Baseball Catcher Equipment Explained
Being a catcher is one of the most physically demanding positions on the diamond; not only does the catcher have to be in an uncomfortable squat position, but their job is also to stand in the way of a high speed ball, and act as the last line of defense against a runner trying to score. If you are a catcher, you need equipment that is the perfect combination of protection, comfort and mobility. The price range for catcher equipment can vary, and the rule-of-thumb is that the more expensive gear will be made of lighter materials for comfort, and have more energy absorbing technology for protection. Your choice of gear will also be conditional on what level you play and how often you will be using the gear.
As new technologies are introduced to design equipment that meets the needs of catchers of all abilities, the gear can only do its job if it fits properly. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t protect. Never buy gear to “grow into”; if it is too big, it will shift on the player, leaving opportunities for injury and poor performance.
Here are the key protective pieces for the catcher position with fit guidelines:
- Catcher's Helmet
- Chest Protector
- Shin / Leg Guards
- Catcher's Mitt
- Baseball Cleats
The head is the most important body part to protect. For optimal comfort and protection, a helmet should be lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking and offer padding in the forehead, jaw and temple areas. As well, additional protective pieces for the throat can be purchased separately and attached to the helmet.
There are two basic styles of Catcher's Helmets to choose from – the Goalie Mask Design, or the Traditional Design:
|Goalie Mask Design||Traditional Design|
For starters we'd recommend the Rawlings Renegade Coolflo Hockey Style Catcher's Mask which comes in both Youth and Adult sizes, as well as the Easton Speed Elite Traditional Facemask.
Designed to protect against foul tips, and missed catches, the catcher’s chest protector will have contour padding that fits over the body and secures with adjustable straps on the back. A chest protector needs to be lightweight to provide mobility, and impact-absorbing to deaden the ball after a missed pitch.
Chest protectors offer detachable wings and shoulder pads that extend to reach areas of hips and shoulders for additional protection from a wild ball. To determine the proper size, measure the length from the collarbone to the bottom of the waist. Check the fit while in the catcher squat or kneeling position to be sure that the thighs are not pushing the protector up into the chin. As well, make sure that the movement of your throwing arm is not impeded by the chest protector. Many manufacturers offer men’s and women’s models, so females can have a fit designed for them, without compromising protection.
Shin & Leg Guards
The catcher position requires protective equipment for the legs and feet, from both incoming balls and the cleats of the opposing team coming into home base. Look for moisture-wicking linings to keep legs and knees dry, extra knee coverage with double or triple knee caps, and toe caps that cover the front of the foot to protect against low-driven foul balls to the foot and ankle. Knee savers attach to the back of the shin guards and decrease the amount of stress on the knees when in the catcher stance, and are a highly recommended accessory that can add longevity and comfort to your game.
To achieve the correct fit of a shin guard, measure from the middle of the knee to the bend of the ankle. The knee must fit snugly in the cap, especially when moving in and out of the squat.
Below is a basic guideline for age recommendations for catcher’s gear:
|Youth||Ages 9 to 12|
|Intermediate||Ages 12 to 15|
The catcher’s mitt is worn exclusively by the catcher and is designed with ample padding and a large, oval-shaped pocket to give the player the ability to catch and release balls quickly. It does not have separately cut fingers like other positions and will be stiffer to break in.
Catcher mitts are measured around the circumference of the glove to display the catching area of the glove, unlike the player’s gloves which are measured in length. The standard size range is from 30.5 to 34.5 inches for baseball, and 31.5 to 35 inches for softball and are specifically designed to cate their respective balls.
The mitt must fit snugly, so that it won’t come off easily, but shouldn’t be so large that the catcher can’t close the mitt after it has been broken in.
Check out the Rawlings R9 Catcher's Mitt and other catcher gloves available for save in store and online at a Source for Sports near you.
Every player on the field needs good traction for acceleration, turning and performance. With various weather conditions and different league standards, there are several options for cleats such as rubber or plastic molded, turf, interchangeable and metal. The catcher stance is very strenuous and tiring; the crouch stance puts the ankle in a flexed position so it is important the catcher is comfortable with proper support, and protection for their feet. Mid-cut style shoes offer extra protection for the ankles from wild pitches or ground balls. Look for a breathable shoe with padding around the ankle that still allows the joint to bend.
Molded Baseball Cleats
Molded cleats, or TPU cleats, can vary in price depending on the material used, and are a great option for young players who tend to outgrow their cleats quickly. They also usually have shorter cleats for new players to decrease the chance a twisted ankle injury. Although heavier than the higher priced rubberized plastic cleats, molded cleats are the most comfortable as they spread the cleat pattern over the pressure points of the foot.
Turf shoes are used for practice and are designed for comfort over performance, and are used on turf training surfaces as they offer more traction than a sneaker. They are also great option for slo-pitch softball players as they offer the ability to grip dirt, but are very comfortable.
Interchangeable cleats are a mix of metal and molded cleats that are attached with screws, and are good for those players that play in different leagues.
Metal cleats are only used by elite players in certain competition leagues that allow them. Metal cleats offer the most traction, and are very thin to penetrate the ground, and are good for dirt and grass surfaces, but are not recommended for turf.
You Have Options
If buying everything at once is your jam try checking out the Catcher's equipment sets we offer online from great brands like Easton, Rawlings, and Mizuno.
Check out How to Fit Baseball Catcher Equipment for specifics of what to look for when buying new gear!
Is your child new to baseball and you are not sure where to start? Come visit us in store and chat with one of our fit experts and we can help direct you to the right gear for their game, their level of play, and your budget. At Source for Sports, We Fit Your Game.