Best Catcher's Gear Sets

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for best catcher’s gear sets

For baseball and softball players, most defensive positions simply require a glove. But the catcher requires far more than a mitt to play this position, including quite a bit of protective gear to play safely. Squatting behind home plate waiting for the pitch, the catcher can be hit almost anywhere on the body by a bounced pitch or batted foul ball. If you’re playing catcher, you need the right set of gear.

The catcher has almost no time to react to unexpected changes in the direction of the ball, but to play the position well, the player needs to keep the ball from bouncing away to be able to prevent runners from taking extra bases. The protective gear — helmet, mask, chest protector, and shin guards — helps the catcher block the ball without getting injured. The impact might still hurt, but the gear should reduce the pain quite a bit!

A good catcher’s gear set contains all the items necessary to play the position safely. Our buying guide includes information on what to look for as you shop, and we’ve included some of our top recommended sets too.

catcher's gear sets
The helmet is the most important piece of catcher’s gear. It must provide the highest level of protection and fit properly so the catcher can see clearly.

Key considerations

Components

Helmet and mask: The helmet and mask protect the catcher’s head and face from foul balls or tossed bats. In some designs, the helmet and mask are separate pieces; in others, they’re connected into one piece.

In a two-piece design, the mask’s straps slide over the top of the helmet (which looks like a batting helmet). It offers less protection for the side of the head than the one-piece helmet and mask, but it’s easier to take off quickly when tracking a pop fly.

The popular one-piece hockey-style mask consists of a connected mask and helmet, with plastic covering the jaw. It provides a little less peripheral vision than the two-piece style, but it offers far greater protection.

Chest protector: A chest protector consists of thick fabric over a thin foam layer that’s designed to absorb the blow of a softball or baseball on the torso. The protector covers the shoulders, upper chest, and abdomen. Straps go over the player’s back to keep the chest protector in place.

Shin guards: These have a hard plastic outer shell and padding on the inside for comfort. The shin guards completely cover the knees, extend over the shins, and provide a bit of protection for the ankles and feet. The straps wrap around the calf and the back of the knee to hold the guards in place.

Knee savers: Some catcher’s gear sets contain knee savers, pads that connect to the shin guards and sit behind the knees to provide support when the catcher squats.

Bag: A large bag to carry all the gear is convenient, and some sets come with a bag. Others don’t, requiring you to buy one separately. Some catcher’s gear bags also have room for bats, cleats, and batting helmets.

The catcher is the only defensive position on the field who can see all their teammates, which is why the catcher often gives defensive strategy signals to their team.

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Features

Size

Typically, catcher’s gear sets made for adults fit teenagers and older, while youth sets fit players 12 years and younger. In a set, all of the items have the same sizing. That means if the helmet fits a 12-year-old, the other items also fit a 12-year-old. You can slightly adjust the fit of each piece of equipment using the adjustable straps, so the items don’t have to fit perfectly right out of the box.

For shin guards that fit correctly, measure the length of the player’s shin from ankle to mid-knee in inches. Then look for a size that matches that measurement (a 14-inch shin equals a size 14 shin guard).

Color

One of the benefits of purchasing a catcher’s gear set is that all the items match. If you’re looking for catcher’s gear that complements your team’s colors, you can find sets in red, royal blue, navy blue, black, and gray. If you shop around, you can find some other colors too.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Catchers don’t wear padding over the thighs. Because of the way the catcher squats behind the plate, a stray pitch or foul ball rarely hits the player in the thigh.
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Accessories

Catcher’s glove: Mizuno Prospect GXC105 Youth Catcher’s Glove
Catcher’s gear sets don’t include a glove, which is understandable because players are more particular about the type of glove they use. This Mizuno glove is more flexible than a typical catcher’s glove, which is great for young players.

Catcher’s helmet: Mizuno G4 Youth Samurai Catcher’s Helmet
Although most catcher’s gear sets include a helmet, some players want to bring their own, especially if they share the other gear with teammates. This Mizuno helmet is very comfortable, with plenty of options for adjusting the fit.

Catcher’s knee savers: Easton Catcher’s Knee Savers
If your catcher’s gear set doesn’t include knee savers, you can purchase them separately because they fit onto any shin guards. These Easton knee savers are very durable, providing a good value.

Baseball cleats: New Balance 3000 V4 TPU Molded Baseball Shoes
Catchers put a lot of pressure on their feet when squatting behind the plate, so high-quality shoes are important. These New Balance cleats are lightweight and comfortable while delivering the desired level of support.

Catcher’s gear set prices

Inexpensive: A basic catcher’s gear set costs $75 to $150. Most of these are beginner-level gear for younger players. These sets may not include all the items you can find in more expensive kits, such as knee savers or a storage bag.

Mid-range: For intermediate players, expect to pay $150 to $350 for a set. It should include all the gear you need plus a high-quality carrying bag.

Expensive: For a catcher’s gear set that includes the highest-quality gear for older players, expect to pay $350 to $1,000. Some of these sets give you the ability to select precise sizes for the helmet and shin guards for the perfect fit. They may also offer multiple color choices if you want a set that matches team colors.

The catcher’s gear is heavy, causing the player to sweat a lot in hot weather. It’s important for the catcher to stay properly hydrated.

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Tips

  • Check for a proper fit. If the straps are too tight, the gear will pinch, making it uncomfortable to wear. Loosening the straps may help, but it’s also possible the player has outgrown the gear. And don’t loosen the straps too much or the gear won’t fit properly or stay in place.
  • Check the padding. The padding in catcher’s gear wears out over time. Holes in the padding or missing pieces of padding can cause the gear to dig into the skin and be uncomfortable.
  • Check for ease of movement. Some cheaper sets have hard padding or fewer joints in the plastic, which restricts the catcher’s movement and can be uncomfortable. Buying a higher-quality set should alleviate this problem.
  • Check for air vents. Vents in the hard plastic helmet and mesh fabric in the chest protector help air circulate around and beneath the gear, keeping the player cooler and more comfortable.
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Catchers are hit by stray pitches and foul tips several times per game. The protective gear helps reduce the chance of injury, but it doesn’t completely prevent the pain. That’s why some young players dislike playing the position.

FAQ

Q. What is NOCSAE?

A. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) is a nonprofit group that sets safety performance standards for athletic equipment. Many youth sports leagues require catcher’s gear to match NOCSAE standards.

Q. Can softball catchers wear the same gear that baseball catchers wear?

A. Yes. The helmets, knee savers, and shin guards for softball and baseball are nearly identical. A chest protector made for a female softball player has a slightly different fit than a chest protector made for a male baseball player. And a softball catcher’s glove may be shaped a little differently than the baseball catcher’s glove to account for the larger ball.

Q. Does the catcher have to wear all of the gear?

A. Most youth leagues require players to wear a mask and helmet, chest protector, and shin guards. Knee savers are optional. A catcher at any level who is playing fast-pitch softball or baseball will want to wear all the required gear for safety. Adult slow-pitch softball players likely don’t have to wear as much gear, depending on the league rules.

Q. How can we speed up the catcher’s ability to put on the gear between innings?

A. Especially in youth games, catchers may struggle to put on the catcher’s gear quickly, holding up the game. You can have the players practice putting it on so they can do it more quickly during games. Coaches can help with buckles and straps. Shin guards usually take the most time to fasten, so a catcher who won’t be batting in an inning can put on the shin guards in the dugout while their teammates are batting.

 

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