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Northbridge Youth Softball Association

Equipment

The NYSA list of mandatory player equipment (regardless of age, league or division) includes a glove, batting helmet and face mask. The NYSA does not supply these items so each player is responsible for their own equipment. Face masks are mandatory for the AA, AAA and minor divisions for girls playing 1st base, 3rd base, and pitcher. Since these positions are very close to home plate, there is a greater potential for an accident to occur. Players can feel free to wear the face masks when playing other positions if they desire, but it is only mandatory when playing 1st base, 3rd base and pitcher. Players in all divisions are constantly switching positions during practice and games so every player ends up cycling through at least one of those positions over time. The mandatory policy assures that all players will be protected throughout the season.

Catchers Gear: The NYSA will provide a complete set of catching equipment to each team for general use in the AAA and U12 divisions only. However, parents should recognize that shared equipment poses a possible health issue that needs to be considered (lice). We understand that especially at the AAA level players are trying all different positions and it takes time for them to decide if catching is something they want to continue to pursue as they grow. Many will no longer desire to catch after only 2-3 times behind the plate. This makes it very hard for a parent to justify the cost of purchasing their own set of catcher’s gear. This is exactly the reason why we supply the equipment; so that every child has the opportunity to try that position even if it’s only for one night. However, in doing so, we do run the aforementioned risk by having communal equipment. Therefore, in order to minimize risk and exposure, we recommend that if your child is interested in catching, that at a minimum, you consider buying her a catcher’s helmet.

For the younger players, catchers gear is conveniently sold in sets and they are offered in small, medium and large sizes. The set will include a catcher’s mask, chest protector, and shin guards. Adjustments to the chest protector and shin guards are generally done with Velcro straps making the change in and out of the equipment quick and easy. Although the Velcro tends to wear out over time, you’ll get one if not two seasons out of them. As the players develop their skills and advance there is a large selection of advanced catching equipment to choose from in all types of colors and designs.

Softballs: The NYSA also supplies each team with a bucket or 2 of softballs to practice with during the season as well as “new” leather balls for each home game. Most players have at least 1 or 2 softballs of their own to practice with at home. The size of a softball is the circumference of the ball given in inches. Farm league and AA play with 11” softie softballs. These softballs are actually soft to the touch while still retaining a hard center. AAA players play with 11” hard softballs and Minors/Majors play with 12” hard softballs.

Gloves: Selecting a glove is a relatively simple process and there are many sources of information on the web. Since most of the players will be playing a variety of different positions there really isn’t a need for a specialized glove (except possibly a catcher’s glove… see below). The most important thing is to make sure the glove fits the players hand properly. A glove that is too small will expose the heel of the hand to get hit and a glove that is too large can’t be controlled and will fall off the player’s hand. Glove sizes are measured in inches and are measured from the top of the finger to the heel end of the glove. This number is usually printed or stamped on the inside of the glove. General rules of thumb for glove sizes are as follows; Farm league 8-9”, AA 9-10”, AAA 10-11”, minors/majors 12”-13”. Since these are just rough guidelines it is extremely important to have the player try the glove on before purchasing. There are many different makes and models of gloves which translate into all gloves “feeling” a little different on the hand. A 10” glove from one brand may be very comfortable while another 10” glove from a different manufacturer is not.

A catcher’s glove is a specialized glove that is only used for one purpose, catching. It is not mandatory or necessary for a player to use a catcher’s glove when playing this position. However, once the player starts to move up into AAA and beyond, it is generally a good idea to wear one. They have thicker padding in the pocket and the glove is designed to catch the ball in the center of the glove as opposed to the top of the pocket as in a “regular” glove. In addition, the glove is designed so that the ball is captured in the pocket rather than having to squeeze the glove to hold it in. In AAA some of the pitchers can be throwing as fast 30 mph with 40-50 mph in the higher divisions. The additional padding and the design of the catcher’s glove will be greatly appreciated. Catchers’ gloves are sized differently and measured on the outer circumference of the glove. Although small softball catcher’s gloves do exist they are usually very difficult to find and have to be purchased online. Make sure that the glove is specifically designed for softballs as many small catchers’’ gloves are designed for baseballs only. General rules of thumb for glove sizes are as follows; AAA 30-31”, minors/majors 32-34”.

Bats: The NYSA does provide a few team bats for general use, but most people like to purchase their own. Although there is plenty of good information on the web regarding how to choose a softball bat, it can see seem like a daunting task. Just like a glove, a bat has to fit the individual player. Not only does the bat need to feel comfortable, but the player must also be able to swing it effectively (i.e. quick swing). First choose a bat that was designed for fast-pitch softball since it differs in shape from a slow-pitch bat. Second, make sure the bat has the ASA (American Softball Association) emblem on it. These are the only bats that are allowed in all the softball leagues the NYSA plays in and umpires will check the equipment before games.

After that, the two most important points to consider when choosing a bat is its length and weight. The length of the bat expressed in inches is printed on the main part of the bat and/or on the handle end. The weight of the bat expressed in ounces and is found in the same locations. To make matters more confusing sometimes the bat weight is not listed directly but rather you will see the term “Drop -#” or “- #” where the # sign represents a number usually somewhere around 9 or 10. In this case, in order to determine the bats weight you take the length and subtract the number represented by the # sign. As an example, a 30” bat with a “Drop -9” printed on it means that the bat weights 21ounces. Use the recommended guidelines for bat size and then go up or down in size or weight as necessary. It is almost impossible to buy bats with the idea that a player will grow into them. Even though you can choke up on the bat to reduce the length, it is very surprising how much an extra ounce or two can affect the players swing. General rules of thumb for bat weights are as follows; Farm league & AA 15oz or less, AAA 15-19oz, minors/majors 19oz and up.

Sliding Pad/Cleats/Chin Straps: A sliding pad is a piece of protective gear worn over the shin on one leg to prevent scraping of the leg while sliding. They look similar to knee and elbow pads and are generally needed only when the player is wearing shorts. Pants serve the same purpose and provide adequate protection during sliding.

Cleats: Cleats are not mandatory at any level however; cleats do offer excellent traction in the clay (infield) whereas sneakers tend to be very slippery. Although there are specific cleat designs for different sports, any of these designs will work effectively for softball. If a player has cleats from another sport there is no need to purchase a dedicated set of “softball” cleats.

Chin straps: Chin straps are a mandatory part of a players’ batting helmet and umpires will not allow players to bat without one. Although every batting helmet comes standard with a chin strap, they tend to disappear during the course of the season. Helmets get tossed around and chin straps get damaged (especially the ones with plastic clips) or fall off the helmets and get lost. It’s a good idea to have an extra chin strap around just in case.

Equipment Bags: How do I carry all this stuff? There are many different options for carrying all of the players’ equipment to and from the field. While a specific equipment bag is not necessary, it does tend to make your life easier and there certainly are many different styles and options to choose from. Make sure that any bag you select can actually fit your helmet, a few softballs, a bat, and your glove together. Sometimes the bags appear large until you start putting things into them. There is nothing worse than purchasing an equipment bag only to find out it’s easier to carry the helmet rather than trying to stuff it into the bag. Keep in mind that although bags with wheels are available, the bag will most often be carted across dirt, rocks and grass which tend to negate the usefulness of the wheels.

Please contact the NYSA with any questions.