Baseball Equipment

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Without the proper baseball equipment it's next to impossible to play your own version of America's pastime. In other sports such as basketball and soccer, recreational players have a much easier time forming games of their own. All that's needed is a basketball and a 10-foot-high hoop along with a soccer ball and a makeshift goal, respectively.

In "pickup" basketball or even games of "one on one," anywhere from two to 10 players are all that's needed to complement the aforementioned gear. With baseball, two full squads of nine are pretty much required for any sort of competitive game. Sure, games such as stickball may be played with as few as four participants (a pitcher, a catcher, a batter, and a fielder), but stickball and baseball, while superficially similar, are entirely different games.

Basic Baseball Equipment

Okay, so you've rounded up your 17 closest friends, procured a field and a mutually agreeable time, and stocked up on peanuts, chewing gum, and Gatorade--what's next? Well, in addition to a ball and a bat, there are a few things you'll need and a few things you'll want. If you're a seasoned veteran of the game, there are even a few specialty items you won't want to do without. First, however, you must, er, cover your bases.

You hardly need official Major League Baseball (MLB) bases (14" x 14" square, white, tarpaulin-covered, with ground stakes) to get going; some old T shirts, "pinnies," or even pizza boxes will suffice, provided they don't blow away. Additionally, you'll need 18 gloves--one for each player--including at least two catcher's mitts. If the 18 of you are good pals and not bloodthirsty rivals, you can even manage a game with nine gloves (including one mitt) by agreeing to share them as the teams switch turns taking the field.

Additional Baseball Equipment

While the other eight position players need no special physical apparel, the catcher almost certainly needs his or her own protective gear. This includes a catcher's mask, a chest plate, shin guards, knee savers, an athletic "cup," and perhaps a shoe guard. The only time catchers may agree to forgo these precautions is if and when your group opts to play whiffle ball. Catchers who pass up protective gear in softball do so at their own peril.

For games of fast-pitch baseball and softball, batting helmets are a must. Even in little league, pitchers can muscle the ball up into the 80s (MPH). An indirect or, heaven forbid, a direct hit can cause serious injury or, in some rare cases, death. Of all your baseball equipment, batting helmets most qualify as "musts." Fungo bats (for batting practice), pine tar, rosin bags, cleats, and bat "donuts" are all great to have around as extras, but none of them will protect you the way a batting helmet will.

Variations in Baseball Equipment

Needless to say, the baseball equipment used in the "bigs" conforms to different standards than little league or rec baseball equipment. The biggest difference is that pro players must do without aluminum bats, which add tremendous clout to the batter's swing. In the lower ranks, all the way up to college, surprisingly, aluminum bats are still permitted. The problem is, players who get too used to them must eventually learn to give them up if and when they reach the majors.

Length-to-weight ratios for bats also arise in any discussion of baseball equipment. Throughout the high school and college ranks, a bat with a -3 rating is the maximum allowed. This means a given bat may only be three inches longer than it is ounces heavy. Hence, a 34-inch bat that weighs 30 ounces would be off limits at this level, even if it qualifies for use in little leagues.

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