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Over the last decade, the popularity of protective gear in baseball has grown exponentially. We at Red Seam Planet are big fans of all the companies producing high-quality protective gear and keeping players where they belong… on the field.
It used to be rare to see a hitter wearing an elbow guard, but now as the popularity has grown, it is common to see the majority of hitters wearing some type of additional gear. From the big leagues to little leagues, protective hitting gear such as elbow guards, hand guards, and shin guards can prevent season-ending or even career-ending injuries.
In this article, we will focus on the different types of protective gear that hitters can elect to wear. We’ll break down the use case, why we are advocates, and some of our personal favorites.
Types of Protective Gear
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was not that common to see any type of additional gear on MLB hitters. With the exception of Barry Bond’s clunky elbow guard and the occasional leg guard, players usually didn’t wear anything besides batting gloves and a helmet. Some old-school “tough guys” may argue all the gear now is unnecessary, but we have a different argument. Ego aside, a player can’t help their team if they get hit by a pitch and break their hand. So taking every measure possible to ensure a player can stay in the lineup is ultimately in the best interest of the team.
A hitter is going to get hit in the elbow with a pitch at some point in their career, it’s inevitable. Many hitters will get hit in the elbow multiple times in a season. This can lead to painful injuries including broken bones, ending a player’s season. Additionally, an elbow guard can give a player more confidence to not give up on inside pitches, and eliminate the fear of being hit by the pitch.
Luckily, elbow guards now come in a variety of sizes and shapes so almost every player can find something that is comfortable and does not impact their range of motion.
Leg guards are not used as much to protect against pitches, but rather to protect a hitter from fouling off a ball into their leg.
Depending on stance and swing mechanics, some hitters are prone to fouling pitches off of their front shin and ankle. We recommend leg guards to hitters that regularly do this, as it can prevent injuries and overall discomfort.
While leg guards are very streamlined and lightweight, they can still add some extra bulk, so if a hitter doesn’t feel comfortable with it and isn’t prone to fouling pitches off of their shin, we think it’s okay to skip on this one.
Hand guards are the most recent piece of protective hitting gear that has gained popularity as of late. We really encourage hitters to use these as hand injuries from getting hit by a pitch is one of the most common injuries in baseball. The hands have so many small and fragile bones that taking a pitch to the hand can really be detrimental.
In the last several years, face shields have exploded in popularity. Some of the biggest names in baseball wear them every game. Long gone are the days of obstructive and heavy face shields for batting helmets. Shields now are lightweight and don’t hinder the field of vision of a hitter.
This is a product we recommend to every hitter at every level for two reasons. The first reason is the obvious one, injury prevention. Hitters getting hit in the face with a pitch is one of the scariest and most dangerous things that unfortunately happens in baseball. A face shield can prevent this. The second reason- it can actually help a hitter’s confidence. Having a face shield can give a hitter the confidence to stay in the box on inside fastballs and not be too quick to give up on a pitch in an effort to shield themselves. It is not necessarily being scared of the ball, but a subconscious reaction to avoid getting hit in the face.
Sliding mitts are not used for hitting, but still worth mentioning in this conversation. Sliding mitts are used by baserunners after they reach base. It is essentially a streamlined mitten with protective plates and padding. The purpose is to protect a baserunner’s fingers when sliding into bases, which is a common way players get injured. Players that use sliding mitts will usually store them in their back pocket while hitting and then quickly put them on once they reach base.
Why use Protective Gear?
With companies like EvoShield and G-Form, protective gear is functional, lightweight, and can even look cool. Many baseball injuries that come from being hit by a pitch could have been prevented by some piece of protective gear. Now we understand it may not feel comfortable at first and can take some time to get used to, but it could ultimately save a hitter’s season or career. Any player that is out with a season-ending injury that could have been prevented, will surely regret not wearing something. A hitter’s playing days are precious and whether it’s being there for your team, or being in the lineup the day a scout is there to watch, staying healthy is a must to maximize playing time and opportunities.
Where to Purchase Protective Gear
Our favorite and recommended brand for protective baseball gear is EvoShield. EvoShield really set a new standard in style and functionality in baseball gear. They are constantly innovating and creating new gear to better serve baseball players.