The dog days of summer bring with them warmer temperatures, sunshine and, of course, the return of baseball and softball. The diamond beams with refined glory as players take their positions, hoping to make the big play. While the summer sun can be great for fans wanting to bask or for coaches worrying over rain delays, the bright sun can spell trouble for ill-equipped ballplayers.
To help combat this and to enable more of those game-changing catches, a quality pair of baseball or softball sunglasses should be in every little slugger’s bag. Designed from lightweight and durable materials, today’s sunglasses can perform from season’s start to finish, helping to protect from UV rays and errant balls.
Before you head out and grab just any pair for your next ball game though, there are some important factors to keep in mind. Namely, be sure you’re choosing sunglasses with the right fit, material and lens color just for you.
FIT FOR SUCCESS
One of the main reasons that everyday sunglasses are not recommended for baseball or softball is that they aren’t designed to stay secure on your face. Athletic sunglasses should stay in place at all times, allowing the player to move around the field without having to adjust their shades after every play.
Look for pairs with a silicone nose and temple pads. This material is made to create enough grip on your skin to keep your glasses secure without sacrificing comfort. Other options available include glasses with wraparound arms that fit fully behind the ear, and additional elastic bands that are worn around the head. You can also employ add-on sunglass straps, which can be placed on the end of the frame arm and tightened for a snug fit.
FRAMES DESIGNED FOR THE DIAMOND
Before diving into the materials and designs to look for in your ideal pair of frames, there are two rating systems to consider. These standards by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), as well as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), are approved by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma.
- ASTM F803
The ASTM standard specifically deals with athletic eyewear. Sunglasses that meet this standard are going to be the safest available options in terms of impact resistance.
ANSI standards deal with safety eyewear, not specifically sports eyewear. This indicates that while these glasses can be safer than others, their ratings are not as attuned to potential high-velocity impact. You can get by with this rating, but the ASTM F803 standard indicates a more suitable pair for athletic participation.
When choosing the frame design for your athletic sunglasses, you should first consider your field of vision. Players who cannot see the full field cannot play to their maximum potential. So, look for a frame design that won’t limit your field of vision by way of bulky arms or thick lens rims. A rimless or half-rim design is a popular option for players, as these frames lack a bottom rim on each lens, allowing for a larger viewing range.
In terms of frame material, polycarbonate is a popular choice that can best suit your athletic needs. This lightweight material can be very durable and is designed to withstand impacts that are common in baseball and softball. Other materials are available, such as plastic and some metals, but these sunglass frames are less durable and can potentially offer a lower level of protection.
BONUS PRO TIP: If you don’t normally wear sunglasses or aren’t a fan of certain frame designs, consider purchasing flip-up sunglasses. These allow the lenses to be moved out of the player’s field of vision when convenient, giving them more versatility in their eyewear choice.
LENSES TO LAST INTO EXTRA INNINGS
The lenses of your sunglasses can have a huge impact on the overall quality of your shades. While your frame provides the “fit” portion of the puzzle, the lenses provide the “protection.” Look for lenses that can block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays, as these are going to be your best defense against the sun.
Your lenses should also provide some impact protection similar to your frames. Polycarbonate, the same material used in popular frame styles, can also be used in lens makeup. These lenses also meet the ASTM F803 standard, as long as they are at least three millimeters thick.
Speaking of lens design, players can choose between a shield (one singular lens) or sport (two lenses) style. Take your face shape into consideration for comfort, because each pair is going to fit your unique dimensions differently. If your frames feature a rimless or half-rim frame design, you should also consider where the bottom of the lens will fall on your cheeks. Some players may find it irritating to have their cheek come in contact with the lens, so make sure your pair is comfortable from the first pitch to the last out.
Believe it or not, a player’s decision on the color of their lenses is not just cosmetic. Each color can offer different visual perspectives and change the optics for the player wearing them. Different hues are also best suited for different conditions, so knowing which color will fit your needs best is pivotal. If you can’t decide which lens is right for you or your youngster, there are options with interchangeable lenses so you can conveniently switch colors for their added benefits, listed below:
- CLEAR — With clear lenses, your field of vision and clarity should not be compromised, but there is no shading factor. Clear lenses can be a good choice for night games.
- GRAY — A color synonymous with sunglasses lenses, gray lenses can reduce overall brightness while still preserving color. These lenses are ideal for a somewhat sunny day, but be sure to get a pair that is not too tinted. If you cannot pick up images in the shadows, consider going for a lighter tint.
- AMBER, BROWN, COPPER AND ORANGE — Amber, brown, copper and orange lenses are popular because they are efficient in blocking blue light, also known as High Energy Visible Radiation (HEVR). These colors can also brighten your vision in cloudy conditions and add contrast, which can make it easier to identify a ball against a dark sky or field.
- YELLOW — Yellow lenses are designed to help protect players from UV rays without darkening their vision, making them a great choice to combat the glare from overhead lights. However, some players attribute reduced clarity to this color choice.
- GREEN — Green lenses are designed to filter blue tints in a player’s field of vision. This process reduces glare and adds contrast. Green lenses are ideal for bright, sunny days because they help preserve the balance of colors in your vision, which can reduce the strain on your eyes.
- RED AND BLUE — Red and blue lenses are designed solely for cosmetic purposes. Neither color offers additional protection like the options listed above.
- MIRRORED — Mirrored lenses are also a solely fashion-related option. While some players enjoy this look for its uniqueness, mirrored lenses should have no effect on your vision.
While the color of your lens already adds to the complexity of your sunglasses, there are also additional coatings available to help increase the performance of your shades.
For example, there are oil- and water-repellant coatings made to keep lenses smudge- and sweat drop-free. There are also coatings that add contrast to the lens, helping players distinguish the ball against a cloudy sky or dark grass. Anti-reflection coatings help reduce the glare from stadium lights, making them preferable for players who play lots of night games. Lastly, photochromic lenses have a special coating that adjusts tint to the varying levels of sunlight a player will experience throughout the game.
POLARIZED AND PRESCRIPTION LENSES
As is the case when deciding on any pair of sunglasses, the choice of whether to opt for polarized lenses or not still pops up on the diamond. Polarized sunglasses help by providing protection from light that comes from different angles. While polarized lenses can be great for players, the additional protection can potentially affect depth perception, so it is ultimately up to your personal preference.
BONUS PRO TIP: If you decide to go with polarized lenses, make sure the polarization is either in-between the layers of the lens or mixed into the lens material. This creates a stronger protection and can help keep your lenses in top form for longer periods.
If you wear prescription glasses regularly, there are options available so that you can wear your favorite pair of sunglasses on the field and still see. Some frames do offer the option to add prescription lenses, but these special-order items will increase the price. Check with your optometrist for more information.
Athletic sunglasses can range in prices as low as $20 and can reach upwards of $200. Higher-end models that offer premier protection will likely cost more than others, but like your bat and glove, if you treat your pair of sunglasses as an investment in your equipment, the prices can be reasonable. Quality athletic sunglasses are designed to last multiple seasons, and with proper care and attention, you can make them last even longer.
Suiting up with the proper pair of sunglasses could help bring clarity and protection while playing the game you love. Find the pair that’s right for you so you’ll be able to look good, feel good and play good.