Tools For Catching
I get a lot of questions across social media about my favorite gear or my recommendations for catchers gear and training aids. So I decided to answer those questions with this post in order to give everyone a sense of what I look for in gear, what I played in, and what I recommend for catchers today.
1. The Mitt
This is probably the most important piece of equipment for a catcher (outside of the cup). The mitt allows us to do what the title of our job (catcher) says to do, catch the ball. Because we spend so much time catching the ball we need to take our glove selection serious. Here are a few things to think about when purchasing a new mitt:
a. Break-in ability
b. Padding for hand protection
c. Thumb stiffness
f. Pocket Depth (deep or shallow)
A. Entry Level Mitt
When buying a catcher's mitt you need to buy one you can break in. For younger catchers (under 10) it is best to get a mitt that is already somewhat broken in upon purchase. Not only will it make it easier for them to get the mitt game ready, but these mitts are always more affordable as well. Mitts can cost upwards of $500 so knowing what you need to spend is important, and for the younger guys, there is no need to bust the bank to buy a mitt. I think a great entry level mitt for the guys under 10 would be the Mizuno GXC105 and the All Star CM1010bt which are both under $100. I have seen both mitts used in person and I think they are great for young catchers just starting out. Keep in mind, no matter what mitt you go with for the younger guys, they need something that is smaller, around 31.5".
Mizuno GXC105 (Size 31.5")
The Mizuno GXC105 is also a great choice as it is designed to help younger catchers have the ability to catch the ball and secure it in the mitt. The make of the mitt enables the catchers to close the mitt around the ball when they catch it. Great for beginners who need a mitt they can go out on the field and have confidence in catching the ball.
All-Star CM1010bt (31.5")
All-Star is a well known, trusted brand in the catching world. I love the company and their mitts. The All-Star was my go-to as a professional as it is with many other professional catchers. The All Star CM101bt is great for first timers because of the shape of the mitt. I really love how the pocket is developed in this mitt. It is very similar to what you will see in more advanced gloves so if your catcher continues to catch into higher level catching he will already be comfortable with a more realistic mitt.
Easton Mako Youth Series Catcher's Mitt (Size 31")
Easton has done a great job with this mitt for the young catchers who are just starting out. I had a catcher start with this mitt at 8 years old as his first mitt and the first time he ever caught and he loved it. This mitt is a bit smaller since it is just 31" but this is great for the small guys who are just starting out behind the plate and it is designed for lightweight which will also help those guys. Many of the beginner catchers have a hard time keeping the mitt up while giving a target throughout the game so having a lightweight mitt is huge. It is a well constructed mitt and set at a great price as an entry level mitt.
B. Intermediate Catchers
Intermediate catchers are those catchers who have played behind the plate some and are now getting their second catcher's mitt or those who are just starting behind the plate at a later age, more than likely just over 10 years old and quite possibly into middle school depending on the competition level. The intermediate mitts will be able to withstand more of a beating as they are more durable than the entry level mitts, yet, they are not going to be as durable as an advanced mitt that is needed in competitive play, high school, and beyond. These will be a little bit more expensive than the entry level and they will also be a bit tougher to break in as they will be higher quality mitts. Here are a few of my picks for the intermediate catchers looking for a quality and affordable mitt.
Rawlings Gamer XLE Catchers Baseball Glove (Size 33")
Rawlings GG Elite Series Catcher's Mitt (Size 32.5")
GAMER™ Series Inch Youth Pro Taper Catcher's Mitt (Size 32")
Wilson WTA1KRB16CM A1K Series Baseball Catchers Mitt A1KRB16CM (Size 32")
C. Advanced Catchers
Advanced catchers are those catchers who have either been catching for a few years or who are starting to catch at a later age in more competitive leagues and beyond. These mitts are good for showcase players 13 years and older as well as high school, college, and professionals.
Here are my top choices...
PRO ELITE™ : CM3000SBK (Size 33.5")
The black All-Star is my top choice. It is a high quality leather that takes some time to break in. You will be getting what you pay for with this mitt. It is listed as a 33.5" mitt but plays like a smaller mitt. It feels more like a 32.5" or 33" mitt which is great for catch and throw to second.
PRO ELITE™ : CM3000SBT (Size: 32" or 33.5")
This is my second choice. Another great mitt by All-Star. While it is listed as the same size as the black mitt it seems to play slightly bigger. Still a good catch and throw mitt but not the same as the black, which is why I gave the edge to the black All-Star. This mitt is durable as it lasted me a couple of season in professional baseball. Through my 7 years of professional baseball, I saw this mitt being used more than any other mitt and it was my choice year in and year out.
Rawlings Heart Of The Hide (Size 32.5" or 33")
Another great mitt is the Rawlings Heart Of The Hide. It comes in two sizes, 32.5" and 33". Many of my teammates in professional baseball loved the Rawlings and used it throughout their whole careers. It is another good catch and throw mitt.
2. The Gear
Gear has really evolved over the years. Catchers used to catch with no protection on their bodies. Nowadays, masks have become highly effective in protecting the catcher's head and gear has been designed in a way that catchers can have more freedom to move around behind the plate.
Entry Level Gear
There are some great products out there for young catchers today and here are a few things to consider when buying gear for your youngster.
Size- I see lots of young guys wearing gear that is way to big for them. The chest protector is bouncing up and down on his body, the shin guards are dragging the ground, and they can hardly keep the mast on. This will do nothing to protect that kid. The gear needs to fit properly, which means it needs to be as snug to the body as it can be. To find the right size chest protector and shin guard all you need is a measuring tape. For chest protector sizing, you will simply measure from the bottom of the throw to the belly button. For shin guards, you will measure from the middle of the knee to the top of the foot. Using those numbers, you will be able to find the best fitting gear for you.
Protection- This is second to size because no matter how protective the gear is, if it fits improperly, it will not be able to properly protect you. When looking at protection lots of parents go for bulky, heavy duty gear, but that is not always the best option. If gear is too bulky, the player will be less productive. It is good to find a light weight, breathable set of gear that also protects. Another thing to consider when thinking about the protection and fit of gear is the groin flap that comes on many youth chest protectors. Kids should already be using cups, so this flap is a secondary piece of protection for that region of the body, however, many times this piece will cause the gear to fit improperly, scrunching up much of the chest protector which causes it to drive into the throat of a catcher and is typically fairly uncomfortable and in the way. So be sure to have your son squat while wearing his chest protector prior to committing to a product. As for shin guards, most shin guards share the same type of protection at the entry youth level.
Mask- It is best to have the hockey style mask as these are designed in a way to protect the catcher's against concussions. The two piece style masks do not protect the head as much as the hockey masks. In my career, I was hit in the back of the head just behind my left ear by a follow swing while wearing a two piece mask and received a concussion. This type of hit is less likely to happen when wearing a hockey style mask or another mask that fully covers the head. Lots of young kids want the two piece because it seems "older" or "cooler" to be wearing but it does come with its drawbacks when it comes to safety.
My gear recommendations based on protection, size, durability, and price:
A. Entry Level
#1 Easton Black Magic
Shin Guards: 12.75"
This set by Easton will get the job done for player who are just being introduced to the position at a young age. It will give amble protection without busting the bank. There is nothing overly special about this set, it just gets the job done. This is a great first set for your catcher who is trying out the position.
#2 Louisville Slugger Series 5
The Louisville set really is not below the Easton set. It was hard to choice one over the other. This set is also a great starter set for a young catcher trying out the position for the first time. It is also very affordable and will get the job done in protecting your young catcher.
B. Intermediate Level
When looking for intermediate level gear you need to take into consideration a few things; size, protection, breathability, agility, and look. Yes look. Kids want their gear not only to perform well but to look cool so be sure to get a cool looking set as well as a set that helps them perform their duties behind the plate in addition to being as safe as possible. The other tricky part for this bracket of catchers is the size difference we see between 9 year olds and young teens. It is likely for a 13 year old to be 6 feet ball and unable to fit into the sets listed in this section and for that reason it is always important to measure your catcher prior to purchasing any set of gear. Also, be prepared to purchase a new set of gear should your youngster quickly out grow their current gear because gear must fit properly in order to do its job.
This gear is recommended for catchers who are anywhere between 9-13 years old, competitive, and fall into these size ranges for the gear below. The shin guard and chest protector measurements are provided. Be sure to measure your catcher prior to purchasing.
#1 Easton Intermediate M10
Another great lightweight set of catchers gear that gives ample protection. I have trained a number of catchers who wear the Easton gear and love it. This gear allows for great breathability as well as agility from the catcher.
#2 Under Armour Victory
This set is a bit bulkier than the other sets in this section, however, it is a great option for young, competitive catchers as it provides a great level of protection.
#3 Mizuno Youth Samurai Catcher Set
Mizuno is my top choice for intermediate and advanced level catchers. There is so much good to be said about the Mizuno gear, from the cool design, the light weight materials, and the protection it provides. This is an all around great set, and a great start for a career long company to stick with. If you start out with Mizuno as a young teen, you can stick with their gear all the way through your career as Mizuno offers similar designs to each level. The only con with this gear that I have seen is the cloth on the shin guards may rip, but if it does then Mizuno will replace them under their warranty. This is also the biggest youth set of the three I have provided so it is great for bigger youth catchers.
C. Advanced Catchers
The advanced catchers are those who are experienced catchers and are at least 13 years old, playing competitively in high school and beyond. This gear should last for at least an entire season and depending on the amount of games player per year, potentially a couple seasons. This gear needs to be durable and protective as well as breathable and unrestrictive.
#1 All Star S7
Shin: 15.5" or 16.5"
All-Star has a built a great reputation for themselves and offer a great product for catchers from their mitts to their gear. You can never go wrong with their gear. The only draw back is the strap configuration on the shin guards. They can be a bit cumbersome because of the criss cross design and take a little time to get used to.
#2 Mizuno Samurai G3/G4
Shin: 15.5" and 16.5"
Chest: 15" and 16"
It is hard to go wrong with Mizuno. They have always done a great job with their catching gear. This set is lightweight, breathable, and very easy to move around in. It also comes in two sizes so it will fit most catchers. Again, one problem you may face with this set from Mizuno as in the intermediate set is the durability of the straps. Sometimes the cloth straps on the shin guards will break, but if the gear is under warranty Mizuno will replace the shin guards.
#3 Rawlings Velo Adult Catcher's Set
This is a great, lightweight, agile set of gear that also does a great job of protecting the body. This is the largest of the gear sets I have listed so it is a great set for a taller catcher.