Gearing Up for the Season

Before sending your young athlete to camp, be sure they are properly equipped. Each player will require certain standard pieces of equipment, and the more experienced players may want additional and/or more specialized gear which can enhance their playing experience. The following is an overview of baseball/softball equipment to help you choose what’s right for your player.


Glove – This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but your baseball or softball player is going to need a glove. Gloves for younger players are usually made of relatively inexpensive cowhide, and are designed to be easy to break in and be comfortable for smaller hands. Gloves for more experienced players tend to be made out of more durable (but harder to break in) materials such as full grain leather or steerhide, and are more specialized by position. Middle infield gloves tend to be on the smaller size, 11.25-11.5” for baseball, 11.5-11.75” for softball, to allow for quick transfers. H and I webs are common up the middle. Third base gloves are pretty similar to middle infield gloves, just with a little more length. Outfield gloves are considerably larger, up to 12.75” for baseball and 14” for softball, and feature larger pockets. Trapeze and H webs are common in the outfield, as they aid in tracking fly balls. Pitcher’s gloves are pretty similar to most infield gloves, but have hinge or basket webs that mask the ball from the hitter. Catchers and first basemen have the two most specialized mitts on the diamond. If in doubt of your player’s specific needs, consult your coach.


Bat – Picking out a bat past T-ball age can be a bit daunting, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations of your child’s league. High school baseball requires BBCOR certified bats with a -3 length to weight ratio, for example. Once you’ve determined which bats are legal for your athlete, it’s important to find one in a size they can swing comfortably. Most store and bat manufacturers have size charts, but it’s always best to try out a bat in person. Other things to consider are composition and construction. Alloy bats tend to be cheaper and more durable than composite bats, but don’t always offer the desired pop or swing weight of a more expensive composite. Composite bats also usually have a break in period, but tend to have larger sweet spots. Balanced bats offer lighter swing weights which are popular among contact hitters, and end-loaded bats require more effort to swing but result in more power.


Cleats –  As is the case with any shoe, a proper fit is the most important factor. However, there are some other aspects that should be considered when picking out baseball or softball cleats, mainly material and height. Most youth leagues don’t allow metal cleats due to safety concerns, but more experienced players can benefit from the extra grip they provide, especially if they play on fields that aren’t particularly well maintained. This isn’t to say that plastic cleats are only for younger kids. Plenty of pros prefer them to metals due to their comfort and support. Hybrid cleats that combine the comfort of plastic and the traction of metal are a fairly recent invention, but they tend to be expensive and are better suited for higher level players. High vs low top cleats tend to be a matter of preference, except it is recommended that pitchers stick to lows to prevent the shoe from rubbing on the player’s ankles.


Helmet – Batting helmets are definitely an essential; every player must wear a helmet when batting. Helmet flaps are becoming more and more popular. They offer increased protection without sacrificing as much visibility as a facemask. Proper helmet fit is important, so ensure the helmet is not too loose or too tight.


Batting Gloves – Although the no-batting-gloves look is making a comeback, players should really own a pair to prevent blisters resulting from taking a lot of swings. There are several color and grip patterns available, as well as padded gloves to protect players’ hands.


Apparel – Your athlete’s team or camp might have specific uniform or practice wear requirements, so check with your coach or administrator. All clothes should fit well to allow for freedom of movement.


Equipment Bag – Your athlete is going to need something to carry all of this gear around. Again, this is pretty much dependent on preference and how much stuff your player needs to carry. Duffle style and backpacks are in right now for their portability, but catchers are more or less relegated to large wheeled bags. 


Extras – Additional protective gear such as padded undershirts or Evoshields can give players more an extra level of safety, possibly resulting in added confidence at the plate. Sunglasses and eyeblack offer protection against the sun and earn style points. Training aids such as nets and batting weights can help with skill development, but these items are not required.


I know this list might seem a little daunting, and gear can certainly accumulate with growing athletes in the family. Luckily, organizations like Turn Two for Youth can help take old equipment off your hands and repurpose it for a good cause. Turn Two for Youth collects used baseball gear and gives it to underprivileged young players. The Charlotte-based organization collects equipment from all over the country, and has worked with Major League Baseball, and serves as the official charity of the American Baseball Coaches Association. If  your child has gear that’s collecting dust, you can make a difference by donating to Turn Two for Youth. Just make sure it’s clean and in usable condition. You’ll be making a big impact through your donations.