Baseball Equipment FAQ
If you're new to baseball, shopping for the best baseball equipment can feel a little overwhelming. The best place to begin is by being informed. That's what this baseball shopping guide is all about. Before you step up to bat, step into the baseball basics. What follows are just a few of the more frequently asked questions about America's favorite pastime. And when you're ready to shop, we have everything you need to take your team to the top this year.
- What equipment is needed to play baseball?
- What does a catcher wear?
- What's the best baseball glove for my position?
- Which baseball bats are approved for Little League?
The Ball: Official baseballs measure 9-1/4 inches around, and weigh up to 5-1/4 ounces.
- Length - Youth bat length is up to 32 inches, while the adult bat is a maximum of 34 inches.
- Barrel Size - The barrel size of the bat is the diameter of the largest part of the bat. Generally the larger and longer the barrel, the bigger the sweet spot. Smaller barrel sizes allow for greater bat speed. Up to 2-3/4 inches wide.
The Pitching Distance: The pitching distance, or distance from the pitcher's area to the batter, varies according to league and level.
- About 46 feet for youth leagues, and up to 60 feet, 6 inches for the big leagues.
The Pitch: Most baseball pitchers throw an overhand pitch, or a sidearm pass. But they can also throw a pretty mean underhand pass, if they so choose. Contrary to what many of us might think, the baseball pitcher is not required to throw overhand, though it has become the conventional method. A variety of pitching styles have come about over the evolution of baseball.
- Distance between plates - up to 90 feet apart (varies from youth to adult)
- Distance from home plate to the fence - up to 355 feet along the foul line for MLB (varies from youth to adult)
The Bat: Players who step up to bat might use a wood, aluminum, or composite bat to take a crack at the ball, depending on their league and skill level. Baseball bats are available in a variety of materials, weights, and sizes. The weight of a baseball bat ranges from 28 to 40 ounces. They measure up to 42 inches long, and up to 2-3/4 inches in diameter. Professional players might use a custom baseball bat tailored to their hand measurements and specific preferences.
The Baseball: The real star of the show, the baseball, features a mass of string wound tightly around a rubber center, encased in leather stitched 108 times to the baseball!
The Baseball Glove: The baseball glove is every baseball player's companion. We cannot imagine the player without it, although when baseball started out, players caught the ball with their bare hands! After injuring their fingers so many times, the glove was designed and patented, and has evolved into the high tech leather glove we use today. The glove is now available in leather and leather-like synthetic materials, and different field positions call for different kinds of baseball gloves. For instance, the infield glove is smaller and has a shallow pocket for quick transfer of the ball. An outfield glove is a bit wider, and has a deeper pocket for retrieving long-distance and high flying balls. The catcher's mitt is in a league its own - round, and mitten-like, with a single chamber for all four fingers, and is extra-padded to protect the hands from low balls coming at very high speeds.
Batting Gloves: Batting gloves aren't a mandatory part of baseball gear, but many players choose to wear them when up to bat to protect their hands, and to better grip the bat.
Cleats: Cleats are shoes that baseball players wear to grip the ground of the baseball diamond. Compared with cleats worn for other outdoor sports, baseball cleats are wider, shorter, and have a different pattern on the soles of the shoes. Junior, senior, and big league baseball players wear metal cleats. Some of them have spikes that can be removed and replaced. Whereas minor and major league players generally wear rubber or molded plastic cleats; metal cleats are not allowed in youth leagues. Players may prefer a different type of cleat for their particular position, depending on the amount of traction needed.
Protective Gear: Baseball players wear protective gear as a precaution against injury. Protective baseball gear includes, for the batters, a hard helmet that covers the ears, and sometimes arm guards, and shin guards for extra protection. Men wear an athletic cup to protect the groin from injury. Catchers wear a whole set of protective gear specific to what they do; retrieve fast-moving balls.
Catchers snag baseballs coming towards them at 90 miles per hour. As honed as their catching skills may be, unprotected catchers always run the risk of serious accidents. You'll know a catcher means business when you see them fully decked in body armor, shin guards, helmet, catcher's mask, throat guard, and of course a catcher's mitt.
Different positions require different kinds of gloves because of the angle or speed at which the ball may be coming toward you. Here's a look at the different positions, and their corresponding baseball glove.
Catcher's Mitt: This iconic, roundish, padded catcher's mitt, once called a "pillow mitt", features a single thumb pocket. Today's it's hinged, and shaped more like a claw. The cushioned glove protects hands from low, fast-moving balls. The round, open palm area sometimes has a bull's eye painted on it for the pitcher to visualize aiming the ball straight towards it.
First Base Mitt: Like the catcher, the first base player wears a "mitten" containing a single thumb chamber. The mitt is able to snag high-speed throws from the catcher, pitcher, and other infielders. This mitt also features a shallow pocket, but is longer, allowing the player to scoop ground balls.
Infielders Glove: Gloves for second base, third base, and short stop tend to be smaller than the first base mitt, and have shallower pockets making it easier to field ground balls, and transfer them into the throwing hand.
Outfielder's glove Left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders wear longer, wider gloves with deep pockets to more easily catch fly balls, ground balls, and line drives.
Switch-Thrower's Glove: This is a baseball glove with a second thumb chamber on the opposite side of the glove so that the glove can be worn on either hand.
Recent rulings have prohibited Little League players from using certain composite bats for safety reasons. Most Little Leagues currently only allow composite-barreled bats measuring 2-1/4 inches across, with up to 32-inch-long barrels that meet Bat Performance Factor (BPF) standards and Accelerated Break-In (ABI) procedures. Most top manufacturers of baseball bats carry a complete line of Little League-approved baseball bats. But before you purchase a bat for your slugger, always check with your League. The bats should be labeled for the league they are to be used in. For a complete list of Little League approved bats, check the Little League website.