In baseball and softball, the catcher is known as “the general” of the field and is the only player to be involved in every pitch during a game (with the exception of the starting pitcher throwing a complete game). In addition, the catcher exerts more physical energy than others positions by spending the majority of the game in a squat behind home plate.
If that wasn’t enough, in competitive baseball and softball, high speed pitches are thrown at the catcher every inning of the game. So safety and comfort is of the utmost importance not only for the catcher, but also for the successful trajectory of a game, season, and playoff run. That’s where choosing the right catcher’s equipment comes in. Let’s suit up and find the best gear for you.
Best for Youth
Louisville Slugger Youth PG Series 5 Catchers Set
- Moisture wicking chin pad can make playing in warm weather more comfortable.
- Light overall weight might allow for better mobility.
- Pads on both shoulders for added protection regardless of throwing arm.
- On the more affordable end of the market.
- The clips on the shin guards might require consistent adjusting.
- The helmet tends to run small.
The Louisville Slugger Youth PG Series 5 Catchers Set consists of a helmet and facemask equipped with a moisture wicking chin pad, a high density foam chest protector, and double-knee shin guards. It comes in six different color combinations and weighs about seven and a half pounds.
Best for Adults
EASTON ELITE X Baseball Catchers Equipment Series Box Set
EASTON ELITE X Baseball Catchers Equipment Series comes in thirteen different color combinations and includes a helmet with facemask, triple knee pad shin guards with toe protection, and large surface chest protector.
- Chest protector contains breathable mesh and stacked memory foam over the abdomen for added comfort, protection, and ball control.
- Removable forehead and chin pads in the helmet are machine washable.
- Toe pads on the shin guards are removable.
- Wide rear top strap helps secure the helmet comfortably.
- More expensive than most options available.
- Twelve pounds total weight is on the heavier end of the market.
- Sizing runs large.
Best for Righties
Under Armour PTH Victory Series Catching Kit
- Microbe shield in the helmet can stave off bacteria and odors.
- Throat guard provides additional protection.
- Added shoulder padding with adjustable strap on the chest protector can help protect the non-dominant shoulder.
- Pricey compared to similar options available.
- Sizing more applicable to larger athletes.
Under Armour PTH Victory Series Catching Kit is offered in four colors and includes a helmet equipped with a facemask and throat guard, chest protector, and shin guards. Total weight of the gear is just over nine pounds.
Best for Lefties
Easton Gametime Catchers Equipment Box Set
- Airflow vents can prevent overheating when playing in warmer weather.
- Steel inset waist clips help keep the chest protector in place.
- Foam liner for added safety on the shin guards.
- Eleven pounds is on the heavy side for youth gear.
- Facemask design has larger gaps than many competitors.
Easton Gametime Catchers Equipment Box Set includes a helmet with facemask equipped with airflow vents, triple knee shin guards, and impact foam chest protector. There are four different color options to choose from and weighs just over twelve pounds total for adults and eleven pounds for youth athletes.
Best on a Budget
Wilson EZ Gear Catcher’s Kit
- On the more affordable end of the market.
- Lightweight gear can allow for better mobility.
- Adjustable pads for both shoulders on the chest protector.
- Chest protector has a wide waste for additional protection.
- Not compatible with adult athletes.
- Shin guard narrows heavily at the ankle.
The Wilson EZ Gear Catcher’s Kit is a lightweight set at only seven pounds total and is available in four different colors. The kit includes a chest protector, helmet and facemask, and double knee shin guards.
It is fairly common for a catcher to use their body to block the ball for a variety of reasons. From maintaining control of a wild pitch to stopping a foul ball that didn’t catch enough of the bad to change direction, the chest protector will take some hits. The thickness of the padding is indicative of how much the catcher is going to feel those times of contact. Some chest protectors use stiff foam while others use memory foam, and there is a range of foam combinations on the market.
As long as they meet the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), the kind of prefered padding will be subjective from catcher to catcher. Having a sense of which type of foam is more desirable will help narrow the options.
Any added protective accessories are always nice to have access to and some options may include them. Examples are throat guards, toe guards, any additional padding on the chest protector or shin guards, etc. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers as not all catchers will want the additional accessories. Throat guards can feel clunky for players not used to them. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the additional options.
Safety should always be first priority. No amount of protective gear is going to help if a player is injured. Once we’re good on the safety side of things, noting the weight of the gear the catcher has to carry is a really important feature to be aware of. A catcher will spend a lot of time in the gear and will need the ability to move easily and comfortably to defend the plate, throw out runners stealing bases, and generally play the position.
Catcher’s gear made for adults will obviously be heavier than those intended for youth players, but the top end of reasonable weight ranges will usually fall in the twelve pound range for adults. For youth athletes, going with any equipment over nine pounds will likely start to be burdensome.
The catcher is a vital player during every pitch and for guiding the defense. Ensuring the catcher is safe, comfortable, and confident behind the plate with the right catcher’s equipment should be a top priority. Find the right gear, suit up, and play ball.