Parents, it is very important your daughter plays Softball with Softball-approved equipment. Although similar, baseball and softball are different sports and baseball bats especially are illegal to use in softball. Umpires check our equipment prior to a game and any item deemed unsafe or illegal will not be used.
All you need to play Recreation Softball is a glove and probably a pair of cleats; for safety reasons, a fielder’s face mask and a chest/heart guard are also strongly suggested. Many players prefer to have their own bat and helmet, however, the Program can supply them if needed. The Program handles all other details such as uniforms, catcher’s equipment, softballs, schedule, umpires, etc… Your Coach will schedule practice times and distribute a game schedule. We just ask that you be courteous to your teammates and notify your Coach in advance if you cannot attend a game or practice.
As with any other Sport or activity, start small and add more expensive equipment as your daughter exhibits dedication to the game of softball and her abilities increase.
Pro Tip: Put your name on all your equipment.
Make sure you buy a fielder's glove marked "Fast-pitch Softball" as softballs are much larger than baseballs. In choosing the right type of glove, you should also consider a player’s position and age. There are youth-sized gloves for younger players that achieve better control. Consequently, buying a large glove for them to grow into doesn’t really help develop skill in the game, and might even lead to injury. Outfield players need gloves that are larger and have deeper pockets for catching a ball in flight, while infield players need the opposite—smaller gloves with shallower pockets—for greater control and quicker throws. For players 6 years and under, a glove size between 9 and 10 inches may do for all positions; a glove size between 10 and 11.5 is ideal for ages 7 to 9 for all positions. For players ages 10 to 14, infielders may fit with 11.5 to 12.5, while outfielders can opt for 12 to 13.
It is important you “condition” your new glove by softening it up with conditioning oil. Of course, the best way to break in a glove is to use it! There are all types of different gloves for every position and every price range. Some gloves are even marketed specifically as utility gloves that can be used by either infielders or outfielders.
Pro Tip: Generally, for under $50, a middle infield glove would work well for most players.
Get a Fast-pitch Bat
Make sure that you buy a bat marked "Fast-pitch Softball" with an ASA or USSSA stamp on it. Baseball bats and Slowpitch softball bats are not permitted in Fast-pitch softball.
Get the Right Length
A good rule of thumb is that the bat should be no longer than the distance from the center of the chest to the tip of the player's outstretched finger tips (with the arm held out to the side). A general length guide would be Grades K-2 (24-28 inches), Grades 3-4 (27-30 inches), Grades 5-6 (28-31 inches), Grades 7-8 (30-32 inches).
Get the Right Weight
Bats vary in weight using the designations -9, -10, -11, etc. meaning the difference between length and weight. This difference is called the "drop." A 27 inch (-10) bat will weigh 17 oz. and a 27 inch (-12) bat will weigh 15 oz; those two ounces will generally make a lot of difference in swing speed. The lighter the bat, the higher the "drop" with -13 generally being the lightest bats available. Lighter bats are generally preferable because swing speed is the most important factor in hitting the ball, not bat mass. Lighter bats are also more expensive (-12, -13). For girls struggling to make contact, this can be due to the bat being too heavy (or too long or both). For younger girls, lighter bats are recommended if within your budget (-12, -13). For older girls with powerful swings, you may want to get slightly heavier bats (-8, -9).
Bats are generally made of aluminum but composite bats are now available down to 28 inches in length. Composite bats have the advantage of superior weight distribution but are more expensive than aluminum bats. The latest and greatest technology is "hybird" which uses a combination of a composite handle with an aluminum barrel offering maximum "whip" and "rebound" in addition to balanced weight distribution. Hybrid bats are similar to graphite drivers in golf. Hybrid bats have the best resistance to "sting" in the handle (best vibration dampening). Be aware that composite bats may crack when used below 65F (some manufacturers say 70F) - this is actually due to the hardness of fast-pitch balls increasing at cold temperatures (the balls have plastic cores that harden at cold temperatures). Many advanced batters like the feel of composite bats.
Get Batting Gloves
Unfortunately, most light-weight bats tend to vibrate a lot when they hit the ball, especially when the ball is hit slightly off-center (which happens a lot) and during batting practice in cooler weather . This will cause the girls to complain about the bat "stinging" when they hit the ball. Batting gloves lessen the sting considerably and provide more grip and control. They also help avoid scrapes to the heel of the hand when sliding on the base paths. Plus, you look really cool when you wear them. Buy an inexpensive pair, they get lost a lot.
Set Your Budget
You can find fast-pitch bats from $20 up to more than $500, depending on the brand manufacturer and bat composition. It is important that you select a bat that is right for your playing ability, your level of competition, and your budget.
Pro Tip: Before spending big $$ on a bat, take a few swings with it (preferably inside a batting cage) before leaving the store.
All Players regardless of age must wear a Batting Helmet with a face mask attached, even if hitting off a tee.
Although not required, it is highly recommended all players wear a Fielder's Mask. In addition to the obvious safety benefits, the mask also improves the player's confidence to properly catch the ball. The younger they start wearing the mask, the more likely they won't want to play without it. However, a Fielder's Mask is required for all Pitchers.
For additional safety, many players wear a Heart Guard. You can find this guard attached to a shirt the player can wear underneath the jersey to protect the chest should they get hit by the ball. Compression shorts are commonly known as Sliding Shorts. Some specialized shorts even have additional thin padding along the hips. Although not required, these shorts can help protect players' hips from injuries due to sliding and are therefore recommended. With increased awareness of dental injuries and new technology, players are beginning to consider a Mouth Guard.
There is a difference between soccer and softball cleats.
Pro Tip: Softball cleats are not permitted under most soccer rules. Soccer cleats or even sneakers can be worn for softball but are not recommended.
If you want to carry all your equipment by hand, that’s an option. Wedge a bat or two under one arm. Stuff your gloves in a pocket. A change of clothes over your shoulder. Cleats in one hand, helmet in the other. And a water bottle? You’ll find room for that somewhere. But if you want to cut the hassle and protect your new gear, a bat bag is a must-have.
For a bag that lasts and that keeps your gear safe from damage, start by choosing something with a rubber-reinforced bottom and double-layered sides. You want a durable outer layer for protection from dragging and weather, but also a soft inner layer to keep all that gear secured and scratch-free. Another way to keep scratches off your gear? Pockets. Lots and lots of pockets.
Bare minimum, you’ll want to separate your messy cleats. But for ideal protection, a bag separates all your gear by including extra pockets and a divider in the main section to keep bats and uniforms apart. Superior options include space for luxuries like water bottles and sunglasses.
BAG STYLES: Currently, there are four basic styles of softball bags that exist, each with their own features.
Based on your classic duffel, this tote bag has a short-length handle. Long and skinny, it’s a sound choice for carrying a wealth of bats and balls. These often have streamlined styles, if you prefer, but we recommend one with numerous pockets. However, this style only offers one carrying method.
These bags have a lot in common with their duffel cousins, often featuring a short-length handle, plus boasting a longer, shoulder-length handle for more versatility. This bag works great for quick and comfortable travel to the diamond. Consider wheels for longer walks. Which leads us to…
Carry all that gear on your shoulders, or wheel it all the way? Depending on your position, and your preference, the answer varies. Maybe an outfielder can lug around their gear, but if you’re a catcher, you’ll carry a lot more weight than other team members, so invest in a sturdy set of wheels. In fact, you can specifically look for over-sized catcher’s equipment bags. Top options have metal runners along the length of the bottom of the bag for structural support, plastic wheel plates to defend against bag tears, and enough pockets for all that extra gear.
As styles go, the bat pack is the new kid on the block. Designed like a school backpack, it might suit a youth player because, to them, it will feel natural. Even for older players, this pack is a good option because it distributes weight more evenly than other bags. It’s built differently, relegating bats to the mesh sleeves on the sides. Although that may limit your bat-carrying capacity, it frees up the center compartment for your helmet, gloves and other gear. This versatility, and the wide range of options for all ages and skill levels, makes the bat pack one of the most popular choices on the market today.
Choose packs with reinforced bat sleeves and a sturdy, easy-clean bottom to protect against tears and dirt. Check for padding in the straps and a wide back plate to distribute weight adequately. And of course, look for added pockets! Luckily, bat packs often include pockets for cell phones, wallets, sunglasses, and sometimes laptops. You can even protect yourself from teenage shoe-stink with ventilated cleat pockets.
Pro Tip: Spend a little more and choose a bag that may last for multiple seasons.
For the younger girls who may primarily hit off a tee, generally the term “Tee-Ball” is associated with baseball and anything marked for tee-ball is probably for baseball. Baseball Tee-Ball equipment tends to be too small for softball players and unable to be used. Baseball Tee-Ball bats tend to dent or break when hitting a softball.
Pro Tip: Just because equipment is PINK does not mean it is for Girls Softball.