You gotta love catchers. The “Field Generals.” The guys “behind the dish.” The ones wearing “the tools of ignorance.” I think most kids have a fascination with catchers. Especially when they’re younger and just starting to watch baseball. Think about it…everyone else out on the field is only wearing a cap and uniform. But the catcher! He’s got all that cool stuff on. He looks like he’s going into battle. He looks like a warrior with all his armor! Now granted, this is just a theory of mine. But as I’ve watched kids progress through T-Ball and into actual games with live pitching where you have to throw runners out, block balls in the dirt, and make plays at the plate, the number of kids who want to play the catcher’s position seems to dwindle.
It takes a special breed to play catcher, and I can tell you from experience that these players are highly sought-after. During drafts, an effort is made first to ensure that all teams are at least fairly competitively balanced. The major effort is to make sure every team has enough pitching (especially with rules that limit pitch counts, days of rest, etc.), but “can he catch?” is another question that gets asked more than you might think. As kids get older the catcher’s position because a sought-after specialty, and the kids who can do it well…sought-after specialists.
But with that exalted status comes the need for special equipment, and Little League rules are quite specific on this. Now I’m not going to quote chapter and verse from the official rulebook, but here’s the breakdown. Anyone playing the position of catcher must wear…
- A helmet and face mask (hockey style helmets are approved throughout Little League)
- A dangling throat protector
- A cup that is metal, fibre or plastic (quoting directly from the rulebook there)
- An approved long or short model chest protector (again, right from the rulebook) with neck collar
- Shin guards
- A catcher’s mitt (note that the rulebook states that catchers may NOT use a first baseman’s mitt or regular fielder’s glove)
So that’s a lot of gear, and just one of the reasons I was always pretty psyched that my kids never wanted to play hockey. Expensive sport, that is. 😉 The league/your team will provide some basic equipment, but it’s not always in the best shape and a lot of kids don’t necessarily love sharing sweat-soaked gear with other players. Plus, if you’re reading this in the first place, I’m assuming that your son or daughter wants to get serious about things. That means getting your own gear. So where do you start?
Finding Good Deals on Youth Catchers Gear
First let’s talk about full catcher’s gear sets…
A set will generally include the helmet, chest protector, shin guards. They won’t include, as a rule, the throat guard, cup or mitt. And yes, even though the hockey style masks contain a tear-drop throat protection extension to the helmet itself, the dangling protector is still mandated. So, more than likely, those will be add-on items.
Now here’s a general note about what you’ll find when buying either a set or the pieces individually…lighter usually means more expensive. Catchers will tell you the extra money is worth it. Anyone who’s ever seen a 10-year-old kid dripping with sweat come off the field on a hot Summer day sees just how hard they work. The less “baggage” they have to carry around, the better. All other things being equal, meaning the protection aspect is still there, lighter gear is going to be easier for kids to deal with.
Here’s a video reviewing two of the more popular kits (note that these are very nice sets going for from anywhere in the very high one-hundred dollar range to over two hundred)…
Louisville Slugger, Easton, Rawlings and other manufacturers make similar but less expensive sets generally just over a hundred bucks or a little more. In the end, as a parent you’ll have to decide how much you want to fork over for one of these. If your player is really serious about a catching career, I’d spring for the better set. If he’s dabbling, maybe try one of the less expensive sets first, and then upgrade if he sticks with it. But that’s just general advice.
Keep in mind that you still need to purchase the three items you won’t get with these sets — the cup, throat protector and glove, at a minimum. Knee savers are another popular add-on. While not required, they do help with all the crouching as they alleviate stress on the knees.
Buying pieces one by one…
It’s certainly possible to forego a full set and buy each piece individually, but my guess is you’ll wind up paying more in the end, or just about what you would have paid for a set. Still, buying individual components may make sense if, say, you have some gear but not all of it. Or your player has certain size restrictions…maybe needs a larger helmet but shorter shin guards, for example. Or vice versa. Every kid is different. Again, this is where a trip to the local sporting goods store will help you out. Get your hands on the gear and make a determination about what’s best for your child.
General Tips on Buying Catcher’s Gear
One thing we’re not going to cover in-depth here, because we’re going to cover it in a later post, is the catcher’s mitt. Again, this is one of those pieces of gear that’s going to be highly personal, and your child really needs to try some on to get a feel for it before you can decide which one will be best for his game.
Also, you might try looking on sites like eBay for your gear. You can often find some great bargains, especially on used equipment. See if the price difference is enough to offset the fact that the gear may not be entirely brand new.
As with other items, I always look online as my general go-to method for saving money. So a site like Amazon is a great tool for at least comparing prices even if you decide to buy elsewhere.
That’s about it GenerationBaseball Universe. Now get out there, give a good target, and don’t be afraid to drop down and block those balls in the dirt!