Your catchers mitt is the most important piece of equipment you will use. As you advance to higher levels of play (high school, college and beyond) it will be used to catch 100 or more pitches in a game and that doesn’t count pre-game warm-up, between game bullpens and general practices.
So, it is safe to say proper care for this piece of equipment is important. Properly breaking it in is also important as I discussed in my blog post, “Breaking in Your Catchers Mitt“.
Before you get to breaking it in or caring for it you have to decide which mitt is right for you. There are a number of quality brands out there; Wilson, Rawlings, All-Star, Mizuno and others. Most of these glove makers also make at least a few, if not multiple, catchers mitt models. The varying models tend to differ in quality of leather, design, size and of course, cost. Commonly, once you find the right mitt for you, you will tend to stick with that model or at least brand for many years. So, how are you to know which mitt is right for you?
Obviously getting your hands on a mitt, trying it on and ideally catching a few balls will go a long way to help you understand if that mitt feels good or not but, in today’s age of internet shopping the likelihood of this happening can be slim. The big-box sports stores (e.g., Dick’s) don’t tend to carry a wide variety of catchers mitts and they tend to be the least expensive models.
One approach cold be to ask other catchers what they prefer and, if possible ask to see their catchers mitt. You can ask to try it on but, many catchers tend to be picky about anyone else’s hand going in their mitt (I am one of those). So you may only get a chance to feel the leather, check out the pocket and it’s shape as well as the general design of the mitt. You can still ask for that catcher’s opinion regarding his current mitt, how long he has had it and why he chose it.
Many of the online glove retailers provide fairly easy, no hassle return policies which will allow you to purchase a mitt and, if you determine it isn’t right for you, you can return it. Ultimately though you won’t know if the mitt is right for you until you at least try it on. You can usually tell pretty quickly once a mitt goes on your hand if it is “the one”.
As I mentioned before though, there are a lot of things to consider. Likely first and foremost is cost. You can buy a catchers mitt for as little as $30-$40 on up to over $500. I have found that you tend to get what you pay for and there is a BIG difference between the $40 mitt and the $250 mitt. For the elementary-age catchers it probably makes most sense to consider a lower cost mitt since you don’t even know how long they will want to catch and these mitts tend to be smaller and more appropriate for a catcher of this age. For example, I bought my son a >$40 catchers mitt (Mizuno, 31.5in)when he was 8 years old and it lasted him 2 years. He then graduated to a larger mitt (32.5in) Wilson A360 when he was 10 years old that cost about $65. As your catcher continues to advance as well as grow you will want to consider a larger mitt (33-34in) and one that is sturdier. This will cost more but you can count on it likely last for multiple seasons.
As I mentioned, as your cather advances and grows the size of their mitt should grow with them. To provide some context, most professional catchers use catchers mitts that are 33-34.5in (measuring the circumference of the mitt). Once your catcher hits high school they are likely going to do best with a 33-34.5in mitt though some actually prefer the slightly small 32.5in mitt. There are 35in catchers mitts but those are usually reserved for catching knuckle ball pitchers (you want as big a basket as you can find to catch that pitch!).
If your younger catcher has difficulty with “catcher’s thumb” (spraining the thumb as a result of catching the pitch improperly) you may want to consider a more sturdy mitt, one that provides a more solid thumb pad, better quality leather and more substantial internal thumb strap. This happened to my son last year (age 11). He got in a bad habit of turning his mitt the wrong way and caught a ball on the thumb. This resulted in a sprained thumb that limited his catching. One step we took to help prevent future injury was to transition him to an All-Star Pro-Elite 32in mitt (model CM3000). This mitt is a much more substantial mitt with a sturdier design and better pocket plus he can use it for a number of years. Ultimately he will need to learn to receive the ball in the pocket though and get out of his bad habit.
Additional features to consider in choosing your catchers mitt is the general feel on your hand and the weight. When you get to try on your mitt be sure to try it on as if you are in the game. This means if you wear a protective glove or batting glove inside your mitt, have it on when trying on the catchers mitt. Once the catchers mitt is on, try to get a feel for closing the mitt (this may be difficult if with mitts that don’t come partially broken-in). Hold the mitt in your receiving position and move the mitt around as if receiving the pitch. Get a feel for how it sits on your hand, the weight and how the weight of the mitt is balanced.
I am a bit of a mitt collector. I just love catchers mitts and the variety of designs. Here is a list of my mitts:
- Wilson A2K, Pro-Stock Select, M1, 33.5″
- Rawlings, PROCM43BP28, 34″ (Busty Posey)
- Rawlings, RCM30TCB, 34″
- Mizuno, GXC 28, 33.5″
- Mizuno, GXC 58, 34″
- Akadema, Torino Series, ARM43
- Louisville Slugger, PRBN6-CTM1, 32.5″