The catcher position in baseball and softball is said to be one of the most demanding and difficult positions to play in the game. To compete at the position, you must be knowledgeable in all facets of the sport — you're the one helping to lead your pitching staff to greatness. When your pitcher succeeds and your team sees victory, it's largely because of you. To be the catcher, you not only need to have the stamina and durability to catch endless games each season, but you also need to have the right equipment that will protect you from foul balls, home plate collisions, and the day-to-day grind of the position. This guide is designed to help you through the process of purchasing the right catcher's gear and will teach you about:
- Finding the right fit for your catcher's gear
- Different types of catcher's masks
- Traditional two-piece catcher's masks
- Hockey style catcher's masks
- How to measure for a catcher's mask and helmet
- Catcher's chest protectors: different features and how to size chest protectors
- Catcher's shin guards: What size catcher's shin guards should I get?
- Do catchers need throat protectors?
- Do catchers need knee savers?
- Do catchers need a catcher's mitt?
The Fit is Most Important
Buying all your gear can be overwhelming, as catchers have plenty of pieces they need to protect their body. Just like with most gear that baseball and softball players wear, the importance of your gear fitting properly is something that can't be neglected. A common mistake people make when purchasing catcher's gear is when parents buy their kids larger gear thinking they'll get more use out of it because they can grow into it. Catcher's gear needs to fit the right way because when gear is too big, it can move around during play and expose certain areas of the body that should be protected. Larger pads will also slow a catcher down when they need to jump quickly to throw a base runner out or run down the line to back up plays at first base.
It's common for catchers to mix and match the brands of their gear as they get older. Instead of buying a complete set of new gear, this practice allows you to replace only the specific gear you need.
Having the right gear will help you excel in the position, but perhaps even more importantly than that, it will keep you safe. Where do you start? We break it down for you here with each piece of gear you need to be the best catcher in your league.
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Catcher's Head Protection
There are two types of catcher's masks for players of all ages: the traditional two-piece mask and the modern hockey goalie style mask. While there isn't a definitive "best" style, as with most gear, there are pros and cons to each, and mask style really depends on your personal preference.
Traditional Two-Piece Catcher's Masks
The traditional catcher's masks are those that have been around baseball for as long as most can remember. The image of a catcher throwing his or her mask off during plays at the plate or during other key moments is one that sticks with many fans of the sport. There are benefits and drawbacks to the traditional style mask.
- Cost: Traditional two-piece masks are seen on players of all age ranges and are popular in large part because of their cost — these masks are quite affordable.
- Easy to Throw Off: When it comes to their in-game play, they're easier to throw off for foul balls, plays at the plate, and other dire moments.
- Ventilation: These masks also provide more ventilation than the hockey style mask, which helps keep you cooler during long, hot summer games.
- Less Protection: There are several cons to the traditional style masks, including they don't provide nearly as much protection as hockey style masks. This is especially the case around the ears. A foul tip can hit you in the ear, and a strong back swing can hit you in the batting helmet you wear under the mask.
- Vision Impairment: These masks can be bulkier, causing vision problems in key moments.
Traditional masks are outlawed in some leagues, so be sure to check your league rules before you decide on the type of mask you'll invest in.
Hockey Style Catcher's Masks
Over the past 10 years or so, hockey style catcher's masks have grown in popularity immensely. At this point, the majority of Major League catchers use this type of mask, and there's really no indication of its popularity changing any time soon.
- Protection: One of the main reasons why more players use this style mask is the amount of protection it provides. Catching is one of the most dangerous positions in all of sports, and the hockey style mask offers fuller protection around the face, ears, and eyes.
- Enhanced Vision: Another plus is that when wearing these masks, many catchers feel they can see the field better than when wearing a traditional mask.
- Stability: Finally, perhaps the most positive aspect of these masks is they stay fairly stable in position. They don't move when you have to jump up quickly, and they won't cover your eyes like traditional masks can.
- Cost: These types of masks, while they look great and are superior in protection, are more expensive than traditional masks.
- Not Easily Removable: Another negative is they can be more difficult to remove quickly when trying to catch a foul ball or during other important moments of a game.
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