There is no doubt that the catcher position is the most physically demanding and potentially dangerous position on the baseball or softball diamond. The numerous responsibilities expected of a team’s starting backstop requires the proper protection and mobility to guard vulnerable areas of painful impacts while also allowing players to make rapid athletic movements behind the plate. Choosing the proper catchers equipment can be a daunting task as there are various models, sizes and designs that can perplex inexperienced buyers.
The first priority when choosing catcher’s equipment should always be one thing: Protection. No other factor is more important than keeping a catcher healthy and confident behind the plate so the first thing parents and players need to look for is the proper padding around the head, torso and legs.
The most important piece of equipment for the catcher is undoubtedly the helmet. In charge of protecting the most precious of cargo, a catcher’s helmet should fit securely over the head with limited movement when making quick movements. The sizes of the catchers face masks coincide nicely with standard hat sizes but it is not uncommon to go up a 1/4 or 1/2 size from what a player normally uses since the majority of masks come outfitted with adjustable straps to allow for a personalized fit.
In addition, modern style masks come in a hockey-style helmet design that surrounds the face, head and parts of the neck. The hockey-style limits shifting behind the plate with optimal sight lines created from carefully molded steel cage masks. Another type of catcher’s helmet comes in a 2-piece design that is more appropriate for professional and elite-amateur players than high school or travel ball.
Catcher’s chest protectors come in a variety of designs that include such features as detachable shoulder caps, adjustable tongues and specially ventilated padding. The best chest protectors are those that have a full compliment of padding from the sternum down to the waist with additional protection surrounding the ribs. So, the ideal chest protector should have shock-absorbing padding that deadens the ball on impact to keep aggressive base runners at bay and stops foul balls from damaging fragile bones and nerves. Players and parents should also look for properly ventilated padding, specifically those with specially treated fabric in order to keep the gear from emitting unpleasant aromas and requiring consistent cleaning after extensive use.
Choosing the proper leg guards to complete a set can be the trickiest part for a catcher to find the right gear. No piece of equipment can completely inhibit a player’s movements like ill fitting leg guards that are either too tight or too loose. The proper leg guards should have secure, adjustable straps that don’t dig into a player’s leg or put too much pressure on the calf or hamstring.
Too many players misinterpret a secure fit from a tight fit and the resulting impact can greatly hinder ability and impact your teams play overall. Proper leg guards should come just above the knee, and they also ideally feature a double or triple-knee design that better protects the fragile knee caps and upper parts of the shin of the catcher. The leg guards should also be properly ventilated with padding that surrounds the entire leg from the knee down to the ankle.