One of the toughest jobs in baseball is being the catcher. Scratch that, one of the toughest positions in all of sports is the catcher position. Locking down home base isn’t easy, this is true even in youth baseball. In this position, you have to worry about foul tips, errant baseball bats, players aggressively sliding into home plate, and staying even-keeled through it all while wearing a ton of equipment. That’s a lot of physical abuse to take, and any chance you get to make a catcher’s job easier is going to improve performance. The concept of backstop players not wearing the best catcher’s gear is foreign these days in competitive play.
In the past, catchers sometimes only wore a simple baseball mitt, rather than the padded gloves you see them wearing today. No team or league today would have their catchers standing behind the plate without protective gear. The first person to wear protective padding was Roger Bresnahan, who also happens to be a baseball Hall of Famer. He was actually ridiculed for wearing it because it was wimpy and unmanly.
Thankfully, he didn’t stop wearing it and the trend soon spread to other players and teams. Now, players are protected from fastballs and metal cleats that could cause a lot of damage. Check out our list below of Dugout Debate’s top picks for best catcher’s gear sets.
Comparison Table: 10 Best Catchers Gear Sets for 2021
Keep in mind, you can purchase each piece of these sets individually or go for the bundle for a discounted price. Additionally, while we listed the age range for each set below, typically these manufacturers offer 2-3 sets of the same model for each age range.
|Wilson Youth EZ Gear Catcher's Kit||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Small: Ages 5-7, Large: Ages 7-12|
|MacGregor Junior Chest Protector||Helmet, Leg Guards, Chest Protector||Ages 5-8|
|Under Armour Youth PTH Victory Catchers Kit||Helmet, Leg Guards, Chest Protector||Ages 9-12|
|Louisville Slugger Series 5||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Ages 8-12|
|Easton Intermediate Gametime Catcher's Set||Helmet, Leg Guards, Chest Protector||Ages 13-15|
|Easton Youth Black Magic Catchers Set||Helmet, Leg Guards, Chest Protector||Small: Ages 6-9, Large: Ages 9-12|
|Mizuno Youth Samurai Box Set Catchers Gear||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Ages 10-14|
|Rawlings Youth The Mark of a Pro Catcher Set||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Ages 9-12|
|Rawlings Adult The Mark of a Pro Catcher Set||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Ages 15+|
|All-Star System 7 Adult Pro Catcher's Set||Helmet, Shin Guard, Chest Protector||Ages 16+|
Buying Guide Part I: What to Look for in Catchers Gear Sets
Before you purchase a full set, you need to make sure you’re getting the right size. Roughly speaking, with catchers gear, there’s intermediate sets (ages 10-15), adult (age 15+), and youth for those players under 10 years of age. Most manufacturers make 2-3 models of their catcher’s gear set so you can find the one that’s right for you or your family.
Another thing to check on: make sure your child’s team doesn’t already have one. In most cases, Little League teams have all the uniforms and gear necessary for its players. Of course, these catchers sets are usually cheap, uncomfortable, and pretty darn smelly which are some of the reasons why folks buy their own set.
Next, you want to ensure the set you do purchase is high quality. The key thing to look for is that it is easy to adjust and get on/off. Catchers oftentimes have to remove and put on their gear fast in between innings. This is especially true if they’re also a batter. Rushing around like this can create a lot of stress for the young player. Sidestep these issues altogether by getting a well-designed set.
Buying Guide Part II: NOCSAE Approval
We highly recommend finding a helmet and chest protector that is NOCSAE approved. NOCSAE is the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. One of our readers pointed out the fact that the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) will be making it a requirement as of the Spring 2020 season for all catchers to wear NOCSAE approved chest protectors in addition to a NOCSAE approved helmet (which has been a requirement for years).
Long story short? If you want to future proof your catcher’s set gear purchase, look for NOCSAE’s stamp of approval before hitting that buy button.
Buying Guide Part II: Benefits of Purchasing Full Catchers Gear
Paying a bit extra for a quality set of gear will pay dividends season after season. On that note, let’s get into the benefits of ordering catchers gear sets.
- Economical. One of the reasons for buying a full set is optimal is because it’s cheaper. You don’t have to worry about purchasing everything separately. The shipping costs will also be lower.
- Convenience. Since you don’t have to buy the pieces separately, you can get them all from one location. This is more convenient for you since you don’t have to do a lot of shopping around.
- Better Rewards. Some sellers offer incentives for the gear sets they sell. Take advantage of this to get even more out of the deal.
- Matching Sets. Many sets come in a variety of color options which boosts the aesthetic appeal. You can even find colors that match the team’s colors. Of course, wearing catchers gear will ensure the athlete doesn’t get hit and injured while playing their position. A full gear set offers better protection since it covers all the important areas and each piece is made to fit with each other. That makes it more comfortable, especially for those long games in warmer weather.
Closer Look Section: 10 Best Catchers Gear Sets for 2021
Here are Dugout Debate’s top picks for best catchers gear for this year.
One of the most popular catcher’s gear sets is Wilson’s EZ Gear Kit. A great price at under $100, it doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of quality. Wilson offers this trifecta in 4 color choices so you’ll be able to match your team’s colors no problem (black, navy, royal blue, and red). Wilson also offers this set in a small which is recommended for ages 5 thru 7; and a large which is recommended for ages 7 thru 12.
The only thing we feel a need to point out about this one besides the fact that it is one of the best youth catchers sets out there for the price is that you shouldn’t expect it to last season after season after season. Some reviews have indicated that the velcro does indeed wear out on the shin guards and chest protector.
This set is designed for players between five and nine years old. It’s an affordable option and protects the little ones well. It’s also perfect for the first-time catcher. Like with most youth gear sets, it comes with Velcro straps, rather than the regular clips or buckles. This is easy for kids to use and put on themselves.
Do note that the straps aren’t that durable because of this. It’s possible for it to loosen while playing. To prevent this, you can use clips to secure the leg and chest guard if it becomes an issue. The good news is the gear can be adjusted to fit your child as they grow older.
This set is a lot like the Easton Natural catcher’s gear. It’s designed for youth players and comes with adjustable shoulder pads. It even comes complete with full upper body protection. You can find foam inserts in the shoulders, sternum, and throat, providing additional protection. It also gives your young athlete a more customized fit.
An AEGIS Microbe Shield offers more comfort, plus it helps defend against moisture and bacteria build-up. We all know how stinky catchers’ equipment can get real quick, so this is a welcome feature. Inside the helmet, there’s the protective ABS shell and I-BAR VISION mask. This offers a great field of view and opens up peripheral vision. Overall, it’s lightweight, affordable, and mobile.
The Louisville PG Series easily made our list of the best catchers gear sets. It is designed for intermediate catchers (about ages 8-12). It’s popular because of its blend of price, comfort, durability, and quality. The chest protection is well built and offers good rebound control, given its multiple foam layers.
Then there’s the precision pad design it uses to make the chest protector feel as though it’s connected to the body, like a second skin so to speak. It sure beats having clunky gear. It comes with leg guards that have been redesigned to better fit the human body. It’s not like those cheap sets that feel stiff and rigid and still offer great protection and comfort.
This gear set provides the best of both worlds – quality and a great price. It can be customized to fit your youth player, using the double back adjustment located on the chest protector. Adjusting this allows you to get a snug and custom fit on each catcher. Not having loose gear flapping around will help improve the mobility of young catchers.
Other great features are the chest plate and ABD shell, which is layered inside with foam padding. This helps protect the catcher from the impact of a wild pitch. The steel mask is sturdy and built to last. The venting system works well too, which is important for hot days at the ballpark.
This is Easton’s latest and greatest and is an alternative to the Easton Natural set. The two are similar in various ways, however, the M7 does come with improvements. For instance, it comes with a chest protector that has layers of lightweight foam.
Its purpose is to offer comprehensive protection, as well as to dampen wild throws off the chest. This prevents the ball from shooting off in another direction as it would with a hard shell chest protector. It also comes with the same double back adjustment as the older model.
The Samurai Catchers Gear is the top-rated and most well-reviewed set currently available. You can’t go wrong with Mizuno. Whether you buy the set or purchase one or two pieces individually you will not be disappointed. Young catchers will be happy home base campers — especially if they’ve been using a cheap used set that youth leagues sometimes provide.
The strategic ventilation system, 3 layer EVA foam, Drylite inner liner, and low rebound technology (keeps blocked balls close) built into the chest protector are just a few of the reasons this set made our top 10 list. Overall, you’re getting a quality youth catcher’s set your son can use for at least a couple of years for a fair price.
Recommended for ages 9-12, Rawlings makes one of the best catcher’s gear sets money can buy. The helmet is fitted with an impact resistant cage and the chest protector is made of a collision absorbing foam for ultimate ball control. The triple knee leg guards are plenty flexible enough to ensure the catcher still has their full range of movement.
This set is more expensive than other sets on the market but it’s hard to beat the Rawlings quality. Everything on this set is fully adjustable thanks to the Rawlings Dynamic Fit System. You’ll be able to adjust this for a custom fit to any player as long as they aren’t extremely tall or short for their age. This set also meets the rigorous NOCSAEA standards. Coolfloa venting technology, moisture-wicking padding, and the lightweight design are a few of the other features we really dig with this set.
Available in white and silver or black and graphite styles this is the adult model of the Velo Catcher Set. It is recommended for players ages 15 and up. Like the youth set, it is priced higher than other brands, but if you want the best of the best, this is it. The COOLFLOA technology gets the job done and helps keep catchers cool even when the pitcher is wild and the sun is out. Rawlings dynamic fit system provides catchers with enough flexibility to pop up and get those runners out at 2nd.
All-Star is highly regarded and a top choice among our readership. They make extremely high-quality sets, but of course, that quality comes with a premium price tag. All-Star offers a wide range of options for different age groups. In addition to this adult set (~16+), their youth (~9-12) and inter (~ages 12-16) sets are great choices as well.
The chest protector is an adult 16.5 inch, leg guards 16.5 inch, and the helmet fits a 7 to 7 ½ hat size. The helmet is a NOCSAE approved hockey-style catcher’s mask. Ideally, this is for athletes ages 16 and up unless you have a younger teenager that is really big for their age. The ergonomic design and lightweight are perfect for preventing fatigue throughout longer games.
This is the same gear worn by the MLB players and many other professionals. The All-Star ‘I BAR VISION’ steel cage offers a better range of view and helps catchers track down pop-ups. Ergonomic shin and knee pads, lightweight and breathable chest piece, and internal moldable PE protection plates for the collarbone, sternum, and throat round out this set very nicely.