A sharp eye. A strong arm. Quick legs. An incisive, analytical mind.
These are all the traits a strong catcher needs. From your position, you can see the whole field, and at key moments, you control the tempo of your team’s defense.
It’s a demanding position. Choosing a mitt that suits your specific needs is vital to your success because it’s your most important tool. The right glove can build your confidence, leading to stronger, more reflexive plays.
Keep the following in mind when you choose:
GLOVES VS. MITTS
Although the terms “glove” and “mitt” are often used interchangeably in softball, the difference is distinct — and important — when it comes to catchers.
A glove (like a winter glove) has separate finger pockets, allowing for greater flexibility, versatility and speed. But a catcher’s mitt is designed to keep your fingers closer together and trade unnecessary versatility for added security. And by security, we mean both of the safety variety and the ensure-you-catch-that-ball variety.
Mitts are complex, with a number of options when it comes to construction. Keep the following in mind when making your final decision:
Another major difference between baseball and softball catcher’s gloves is that, while baseball mitts almost exclusively use closed webbing, softball mitts commonly boast open webbing. This design sacrifices some support, but because softball mitts tend to come in larger sizes, the added visibility proportionate to the size of the ball makes this necessary.
More traditionally, catcher’s mitts have closed backs that strengthen support of your wrist, but that may not be necessary for your success. An open back, which has a space between the wrist strap and the upper part of the glove, allows for greater mobility. To further improve mobility and control, some models even include an external finger slot on the back of the mitt. When making your purchase, try to strike a good balance between mobility and security.
Players need to be mindful about padding. A glove with too much of it won’t leave enough room for the bigger ball. On the other hand, a bigger ball means more pressure on a wider surface area of your hand, requiring more protection in the form of more padding.
When you make your choice, be sure that the product is listed specifically for softball. These models take into account the need for more space without sacrificing protection by using thinner forms of padding.
Using a leather model is another one of those personal questions. You have to consider how long you want to spend breaking in your glove and how long you need your glove to last.
Less expensive leathers like synthetics and pigskin break in quickly but may only last one season (or less, if you’re playing in an advanced league). They’re usually a good option for younger players and players who haven’t fully committed to multiple seasons.
Full-grain or steer hide leathers take much longer to break in — months, typically, and can come with a higher price tag — but they won’t wear so quickly. So, if you plan on playing for a couple years, the cost may be worth it to you in the long run. You will, however, have to buy them a couple months in advance to break them in during practice. Some models come partially “factory broken,” expediting the break-in process.
Remember, catcher’s mitts are measured by their circumference, not by length. Players ages 12 and under will typically look for a mitt around 32.5″ and players 13 and older need catcher’s mitts around 33″ or 34″ so that you can get a full enough pocket for the bigger ball.
While bigger is better in softball, keep in mind that a bigger mitt will lower your visibility and agility, so be sure to work with this balance. Some options exist to counteract the lower visibility and agility, which you’ll read more about below.
When you’re seeking the perfect mitt, remember to play to your strengths and weaknesses. Do you need a little more mobility? Find a glove with an open back. Will structure help boost your game? Choose an option with thicker padding.
A wide range of options exist to allow customization. Boost your game by choosing the catcher’s mitt that will leave you feeling comfortable and confident behind the plate.