As a softball player, you should ensure you have all the essential equipment before each game or practice session for protection and effective play. These softball gear include a bag, bats, batting gloves, fielding gloves, cleats, and accessories. And the protective gear comprises a helmet, shin guards, and chest protector. Note that each player will have different equipment based on their position. Plus, some players may have multiple gadgets if playing at more than one position.
So, what does a softball player’s regular equipment bag entail? Let’s discuss more in this softball gear guide: –
An Overview of Softball
To appreciate the various equipment, training aids, and accessories a softball player uses, let us begin our guide with an overview of how the game works.
Softball is a variation of the ‘small sibling’ of baseball. The game has similar rules to baseball but with some significant differences. For example, unlike baseball players who pitch overhand, softball players pitch underhand using softer and larger balls.
An offensive team competes against a defense team in a typical softball tournament. The opposing teams also referred to as batters and fielders, comprise nine players each.
When a pitcher throws the ball, the batter hits it and starts to run. If the batter makes a run past all the bases, it becomes a home run. The offense and defense teams switch sides after three batters. Then, the game will go over seven innings. Ultimately, each team aims to score more runs than its opponents.
Due to switching sides, all softball players end up in the defense and offense in every inning. When on the offense, the players aim to hit pitches, run bases and earn runs. In contrast, players on the defense do all they can to stop their opponents from earning any runs. Consequently, softball players require more equipment than most sports.
Apart from the essential equipment, softball players use various accessories to personalize their equipment, facilitate faster break-in periods, improve their grip, and boost their game and practice. Still, each league has specific rules regarding which accessories a player can wear and use
The Basic Playing Equipment for All Softball Players
The softball playing equipment varies from one player to another depending on their positions, age, league, and purpose for the equipment. However, there is some standard softball equipment for all softball players, as detailed below: –
Softballs are modified versions of baseballs, often larger and softer than those used in baseball games. There are three types of softballs depending on the softball game as follows: –
A fast-pitch Softball
A fast-pitch softball game uses an 11-inch ball, two inches larger than a standard baseball. This ball is the hardest and fastest of all softballs, attaining a higher and further distance.
A slow-pitch Softball
A slow-pitch softball measures 12 inches in circumference, making it a standard-sized softball. And it is much softer than a fast-pitch softball.
A Chicago Ball
The Chicago ball is the largest and softest of all softballs, measuring 16 inches in circumference. Due to its bigger size, a Chicago ball covers the shortest distance when thrown. And, as its name suggests, Chicago balls are popular in the Chicago and New York Metropolitan areas.
The Construction of a Softball
A softball has a core, outer cover, and seams or stitches. The core can be from rubber, cork, polyurethane, or long fiber kopok materials. And its circumference varies from one softball league to another as per the set regulations.
Second, the softball exterior may be of a white or optic yellow synthetic, rubber, or leather. Colored seams or stitches hold together this cover. The seam color varies from one local softball association to the next. Fastpitch softballs feature raised seams for better grip and control. In contrast, slowpitch softballs opt for lower-profile seams to improve their flight path and distance covered.
Amateur and recreational softball players use low-impact practice softballs for their training. The fielding and batting practice softballs vary from one brand to the other as follows: –
Leather practice softballs are like regular 12-inch slow-pitch softballs. They opt for a rubber core with a synthetic leather cover for durability.
Foam balls use a firm core with a durable foam coating to mimic the real softball. The ball is stingless, will not absorb water, and retails in bright colors. This makes the ball safe to teach kids to play the game.
Plastic Perforated Softballs
Plastic perforated softballs are lightweight and retail in luminous colors to help players improve their hand-eye coordination. Likewise, they are affordable, safe for kids, and can be for other games like golf and paddle games.
Weighted Hitting Balls
Hitters and pitchers use weighted hitting balls for their batting and pitching practice. These training balls for softball and baseball retail in the same size as regular softballs. However, they are filled with sand or any other heavy material to help players develop maximum hitting strength against a strike zone. Still, players should consult their coaches before practicing with overweight balls.
Players use heavy-duty buckets with covers to keep their practice softballs in one place. Some buckets have convenient foam padding covers to serve as comfortable seats for coaches. A typical 6-gallon ball bucket can hold softballs, baseballs, training aids, and supplies.
Ball Caddy Bag
A softball caddy bag helps players carry 100+ balls to their practice
A ball stack enables players to arrange and stick softballs on top of easy others. That way, a player picks up a ball without bending too much into a caddy bag or ball bucket.
Softball bats are specialized cylindrical sticks batters use to hit the balls and score runs for their teams. A standard bat has a long, narrow, and barrel shape. It measures a maximum of 34 inches long and has a diameter of up to 2.4 inches. Plus, they can weigh up to 38 ounces.
Types of Softball Bats
Whereas young players can get off using any softball bat, softball players in the senior leagues must use regulation-sized bats. Shorter and lightweight bats with smaller barrels produce high swing speeds and vice versa. The smaller bats feature in youth competitions. And, the longer and narrower bats are popular with senior leagues.
We have eight main types of softball bats: –
Pitching Speed: Slow-pitch vs. Fast-pitch Bats
Batters select softball bats depending on the pitching speed they want to attain. Hence, they opt for slow-pitch bats to slug the ball or fast-pitch bats to generate excessive speeds.
Slow-pitch bats are the heaviest and toughest of all softball bats, making them the hardest to swing. They weigh between 25 and 30 ounces and are designed for slugging the ball. Balls hit by slow-pitch bats travel at speeds of up to 25 mph. And they hit balls traveling at speeds of up to 25 mph.
In contrast, fast-pitch bats measure between 26 and 34 inches long and weigh between 23 and 28 ounces. They use lightweight composite materials like aluminum alloy to generate faster swings and send balls traveling up to 60 mph.
Bat Construction: One-piece vs. Two-piece Bats
One-piece softball bats are of a single composite, alloy, or wood construction, giving them a stiff and robust feel. Power batters prefer these bats to make impactful swings that yield stronger hits and faster speeds.
In contrast, two-piece softball bats fuse two materials to create the handle and the barrel. It is a more flexible design generating greater swing power and speeds. In turn, two-piece softball bats are ideal for contact hitters.
Bat Material: Alloy vs. Composite Bats
The choice of materials in making a softball bat dictates its ultimate price, break-in time, and durability. An alloy bat uses cheaper aluminum material arriving in a game-ready condition. In contrast, composite softball bats use durable woven fibers for maximum shock absorption. For this, composite bats retail at a premium price. And they need up to 200 hits to break in.
Bat Weight Distribution: Balanced vs. End-loaded Bats
Softball bats can have even or uneven weight distribution depending on the desired swing speed and ease of control. Balanced bats have even weight distribution resulting in better control and greater swing speeds for the base and contact hitters.
End-loaded bats have most of their weight concentrated at the end of the barrel. By so doing, the bat attains a heightened momentum when striking the ball. Even though the end-loaded bats will have the ball landing farther, they are hard to control.
Softball Training Bats
Most softball training bats feature ultra-weight and short barrels for practicing tee drills and short tosses. Hitters use the training bats to improve their hand-eye coordination and swing speed to generate powerful hits.
Softball Bat Accessories
Bat wraps are a custom grip tape wrapped around a softball bat to personalize it and improve the player’s grip.
Prohitter is a batters training aid worn on the thumb of the top hands holding the bat. It helps batters turn their wrists faster during batting and improve their swing speed.
Softball Bat Bag
A softball bat bag has various compartments and pockets to help players organize and carry their softball bats and accessories for their next game hands-free. The bat sleeve side pockets accommodate at least two bats and two water bottles.
Softball gloves are crucial protective gear for most softball players. Whereas players in a fast-pitch or slow-pitch softball game must wear protective gloves to shield their wrists from hard hits, these gear are not mandatory for players in a Chicago ball game.
Functional Parts of a Softball Glove
A softball glove is protective gear and an essential piece of equipment facilitating a player’s efforts. It comprises the following crucial parts: –
Open vs. Closed Webbing
A softball glove can have an open or closed web design. The webbing determines how well a player can control the ball. Consequently, it varies depending on the player’s position and preference. Typically, fielders prefer open web styles, while pitchers opt for closed web gloves to hide their pitches.
Shallow vs. Deep Pockets
Softball players catch, hold, and shift the ball using the indentations at the palm area of their gloves. They lock the ball into the glove pocket by connecting their fingers to the thumb. Hence, a softball glove pocket can be deep or shallow to attain varying ball control for hard and easy impacts.
Infielders prefer gloves with shallow pockets to complement their quick transfers and releases. And outfielders opt for gloves with deep pockets to withstand hard impacts and restrain any fly balls.
Closed vs. Open Back
Every softball glove has a provision at the back, above the wrist fitting area for the player’s index finger. A softball glove may have a conventional open or closed-back design. Open-back gloves have a spacious hole at their back for maximum wrist flexibility. And gloves with closed backs have a smaller hole provision for added stability when seizing fly balls.
Outfielders prefer closed-back gloves and linger their fingers outside the glove via the index finger hole. And infielders opt for open-back gloves to facilitate their fast moves and quick turns.
Five Finger Stalls
A softball glove has openings for every finger. The five-finger stalls are strapped or stitched together to retain the shape of the glove while allowing the player to slide all or some of their fingers into the gloves as they wish. Still, the inner section of a first baseman’s glove and catcher’s mitt lacks any visible finger stalls.
The palm is the added padding at the wrist area underneath the glove cover. It cushions the player’s wrist from blistering, bruising, or internal injury due to hard impact catches. Also, the padding warms the player’s hand on a cold day.
The lower part of the softball glove is the heel area. It covers and protects the bottom part of the player’s hand.
Softball gloves use adjustable fasteners or laces for an optimal fit. They include hook-and-loop, Velcro straps, D-ring, and buckle systems. Whereas young players prefer gloves with bright and attractive lacing, experienced players opt for durable leather lacing with a faster break-in period.
The hinge is the glove area between the heel and the pinky finger. It facilitates the closing and opening of the glove.
Softball Gloves Web Types
Apart from the conventional open and closed web styles, softball gloves will have a variety of webbing patterns depending on the player’s position, as follows: –
Web Types for Fielders
- Basket Web – Pitchers use softball gloves with a basket weave style for more flexibility.
- Trapeze – Trapeze web glove features thin leather straps interlacing each side of the glove. This style complements its deep pockets to help outfielders catch fly balls.
- Modified Trap – Modified trap web has extra support and structure, making it a favorite by players in multiple positions.
- H-Web – In an H-Web glove, two leather strips connect to create the “H” shape. It results in a flexible, open softball glove ideal for infielders and outfielders.
- I-Web – The open I-Web glove facilitates quick ball transfers and flexibility for infielders.
- Cross – Cross web is another open webbing style guaranteeing maximum visibility for infielders.
- Two-Piece Web – A two-piece web glove has two leather strips laced together to conceal the ball when pitching.
Web Types for First Basemen
- Single Post – Single post web types feature two strips of leather cutting across a vertical post. In turn, they guarantee optimum flexibility and visibility for the first basemen.
- Modified H-Web – Gloves using a modified H-web are like the classic H-web but with an added top piece to widen the catching radius.
- Dual Bar – A dual bar web glove comprises two horizontal bars stitched to form a pocket for trapping the ball.
Web Types for Catchers
- One-Piece – A one-piece catcher’s mitt is a fully closed model with zero visibility. Here, the outer leather laces around the pocket to cover it completely.
- Half Moon – A catcher’s mitt with a half-moon webbing style has a tight pocket with minimal visibility. Despite its limitations, this webbing style is much more flexible than the fully closed ones.
Softball Glove Sizing and Fit
Players must wear properly fitting softball gloves. In turn, they select their softball gloves based on their age and playing positions. Below is a table detailing the recommended glove sizes: –
|6 years and Below||All Positions||9” – 10”|
|Below 7 years||Catcher||29.5” – 30”|
|8 – 10 years||Catcher||30” – 32”|
|7 – 9 years||All Positions||10” – 11.5”|
|10 – 14 years||Infielder||11.5” – 12.5”|
|10 – 14 years||Outfielder||12” – 13”|
|11 – 13 years||Catcher||31” – 32.5”|
|14 years and older||Catcher||33” – 35”|
|15 years and older||Infielder||12” – 13”|
|15 years and older||Outfielder||12.5” – 14”|
Apart from proper sizing, the softball glove should have a snug fit to facilitate ball transfers from the catching to the throwing hand. Hence, softball players can confirm the glove fit by measuring their hand from the index finger to their wrists.
Softball Glove Materials
Most softball gloves use leather materials for their cover. The leather ranges from premium steer hide, cowhide, and full grain leather, to Kip Skin leather. Pro-level softball gloves use the dense and firm premium steer hide to last them several seasons. Still, most full-grain leather gloves have a superior, heavier construction that lasts a lifetime. Youth players prefer cowhide or conventional leather for its affordable price range, pre-oiled nature, and fast break-in. Finally, Kip Skin leather gloves are the lightweight version of full-grain leather, great for infielders.
Softball Glove Hand Orientation
Like baseball gloves, softball gloves have a specified hand orientation. Softball players who throw the ball using their right hands should wear a glove with a right-hand orientation on their left hands. Here, the players cushion their catching hand for fast transfers and leave their throwing hand free. Likewise, a left-hand thrower should get a glove with a left-hand orientation and wear it on the opposite hand.
Softball Gloves Classifications
Finally, softball players select their playing gloves depending on their current team (batting vs. fielding gloves), type of softball game (fastpitch vs. slow pitch gloves), and their current playing positions. Let’s explore these classifications further below: –
Batting vs. Fielding Gloves
Softball players wear thick batting gloves with deep pockets to protect their hands from hard hits. In contrast, first basemen wear less padded fielding gloves with shallow pockets to improve their response time.
Fast pitch vs. Slow Pitch Gloves
Catchers, pitchers, and other slow-pitch players opt for larger gloves for better ball control. In contrast, fast-pitch players prefer smaller robust gloves to withstand harsh handling.
Softball Gloves Based on Player Positions
Pitcher’s Glove – Pitchers use closed web softball gloves with deeper pockets. These gloves give players better control of their grip without tipping their pitches.
Catcher’s Mitt – Mobility and ball control are crucial to a catcher. They mostly opt for mitts with open web designs.
Infielder’s Glove – An infielder’s glove features a closed web design for a secure catch and shallow pockets for quick ball releases.
Outfielder’s Glove – An outfielder’s glove opts for deeper pockets that trap fly balls and an open web design for increased visibility.
First Baseman’s Mitt – A first baseman’s mitt is the longest softball glove. It features deep and wide pockets for better ball control and less spin.
Softball Glove Accessories
Glove Shaping Mallet
Softball players use a heavy-duty small wooden stick with a ball-form end to hit and soften their gloves. The glove-shaping mallet is designed with a weight ratio that mimics a player’s swing and catches. That way, it shapes and maintains the glove pocket without damaging it.
A glove conditioner is a unique oil or cream for cleaning, conditioning, and restoring the glove’s outer cover into a game-ready condition for optimal performance. Hence, a glove conditioner is a go-to accessory for speeding up the glove break-in process. Glove conditioners contain ingredients such as Vitamin E and Lanolin to treat the leather cover and protect it for more seasons. Some oils waterproof the glove for superior performance.
Glove Lacing Kit
A glove lacing kit includes a metal lacing tool for re-lacing or maintaining worn-out laces.
An Oversized Ball
Players place an oversized ball into the glove pocket before folding and tying the glove with laces or compression straps. The oversized ball ensures the glove pocket retains its shape when not stored for long periods.
These are elastic straps for molding the glove into a cradle shape to secure tough catches. Also, the wraps assist in breaking in a new glove or restoring a damaged one.
Glove Locker Kit
Glove locker kits work like glove wraps. Also, they cover most of the glove surface to protect it during storage.
Field Protective Equipment
Facial Protective Field Equipment
There are three main headgear worn by a softball player as follows: –
Batters wear helmets to protect their head from injuries from a pitched ball when batting and base-running. Since baserunners have their backs facing fielders, it makes them vulnerable to hard hits. The headgear retail in small, medium, and large sizes for a snug fit on different players. And batting helmets for youth players have added chin straps for stability.
Note that a softball field is much smaller than a baseball field. And players are prone to being hit by stray balls. For this, softball players wear protective face masks to shield their faces from direct hits.
Chin guards are cup-like face guards worn on the chin, underneath the face mask to protect the chin from injury.
Apart from the catcher’s glove or mitt, the catcher needs such protective gear as a chest protector, helmet, wrist protectors, and leg guards.
- Catcher’s Helmet
A catcher’s helmet is a hockey-styled protective headgear worn by the catcher to protect their face and head from the ball and the bat. The helmet pops out easily, allowing the catcher to shift to fielding a popup or bunt.
- Catcher’s Chest protector
The catcher wears a padded chest protector to protect their upper body from pitches in the dirt and foul balls.
- Shin/Leg Guards
Shin guards are padded guards worn around the legs by fielders and catchers to prevent injury from the batter. Leg guards use soft, flexible leather and hard plastic components to protect the catcher. The construction allows the catcher ample flexibility to bend and squat when throwing or blocking the ball.
Cleated Shoes or Sneakers
Cleats are special shoes with spikes on their sole to improve the player’s traction on the field.
Softball Compression Shirt
A softball compression shirt is an undergarment worn by softball players underneath their regular uniforms. The long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirt keeps players warm and dry by increasing their blood flow on a cold day.
An elbow protector is an arm sleeve-like protective equipment strapped around the elbow to protect it from hits.
Softball Training Aids
A hitting net is a lightweight and portable net for practicing hitting and throwing softball and baseball indoors or outdoors. It helps players improve their strength when batting, catching, pitching, and fielding. Most hitting nets retail with a strike zone to help pitchers improve their accuracy. And they have convenient metal stakes to hold them securely in the ground while playing.
Softball players use pitchback nets to reinforce their throwing and accuracy. Like the hitting net, a pitchback net has a high-visibility strike zone showing the player where to throw or hit the ball. It is excellent for solo practice of ground balls, throwing, pitching, and fly balls.
Now, most softball players assemble their training aids in their backyards. And, if it is limited space, they risk throwing or hitting the ball at the neighbors. Hence, players install barrier nets to contain large softballs as they practice at home or in restricted areas. Barrier nets can contain such balls as cricket balls, tennis balls, soccer balls, baseballs, softballs, volleyballs, and other balls of a similar size.
An I Screen is a specialized net protecting pitchers from comeback line drives. It is excellent for practicing full power swings. It creates a large and safe hitting area for players and coaches indoors or outdoors.
A batting tee is a stationary wooden, metallic, rubber, or plastic pole/device for practicing hitting the ball. The batting tee is built to remain stable and withstands powerful hits by different players. Plus, players can adjust their height to match their hitting positions. Other batting tees have convenient storage space for holding the balls after each hit.
People Also Ask
What makes a softball glove good?
A good softball glove should protect the player’s hand while facilitating their play and practice. In turn, it must have the right fit, feel, and function for the player’s position, age, and skill level.
Which softball equipment is recommended for young softball players and beginners?
A child or anyone new to softball should focus on understanding the game and worry less about getting intricate equipment for each position. And parents, guardians, coaches, and new players should start with the essential softball equipment to facilitate practice. These are affordable balls, bats, and gloves.
Then, opt for athletic clothes like joggers, sneakers, and tee shirts. And depending on the immediate safety concern, the young player may add a visor, hat, or batting helmet for extra protection.
What role does softball equipment accessories play?
Softball equipment accessories like ground plugs, base spikes, home plate extensions, eye black, and athletic tape customize the softball equipment to meet the player’s practice or playing goals. However, they are not mandatory in any softball league or association.
Softball is an extreme sport involving hitting balls at high speeds against opposing teams. Hence, players require specialized equipment to protect themselves when playing or practicing. The softball equipment, training aids, and accessories vary depending on the softball game and the player’s position, age, and skill level. We hope this detailed guide helps you pick the correct softball gear for your next game.