Cover Your Bases: A Guide to Baseball Gear

As the snow melts and the trees begin to bud signaling the end of a long winter and start of a new spring, it’s time to break out the ball bag and make sure the baseball player in your family has everything they need for the upcoming season. Pants can get worn out, gloves can somehow shrink (even if you just bought one last year!) and even bats can be outgrown in just a season. But fear not, as all of the bases can easily be covered in one trip.

From the Ground Up

First and foremost, make sure last year’s spikes fit. Depending on your child’s age, it’s entirely likely they’re too small and a new pair will be needed. Or, if the cleats are molded, they may have worn down. When shopping for cleats, make sure you check the league rules to see if the cleats can be metal or have to be molded or plastic. From there, ensure that you have the correct team-colored socks, pants and belt (if needed). Check with the league or coach if you’re unsure of this step.

Like a Glove!

Once the uniform is taken care of, it’d be wise to take an equipment inventory to make sure everything both is still the proper size or weight for your player and they fall within the league rules. For gloves, make sure your player’s hand still fits in the glove comfortably. For more competitive leagues or the more seasoned player, make sure the glove size its best suited for the position. For example, if you have a blossoming first baseman, make sure they have a first baseman’s glove if needed. Or, a smaller glove for an infielder and larger for outfielder.

Tools of the Trade

In order to make sure your player’s bat is good to go, see if the bat’s drop weight – which is the bat’s length minus it’s weight – is appropriate. You’ll find in youth bats, that value typically ranges between -8 and -13 ounces. Stronger, more developed players will be able to swing more weight easily while smaller players might need something lighter to ensure proper bat speed.

As far as length, there are a couple ways to ensure it’s the right size. One is to have the player set the bat barrel-side down and let their arm hang palm out. If the bottom knob of the bat sits in their palm, the length is good. Another way is to have the player stick their arm out to the side. Line up the end of the bat in the center of the chest. If the player is able to easily touch the other end, the length is still OK.

Taking an early inventory of baseball gear can help make sure your player has everything they need for the upcoming season. With so many items to consider, don’t hesitate in dusting off the ol’ bat bag while there’s snow on the ground while you prepare for pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training!

-Home Run Hitter

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The Right Tools

 
Gloves and bats that don’t fit the player’s game are an obstacle to skill development
 
Baseball was king on the southside of Chicago in the 1950s. I grew up a few miles from Comiskey Park, and as a six-year-old I was dying to get in the game.
 
My dad was born and raised in Sweden, so baseball was foreign to him, but he knew I pined to play ball, so he bought me a glove. It was an Andy Pafko model, and it was flat as a pancake with no discernable pocket. To catch the ball I would try to sandwich it between glove and free hand. I played with that glove for a couple of years, developed all kinds of bad habits and dropped many balls. In later years I bought a good glove, but that early experience had left its mark, and I lacked confidence in the field.
 
Starting with the Right Equipment
 
There are many factors that affect the development of young players, but few are as important as having the right equipment. Baseball skills are complex, and learning is difficult. But handicapping a player with a bat that’s too heavy or a glove that doesn’t fit will lead to failure and frustration.
 
Fits Like a Glove
 
Wilson has developed a chart that prescribes baseball glove size and type for players of every age and position (see facing page). Consult it before choosing a glove or ask your Dunham’s sales representative to help you choose. By the way, the gloves Wilson designs for pros are identical to those Dunham’s sells. Everyone gets the best equipment.
 
Asked how a glove should be selected, Ali Brewer, of Wilson baseball said, “The first question we ask is what position you play.” A 12-year old middle infielder generally needs a glove that’s 11 to 11¾ inches in length with a shallow pocket. With a shallow pocket, a shortstop or second baseman can get the ball out quickly and make their throw. Younger players require smaller gloves. A six-year-old infielder should have a glove that’s 10 to 10½ inches long. In every case, the glove should be easy for the player to maneuver and must fit the hand. Apply common sense here.
 
In a video on Wilson’s web site, San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez says, “You want a pocket but not too deep a pocket. At second base, I have to be quick getting the ball out.“
 
Outfielders require a longer glove: 11¾ to 12½ inches for older youths, and 10¾ to 11½ inches for eight- to ten-year-old players. Josh Hamilton, the Angels all-star outfielder, says, “As an outfielder you want as big a glove as you can possibly have.”
 
Extra length can give an outfielder the reach needed to grab over-the-wall flies and bad-bounce line drives. The double welting of Wilson gloves prevents the fingers from bending back when the ball slams home and makes cone catches possible.
 
The requirements for other positions vary, but your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose the best glove for any player and position.
 
Swing the Right Stick
 
Swinging a baseball bat that’s the right size and weight is critical to success at the plate. Hitting a baseball isn’t easy, and the best players track the pitch until it’s close to the plate, and then swing rapidly and accurately. A player bogged down with too heavy a bat can’t generate the speed necessary to hit a fastball. And a player swinging too light a bat will not hit with power.
 
An efficient swing is extremely important now that bats must meet standards for the amount of energy transferred to the ball. Today’s aluminum and composite bats don’t generate the trampoline effect of yesteryear. A properly sized bat and correct swing are critical.
 
Dunham’s carries a wide range of bats, including DeMarini, Easton, and Hillerich & Bradsby models. Among the H & B offerings is the classic wood Louisville Slugger. All are great products, and your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose one that’s best for you or your youngster.
 
A Range of Choices
 
All bats must meet strict performance guidelines. For little league, non-wood bats have to meet a bat performance factor of 1.15 or less. For intermediate leagues, NCAA and senior league play, non-wood bats must conform to BBCOR standards. In addition, there are barrel diameter and length restrictions for each category. Your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose a bat that will meet all requirements.
 
The performance standards were instituted to make the game safer, but they also ensure that aluminum and composite bats perform more like wood bats. So while non-wood bats once outperformed classic bats by a wide margin, that’s no longer the case.
 
But technology still plays a role in bat construction, and if player preference is a guideline, certain bats rise to the top of the charts. Among top choices in the NCAA college baseball ranks are the DeMarini Vexxum, which combines a composite handle with an alloy metal barrel; the Louisville Slugger TPX Attack, featuring composite construction; and the alloy-metal Easton XL3.
 
All are premium choices, but every manufacturer also produces more affordable bats suitable for even the youngest T-ball slugger. All are available at Dunham’s.
 
Size Matters
 
In addition to the product dimension and performance requirements specified by various baseball organizations, there are common-sense guidelines that suggest how much bat a player can handle. Bat manufacturers have developed a chart that makes recommendations for length based on size and weight (see chart on page 21). For example, a 95-pound little leaguer standing 4½-feet tall would probably do well with a 30-inch bat. But handle diameter, barrel shape and weight are important too, and taking a few practice swings with a bat is a good way to determine its suitability. If your ballplayer struggles to get the bat around, it’s too heavy.
 
In brief, it’s all about matching the equipment to the player. The best bat or glove doesn’t get in the way but rather complements the player’s style, strength and ability level. While only raw talent can make an all-star, having the right equipment can help every player perform at his or her maximum.
 
-Home Run Hitter
 

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