Direct and simple answer – catchers don’t use gloves. Catcher’s use mitts designed specifically for their unique position in the field.
However, first basemen also can use a mitt – but they are different from a catcher’s mitt.
Alright, now that your burning question is out of the way – let’s dive deeper. You should know that only catchers and first basemen are allowed to wear mitts.
If you’re in any other position, you can’t wear a mitt even if you want to – it’s prohibited.
Plus, a mitt gives a catcher the advantage that a glove simply wouldn’t. Apart from being a rule and norm, there are benefits to wearing a mitt over a glove when you’re in the back of the diamond.
Mitts are only necessary when things get serious, though. For instance, tee-ball leaguers don’t need a catcher’s mitt – a glove would do just fine.
Also, if you’re having a fun family-and-friends weekend with slow-pitch softball, you don’t need a catcher’s mitt.
Now, why do catchers use a mitt? What are the benefits? What do you stand to lose if you assume a catcher’s position without a mitt? Let’s find out.
What Is the Difference Between a Mitt and a Glove?
Primary difference –
Gloves have fingers – mitts don’t. That’s the basics. This one difference aside, mitts are naturally way larger than gloves. Usually, the biggest glove you’ll find is donned by outfielders. And the size is around 14-15 inches – that’s the maximum.
However, a catcher’s mitt – even the ones used by little leaguers – are around 30-32 inches. So, as you can see, the difference is clear as daylight.
The webbing is a tad bit different as well. Most infielders and outfielders prefer H- or I-web for better visibility. But catchers usually go for closed webbing.
And finally, the padding is different. Mitts have more padding than gloves because catchers have to stop more balls than any other player on the field. So, they need more padding to
A) scoop groundballs up quickly
B) pocket flyballs with ease,
C) keep their hands safe from constant fastball impacts.
Still, these are just preliminary information. If you want a top-shelf catcher’s mitt to take your game up a notch, you have to think way beyond size, webbing, and padding.
Do Catchers Have to Use a Catcher’s Mitt?
The answer – yes. Apart from slow-pitch softball and tee-ball games, all catchers – fastpitch and baseball – need to wear mitts. Plus, they need to use a distinctive kind of mitts compared to the first base position.
They lack distinct fingers, like mittens, hence the nickname – “mitts.” These mitts are great at controlling balls that do not land in the pocket. Due to the absence of distinct fingers, catcher mitts help you out to scoop ground balls and catch the balls that are bouncing on the ground in short height.
Compared to the first base mitts, catchers’ mitts need to be bigger because the catchers sometimes need to catch the Knuckleballs (a pitch thrown to reduce the ball’s spin in flight). In most cases, the motion and the directions of the knuckleballs are not predictable, this is why most of the catchers use a bigger mitt than the first pitch players.
Usually, catchers’ mitts are made with extra protective padding (unlike first base mitts). The shape of a mitt resembles a crab’s claws. This claw-ish shape enables the catchers to draw the fastball into the pocket of the mitt.
Do Catchers Under 12 Years Need Mitts?
There’s a lot of confusion about whether a 12-year-old needs mitts or not. I hear this a lot when new parents talk to me about equipment shopping. The thing is – it’s not really necessary for a champ under 12-year-old to wear a catcher’s mitt. They can play the game with a glove as well.
The general rule for using the mitts only applies to senior players – usually, players over 12 years old. But adolescent players (under 12 years old) are exempted from this rule. Players who range from 5 to 12 years old play with gloves in different positions as well.
That’s why their gloves are made mostly for general purposes, which enables them to play in any position. Although even adolescent players from 5 to 12 years old can choose mitts to play in the catcher and first base positions, basically there’s no restriction if they do so!
Still, I recommend my youth players to get a youth catcher’s mitt. Why? Because the earlier you start, the faster you get used to a catcher’s mitt, and the better you perform. If you check some 12-year-old drills, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Do Catchers Wear Gloves Under Their Mitts?
You should know that catcher’s mitts have finger-edge padding. Now, if you switch to first base mitts, the story is different. The padding is way lighter, and any padding around the finger area is non-existent.
The extra padding of a catcher’s mitt is there to protect the catcher. Players in this position are prone to getting sore hands or palm injuries because of receiving constant fastballs. So, some catchers – not all of them – wear a glove under their mitts to add an extra layer of protection.
You can do it as well if you feel like the padding on your mitt isn’t enough. However, get a feel for the catcher mitt you’re wearing first. See if the fastball impact is causing you discomfort after a few rounds. If that’s the case, you can wear a glove under your mitt. But, you need to get the hang of using two gears – a glove and a mitt – or else you won’t be able to perform at your desired level.
Plus, the thick padding is visible from the mound. A catcher often directs the pitcher, telling him/her where to pitch next. So, it’s easy for the pitcher to read the signs and adjust his/her pitch accordingly.
On the other hand, first base mitts have less thick padding than the first base players. These mitts are lighter and can eventually feel like more of an extension of your hand than a dedicated catcher’s mitt because they don’t have the finger edge padding. Some players are extra cautious about protecting their hands, they use batting gloves under their mitts to keep the impact to a minimum.
A Quick Recommendation for Catchers
For quite some time, I’ve been involved in softball and baseball, both as a player and currently as a coach. And I’m fairly adept at navigating the mystery of choosing good-quality catchers mitts and gloves. So, if all this information has got you thinking, you can have a look at the recommendations I have here.
Wilson A2000 Fastpitch Catchers Mitt
When it comes to selecting gloves or mitts, the name Wilson has probably come your way over and over. Honestly, Wilson is a brand that I fell in love with throughout my junior level playing career and continue to enjoy as a coach because of its cutting-edge design, comfort, and durability.
This glove series was designed by one of the world’s most experienced glove and mitt designers, the legendary Shigeaki Aso. With his solid forty+ years of designing gloves and mitts, he knew exactly what the players needed.
This fantastic catcher’s mitt is a little bit more expensive than other catcher’s mitts on the market when it comes to price. The price point is a bit high, but it’s a top contender for being the best fastpitch catcher’s mitt.
And you get what you pay for in the end! When it comes to purchasing catcher’s mitts, it is always a good idea, in my opinion, to invest a little more money.
Wilson is known for producing high-quality gloves and mitts for the most serious players. This wonderful Wilson A2000 SuperSkin fastpitch softball catcher’s mitt is no exception. Plus, this is designed for the most serious players who aspire to pursue a career in the game.
SuperSkin is a microfiber material that is half the weight of Pro Stock leather while being twice as durable. The glove’s moisture-resistant construction lasts longer and is easier to clean than regular leather. This material will withstand hot, humid conditions and breaks in at a decent pace compared to older Wilson gloves.
Another great feature of this mitt is its flat finger binding option. This option enables you – the player – who likes to play with one finger outside the glove to have more comfort and control. You can save time by minimizing the distance between your finger and the back of the glove.
It also comes with Wilson’s Custom Fit System, which allows for a quicker break-in time and a comfortable, snug fit with no wrinkling. So, it’s a complete bang but the buck you dish out is high. Still, the overall performance, the sheer quality, and the cheers you’ll get by using this mitt more than makes up for it.
Rawlings Player Preferred Catchers’ Mitts
Rawlings has had a very good reputation for making great gloves and mitts for over a century now. Their long history of producing gloves and mitts has given them ample experience to create extremely dependable items.
If you’re on a tight budget but still want a good pair of mitts, walk into the realm of Rawlings. This brand will give you the most value for your money if you are a beginner. And even if you are a pro player, you can still buy a Rawlings Player Preferred mitt as an additional mitt on your shelf.
Compared to the Wilson A2000, the Player Preferred doesn’t take long to break in. After all, the leather in this mitt isn’t as thick or anywhere near as premium as the A2000. So, there’s both an upside (low break-in time) and a downside (poor padding) to it.
The one really good thing about this mitt is that it has a great pocket. The size of the pocket can help you snag the balls easily without putting in a ton of effort. There is less chance for the ball to just pop off your mitt.
Most budget gloves/mitts don’t have enough room for thumbs and little fingers. However, the Player Preferred should accommodate all these fingers nicely. I’ve tried it out and my hands never felt any pressure or discomfort.
However, the Player Preferred is a casual mitt. You can’t expect top-notch performance from a catcher’s mitt that’s clearly meant for weekend warriors. That’s why I call it the king of utility gloves. If you check it out, you’ll see that the Player Preferred series has a glove/mitt for all positions available in different sizes. That’s what makes this mitt a dream come true for budget buyers.
With All Said and Done
It is particularly challenging for the players to play in positions like catcher or first base. After giving this article a read, I hope you understand why catchers and first basemen need to wear mitts instead of gloves.
I’ve seen a lot of games where the tides were turned thanks to the exceptional performance of the catcher and first baseman.
People often get confused about what mitt to get or what glove will be perfect for them. Well, there’s no right answer here. It’s not black and white – rather the area is completely grey. A great catcher’s mitt may feel awkward when you wear it. So, know how to size your fastpitch glove and make sure you buy something that fits you and your playing style.
Remember, it is not enough to simply purchase high-quality and comfortable sporting equipment to be a terrific player on the field. You must also devote a significant amount of time to practice to achieve your ambition of becoming a great catcher /fielder.
I’m not arguing that equipment isn’t vital. But practicing with improper equipment can cause a lot of damage, especially in the early stages of your sports career. And any mistake you sustain early in your career may follow you throughout your life.
So, put in a lot of practice time using the best mitts for you and let your sporting career shine brighter. Cheers!