Just like in baseball, having the right catchers gear is essential for fastpitch and slowpitch softball players who plan to sit behind the plate as well. Having the right equipment improves your safety, makes you more confident and allows you to play at your best. This page is dedicated to what we feel are the best pieces of equipment right now for softball players in particular. You will find of top choices of full sets, chest protectors, leg guards, masks, and mitts readily available for the 2017 season.
One of the more asked questions I hear is “isn’t all of the gear the same”? Although each set you’ll see will look shiny and new, i’ve learned there is quite a bit to research involved when looking into this particular equipment. If you think about it, there is no one else on the entire field that has to wear this much gear so it better be comfortable. Catching is probably the most dangerous position on the field as well as they’ll be involved in just about every play and receive the ball the most. Sitting right behind the batter I could not even begin to imagine how nervous I would be if I took a liner right off my mask, chest, or knee. So although it may be quite a pain, it certainly is worth the effort to find the right equipment to keep you fully protected, comfortable, while still allowing you as much mobility as possible so you can do your job.
One of the easiest ways to bring your game to the next level is with a full set of gear. Full sets of gear are ideal because:
- All of the colors match
– you no longer have to worry about looking strange with a different colored mask and chest protector.
- Easier than buying everything individually
– buying individual pieces can be time consuming. Full sets take all of the guess work out of the process.
- Less expensive
– most manufacturers pass on savings to people who purchase in full sets.
One of the most popular sets for 2017 is the Mizuno Samurai G4 fastpitch series which is available in Adult, and Intermediate sizes. Despite being named “G4”, the set comprises of the G3 chest protector, G3 leg guards, and the G4 helmet.
- G3 chest protector: shaped to specifically fit a woman’s body, the Samurai G4 uses many advanced level features including reduced rebound technology to keep blocked balls closer to your body. With a newer design, Mizuno has reduced the weight of the previous version even further allowing you to remain mobile and always in control. With a personalized neck pad, this chest protector has even more bells & whistles than ever before.
- G3 leg guards: the top feature of the G3 series is the new K-Pad that has been added to the knee area. This patented product can be removed if desired but provides a much better fit surrounding the knee area. For even more quality, the leg guards feature stainless steel clamps to avoid any sort of breaking in the near future.
- G4 helmet: With 3 levels of high quality EVA foam surrounding your head at all times, you can rest assured you will be safe. Another item that makes the G4 helmet so advanced is its ability to ventilate and keep the catcher comfortable at all times. After all nothing is worse than a humid day with your head stuck inside a mask!
The last softball catchers gear sets we look at is the Easton Synge series. Easton is obviously one of the most recognizable names in all of baseball and softball. With their ability to produce top quality gear year after year it is absolutely no surprise that many fastpitch players are opting for Synge gear. This series features:
- Custom chest protector: designed specifically for women, the Synge chest protector offers 3 levels of adjustments to provide the perfect fit for any body shape. With a perfect fit, you won’t even realize you are wearing any equipment! With a shoulder arch design, this chest protector also provides even more coverage than most others in the market.
- Leg guards: what makes the Synge leg guards so special is that they are just like putting on body armor. Although they are incredibly lightweight, these things would be very hard to break and are considered to more durable than previous versions. Extra leg straps have also been included so catchers can have a secure fit surrounding their legs.
- Special edition Helmet: Easton claims that the SE Synge helmet is able to reduce vibrations by up to 76%. How is this done? By using gel injected lightweight foam pads, Easton claims that you will not only be more protected, but you will also feel less weight coming from your head. With less weight on the head area, obviously more focus can be paid to winning the game!
Nothing completes a softball catcher’s arsenal better than a nice sturdy chest protector. The chest protector is one of the most recognized pieces of equipment across any sport and serves a very important purpose. I couldn’t imagine how bad it would hurt to be hit by a foul ball squarely in the chest. In fact for some, it could be fatal especially if it hits around the heart area. Some keys for finding the right chest protector include:
Always make sure to find a chest protector that fits around your full body. This is especially important in women’s softball as there can be many different body sizes and shapes.
Just like a hockey goaltender, a catcher could equip themselves with the bulkiest chest protector possible and be fully protected. But if you can’t move, you are hurting your ability to play at a high level.
Many chest protectors today come with numerous layers of protection throughout the entire chest protector. Make sure you avoid wearing gear that feels flimsy and worn out.
The Easton Mako chest protector is probably one of your best bets. For one it is already very popular based on the reviews that have come in from others, and secondly it comes from a great brand known for the strong catchers gear they produce. So what makes the Mako itself a better option that say some of the others? Here are a few reasons:
- Female specific fit – the Mako features a female specific design unlike some of the other models you’ll find (or possibly have used). This specific design matches a females body and therefore provides a better fit and more importantly gives more protection.
- Better fit – As you can see in the image, the Mako comes equipped with a couple of side clips making it easier to adjust. These clips also allow the catcher to remove their chest protector with more ease. Instead of having to loosen the straps and pull it over your shoulders, all you need to do is release the clip on each side which should provide ample space to slip out.
- High quality foam – On the inside, the Mako uses foam that promises to be able to withstand the highest levels of impact. This foam also should help in rebound control as if by chance the ball hits your square on the chest it is supposed to deaden slightly and hopefully land right in front of you.
Easton Synge Chest Protector
The Easton Synge series has been around for a while and offers a nice option for those looking to spend a little less money than the Mako described earlier. Although it does not include as many advanced features there is still a lot to like about this model and I would venture to say it would be perfect for most levels of catchers. It’s main features include:
- Designed to meet a woman’s needs – in other words instead of being designed for the male body, the Synge conforms perfectly to female players. This provides more protection and also a better fit.
- Choice of seven different colors perfect for any team
- Lightweight – A big bulky piece of equipment is no fun. In the chance you need to run around, having a nice light weight piece of gear can make the difference between helping your team or helping the other team get out of their jam.
- Custom fit – Both the shoulder pads of the Synge can be removed and along with the three different adjustment levels that can be made to the back, a nice custom fit should be achieved for any catcher.
- Moisture management system – If you’ve played catcher before, you’ll know how much of a pain it is when you are sweating and can’t concentrate on the game. The Synge uses Airflow Release Channel technology that keeps the catcher cool and dry no matter how many innings you need to play.
You can’t underestimate the value of a proper fitting set of leg guards when playing the position of softball catcher. Although most people will think of soccer first when they think of leg guards, it should go without saying that a softball catcher can use them in the exact same way. The shin area is one of the most critical as the catcher sits in a prone and uncomfortable position which in turn leaves the shin area exposed. Leg guards protect the catcher from runners sliding into home, and from passed balls or foul tips.
When purchasing a set of leg guards, one should look for the following features:
- Protection: Finding a set of leg guards that offer full leg protection is key. Many often do not protect the entire knee area which is why some top companies use a triple knee protection design.
- Mobility: Let’s face it, every once and a while a catcher needs to move and run around. The best set of shin guards leave the catcher not even noticing them while running.
- Comfort: Sitting in the catcher stance for long periods of time can cause lots of strain. Leg guards that offer further padding to assist in the area of comfort are best.
Easton Mako Softball leg guards
Regardless of whether you are new to the Fastpitch game, or you have been playing for quite some time now, odds are you need some form of leg guards that can provide the protection you require, without constricting your movement. Designed to provide the protection you need, without emptying your wallet, the Easton Mako series provides all that and more at a budget friendly price. The main benefits listed with these leg guards include:
- Choice of four of the most popular team colors
- Armor riveted PE shin plate for long lasting performance
- Removable soft cushion foam lining
- Lightweight without sacrificing on protection
Available in one of four popular team colors, this model comes equipped with an armor riveted PE shin plate design that ensures this model will stand up to whatever you can throw at them. It features a lightweight shin, knee and toe plate that is designed specifically to protect you from ball impacts. This model also comes equipped with a removable soft cushion foam lining designed to keep you comfortable no matter how long the game may go on for. These guards are designed for movement, ensuring you are able to move quick enough to make nearly any play that comes your way.
Mizuno G3 Leg Guards
Whether you play for fun, or play to win, the equipment you wear can certainly be a factor for whether your team wins or loses. If you have ever had to use hand me down or older equipment in the past, you probably know how uncomfortable it can be to try to move. Although you don’t always think of a catcher as being the most mobile of positions, it certainly can make the position difficult when you have little to no mobility and are unable to help your team. The Mizuno Samurai G3 fastpitch series leg guards are designed specifically with women in mind and provide comfort, performance and durability in an easy to wear package. The main features include:
- Triple knee cup – The triple knee cup included should provide a great amount of protection. The design promises to provide more flexibility so that even when you are in the crouch position, you can feel safe from any sort of liner or impact to the knee area
- Choice of seven different colors to match any team
- Patented K-PAD – Another great feature in terms of protection is Mizuno’s own patented removable K-PAD. Resting on the inside right against your knee it promises to provide a more snug and comfortable fit while still keeping the entire knee safe.
- More protection along the shin – in some cases leg guards do a great job at protecting the knee area but can sometimes leave the shin a little vulnerable. The Samurai G3 series has really thought bout everything and has added more along the shin so that you do not need to worry about any foul balls hurting that area.
If you are thinking of stepping behind the plate to play the position of catcher then you must have a strong and durable helmet. You can go a little less expensive in some of the other areas, but I do not recommend leaving your head vulnerable. With fast ball speeds (especially in fastpitch softball) there is a great risk of substantial injury to the head area by both passed balls and with foul tips. With concussions so prevalent in today’s world, it is crucial to select a helmet (or mask) that will keep your head protected at all times.
When thinking about picking up a brand new mask one should consider and look for the following:
Ensure that the helmet you choose provides a sufficient amount of protection. Many standards exist which leagues follow so be sure to check the regulations required by your league.
A clear field vision is critical to the catcher position so that they can see everything around them. Having a helmet that sits directly in the eye sight can cause issues playing the position.
Carrying extra weight on top of the neck can cause many strains. Ensure that the mask is light enough so that you don’t feel a strain in your neck.
If you prefer a more traditional style of catcher’s helmet designed specifically to fit players of all ages then look no further than the Easton M7. Available for purchase in one of seven popular team colors, this model features a traditional hockey mask design with an outer shell that is made entirely from a resilient ventilated ABS plastic. This model is designed to meet all NOCSAE standards, and features multi-layer high tech foam that is designed to help reduce ball rebounds. The main features of the Easton M7 are:
- Choice of one of six popular team colors
- NOCSAE approved – honestly I could tell you how well this helmet will keep your protected but just knowing that it is NOCSAE approved should make you feel comfortable.
- Ventilation system – one of the worst feelings as a catcher is being sweaty and not being able to do anything about it. Although no helmet can keep you sweat free, there are many that have systems in place to make you feel fresher by bringing cooler air inside your helmet and taking the bad air out. The M7 includes one of the more advanced system and includes 18 ventilation ports to get as much air in as possible.
- Streamlined design – As mentioned in our intro to this section, catchers masks can leave your neck with a bit of a strain especially when too heavy. The M7 has made big strides in helping that hindrance by providing a streamlined construction that promises to fit more snug to your head. This snug design will allow the helmet to move with your head and hopefully in turn eliminate that awful neck strain.
Easton Fastpitch Grip
We’ve already shown off the Easton Mako series a few times on this page, and we believe for good reason. This “fastpitch grip” helmet contains the same features of the ever popular Mako series. This gear was quick out of the gate last year and quickly become one of the more popular options available to catchers. Although specific to baseball, there were many different catchers in the Little League World Series tournament using this gear and hence one of the many reasons it became so sought after. Some of the main features and benefits you can receive include:
- Comfort – like the M7 described earlier, the Fastpitch grip helmet should provide all catchers with a nice snug fit. Although some catchers prefer loose helmets, the large majority want it to feel almost like a facemask in that it conforms directly to your head area. When you have a nice fitting helmet, you’ll be able to make plays easier and hopefully not notice it as much when you have to run or crouch during that long at bat.
- High level of protection – The outer shell of this mask is built with high strength ABS plastic which should be able to withstand any sort of impact. Although I certainly hope you don’t end up taking a foul ball to the head, if it does happen you should feel quite confident that the only issue you’ll have when wearing the Fastpitch series is slight nervousness. In other words, your head will still be protected by the mask. Plus it meets NOCSAE standards, and they wouldn’t stamp their name on just any mask.
- Air circulation – Like the M7, the Fastpitch series also features carefully place vents throughout the helmet which helps in managing sweat and moisture. The last thing you want as a catcher is your sweat dripping all down your face and into your eyes as it would effect your game immensely.
- Field view – Another item to look for in a helmet is one that provides a good view of the entire field. Let’s face it…a mask will never provide you with the same view as you’d have without it. However, many models like the Easton Fastpitch series have made it easier to see as much of the field as possible so you can make all the plays you need.
I hope that you have enjoyed my overviews of the different softball catchers gear available. As alluded too earlier, this position can be tricky to find the right gear for but the main things to keep in mind are protection, comfort, and mobility. We believe that any of the choices on this page will provide all of that and more.