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Swing for the Fences with the Right Equipment
Baseball is commonly known as the National Pastime, but softball is a game that many people play as well, from weekend beer leagues to national collegiate teams. Like many team sports, there are different pieces of equipment that players need to play the game. From bats and balls to cleats and gloves, we have the baseball and softball gear that will have you running the bases with abandon.
It's right there in the name of each of these two sports, so you know the ball plays an integral part in both baseball and softball. Regulation baseballs must be a specific size and weight for use in any sanctioned league play from Little League all the way up to the Major Leagues. Baseballs are around 9 inches in circumference while softballs are typically either 11 inches or 12 inches. However, there are also 14-inch softballs used in some places and Chicagoans typically play with a softball that is 16 inches in circumference.
While nearly all baseballs are white, softballs range between white and off-white, with some also being yellow, orange or other bright colors. Both types of balls are sold separately, but it is a good idea to have several on hand in case any get misplaced. Balls should be hard to the touch even softballs to ensure that they will last a long time.
There is a major difference between the bats used in baseball and the ones used in softball. In softball, nearly if not all bats are alloy (aluminum) or carbon fiber. In baseball, although aluminum is becoming more common, wooden bats are still the primary choice. The bats for both sports range in size and weight is virtually the same, with bat lengths of between 30 and 34 inches being common and weights of no more than 36 ounces. For kids, choose bat sizes between 26 and 30 inches in length. Aluminum bats often have a rubber grip on the handle while wood bats usually have nothing there, although many players add grip tape to their bats to prevent slippage.
The best way to choose a bat is to measure the player from the center of the chest to the tip on the index finger of one hand; measure with the arm sticking straight out from the side. Typically, players up to 3 feet 8 inches tall will want a bat between 27 and 29 inches, a player who is around 5 feet tall will want a bat that is between 30 and 33 inches long, and someone who is more than 5 feet 9 inches tall will need a bat that is more than 33 inches long. When selecting a bat, place it along the side of the player and ensure that the palm of the player's hand can reach the handle. To find the right weight, grasp the bat handle and hold it straight out to the side, parallel to the ground. If the bat can be held for 10 seconds without drooping, it's not too heavy.
There are two kinds of gloves that are used in both baseball and softball: fielding gloves and batting gloves. Fielding gloves are used by the players in the field to catch the ball when hit into the field of play. Fielding gloves are specific to each player's position on the field. For example, second baseman and shortstop gloves tend to be lighter and have smaller pockets so the players can grab the ball out of the glove easier. Outfielder gloves tend to have deeper webbing, aiding players in catching balls hit into the air. Catchers gloves, sometimes called catcher's mitts, are rounder than other gloves and have a lot of added padding for catching pitches thrown by pitchers.
Gloves are available for both left-handed and right-handed players. Fielding gloves are made of leather and require a short breaking-in period before they become comfortable for playing with. There are accessories that you can use to help keep gloves supple, such as neatsfoot oil. Batting gloves are worn by players when batting and help protect the hands and offer better grip. Many batting gloves are made of synthetic materials like nylon and have padding on the palm. Some players wear one glove when batting and some wear them on both hands. There are also what is known as sliding gloves that are worn by players when running the bases. These gloves are slightly lighter and thinner than batting gloves, but offer much of the same protection.
Although players excel by receiving training and practice with other players, they can also get better at the game on their time away from the field. Hitting and swing trainers, batting tees and hitting nets allow players to practice their swing in the backyard or nearby open space without having to chase balls down all day. Hitting and swing trainers are even better because they are all-in-one devices that are adjustable, helping batters hit balls at different levels.
Hitting tees and swing trainers should be placed on level ground in open areas where the batter has plenty of room to swing. Pitching screens and rebounders are terrific ways for pitchers to not only hone their craft, but also get fielding practice at the same time. These should be anchored securely into the ground to withstand hard throws.