If you are the parent of a youth who has just wrapped up baseball season, you may already be looking forward to next year. Kids at younger ages usually rotate through positions, but if your child is serious about playing at a more competitive level, he or she is likely going to stick to just one position. If that position is catcher, the off season is a great time to find the best youth catcher’s gear and equipment.
As you take stock of what your child needs for the new season, it is important to keep in mind that much of this equipment may become too small as your child grows older and bigger. Still, catcher’s gear holds its resale value quite well and you may be able to trade it into a second-hand sports equipment store after your child outgrows it. It can be quite tempting to buy something that your child can grow into in a couple of years, but it is better to buy something that fits correctly now, especially if it will help prevent injuries and offer better protection.
What Equipment Does A Youth Catcher Need?
For youth who are just starting out in playing baseball, you will need, at a minimum, three pieces of equipment. You can buy these three items separately, or you can look to buy all three as a pack together.
First thing you will need is a good catcher’s helmet and mask. The fit must be comfortable as it will be on your child’s head for most of the game. In addition, he or she will be taking it off and putting it on constantly, so finding something comfortable that can be slipped on and off repeatedly is important.
You will have to decide whether to get a cage that protects the full face (similar to a hockey mask) or just a traditional style cage (leaves the eyes open parallel to the ground). The full caged mask offers slightly better protection and would be suitable for children, while the traditional caged mask may be a bit easier to slip on, with two straps to adjust the tightness and one on top to arrange the fit.
The second item that you should look for is a solid chest protector. This incredibly important piece of equipment will make sure your child is safe from any errant pitches that cannot be caught, as well as any incidental contact at the place. Your child’s ribs, chest stomach will all be protected with a good chest protector.
You will want to find something that is good quality that can absorb the impact of fast pitches as this is the primary piece of padding that is keeping your child safe. This may cost a bit more but in the end it is worth it.
Finally, you will need to get your child a pair of knee and leg guards. These are usually made of plastic with some reinforced padding to add some protection. Good guards will protect your child’s knees and legs as they are often down on their knees to stop low pitches. Thankfully, the technology has improved over the last decade and guards are now quite good at protecting your child’s legs.
What To Look For When Buying Catcher’s Gear
When buying catcher’s gear for your youth, there are 5 important things to look for before making your purchase:
- Fit: This is the most important thing to consider, make sure the equipment fits your child (not too big, not too small).
- Durability: You will want your equipment to last you through the season, if not many more.
- Protection: Since catcher is a fairly dangerous position, you will want to make sure your child is protected behind the plate.
- Comfort: This is similar to fit, but try to find something that is comfortable for your child and easy to adjust sizing if needed.
- Quality: Look for high quality workmanship in the fasteners, buckles, padding, etc. This equipment should be able to withstand one of the most difficult positions in all of baseball.
Product Reviews - Which Is Right For You?
Box sets (consisting of helmet, chest protectors, and leg protectors) are a great way to get all your catcher’s gear so you can be protected from head to toe. Here are our 5 top picks for youth catcher box sets for the upcoming 2017 season.
Easton’s beginner catcher set, the Black Magic, is a good choice for beginner players as it gives a good chest protector that can absorb quite a bit of impact as well as leg guards with a protective plate covering the shins. The hockey mask helmet offers maximum protection, even to the back of the head.
- Helmet feels sturdy with its ABS shell for durability and increased protection.
- Hockey style helmet provides additional face protection.
- Chest protector features velcro closure attachment and double back adjustment mechanism for comfort and ease of use.
- Two sizes available: kids ages 6-8, and 9-12
- Design flaw in velcro attachments may cause shin guards to slip when worn.
The Black Magic catcher’s set is a good choice for youth that are just starting out in learning the catcher’s position as it will instill confidence as your child learns the position. Overall quite durable and rated highly for safety and protection.
LS’ PG Series offering gives added mobility and flexibility to young catcher’s as added pad breaks align much better to accommodate quick movement. The chest protector is lighter than previous versions with new technology to better protect your little slugger.
- Newly designed lightweight chest protector with precision pad for better fit and increased comfort
- Perforated mesh lining with metallic mech cover in chest protector for added airflow
- Double-knee shin cover design for maximum range-of-motion and best fit
- Removable crotch protector
- Comes in a variety of colors to match team uniform
- Only one size offered for each piece of equipment
- Requires breaking in for comfort
- Durability issues with helmet buckle
- Chest protector tends to fit small
A good offering from LS that provides protection without sacrificing mobility and range-of-motion. May not fit all young players, but nonetheless if it fits your child it is an excellent option for amateur players.
All-Star is fairly new to the youth catcher’s gear market, but they introduce a slick offering here that has received very good reviews to date. All three pieces of equipment have a good feel to them, although the chest protector does not have as much padding as one would hope.
- Helmet made of ABS plastic for maximum head protection
- Patented I-Bar vision cage enhances vision while providing effective face protection
- Full wing on shin guards for added protection
- Reasonably priced
- Only available in one size
- Some users report issues with velcro closures on shin guards becoming ineffective after a few uses
- Chest protector feels a little flimsy
Solid choice for beginner ball players to try out the catcher’s position to see if they like it, as it is offered at a very attractive price point. May not carry the big name of an Easton or Mizuno, but quality seems reasonable and it should suit your child’s needs.
All-Star makes our list twice, as the Player’s Series option for more serious youth is a good option for those with a higher budget. Construction is sturdy and seems to offer good protection for your older youth. A nice bonus is the throat guard and equipment bag that are also included.
- Good amount of padding inside helmet for comfort and protection
- Multi-layered foam padding with integrated sternum plates for added protection and comfort when blocking balls
- Shin guards include 38 strategically placed UltraCool vents to increase airflow
- Catcher’s equipment bag included
- Fits youth aged 9 to 12
- Fits a bit large, so may be too big for smaller kids
The CK912PS is a great choice for older kids as they continue to get more serious about the catcher’s position. As your child advances into peewee-bantam level and beyond, consider the Player’s Series line for your catcher’s equipment needs.
MacGregor is another new entrant to the game and they come in with a catcher’s set at a very competitive price. Surprisingly, the quality does seem to be quite good for the price, and this should have no trouble lasting the season. Whether it provides the same durability for multiple seasons remains to be seen.
- Increased mobility due to updated design of chest and leg protectors
- Metal clip that latch provide more secure closure for leg protectors compared with velcro
- Includes 4” throat protector
- Fits kids aged 8 through 12
- Extra chest protector meant for boys as girls generally have shorter torso
- Durability and fit issues with helmet
Reasonably priced option that gives good mobility and flexibility while still maintaining adequate protection. This makes it a good choice for younger players who may not be sure they love the catcher’s position yet.
Which Option Is Best For My Child?
As a starter’s option I would recommend MacGregor’s option as it is priced at the entry point in the market and will be a great choice for your child to test and try out the catcher’s position. If you’re looking for something a bit higher end, I would recommend All Star’s Player Series as all reviews thus far have been quite positive.
Whatever you end up purchasing for your child, I hope he or she has a great time out there on the diamond next season; remember to have fun!