They have special pockets and sections to hold your gear, making it easier for you to stay organized when traveling from the field to your home and vice versa.
It’s important to know that catcher’s gear can be purchased two ways: as separates or as a set. A set is convenient and normally includes a mask, chest protector and leg guards, which come in standard sizes. For a more customized look and better fit, you can choose to buy your gear separately, which is a great option for players at the enthusiast level.
Now that you’re outfitted with all the necessary catcher’s equipment it’s time to get out there and play ball!