Baseball is a fun and popular sport that dates back centuries, so much so that it's known as "America's Pastime." Known for its exciting home runs, dives into home plate, and high-speed pitches, baseball has remained a favorite for all ages. It's a timeless game literally, there's not even a game clock, yet it is still action packed. Compared to most other popular sports, there's significantly less contact, but there's still a great deal of equipment to keep players safe and help the game go smoothly. Here's a list of equipment needed to play the game:
A baseball is a sphere made of yarn wrapped tightly around a small, round piece of cork or rubber. The sphere is then covered with two pieces of white leather that are sewn together with red thread. A regulation baseball measures about 3 inches in diameter and weighs about 5 ounces, the perfect size to fit right in your hand. It may be small, but it's densely packed, so getting hit with a baseball will definitely leave a mark. Though the standard baseball can be used by all ages, younger sluggers might start with a softer tee ball to get started.
A baseball bat is a long, specially shaped stick made of wood (ash or maple) or aluminum. Its single purpose is to hit the ball. One end of the bat is the handle, which is thin enough to wrap your hands around. The handle gradually thickens to eventually become the barrel, which is the part of the bat that makes contact with the ball. For younger or recreational players, aluminum bats are usually used. In professional baseball, only wooden bats are allowed. Aluminum bats will produce that "ping" sound when contact is made and are much less likely to break, whereas wooden bats often break during games. Typically, the older the player, the larger the barrel of the bat. Bats are usually around 42 inches long and almost three inches in diameter.
There are four bases that make up the baseball diamond called first, second, third, and home. The first three bases are all the same size; square shaped pads made of hard rubber or canvas measuring 15 inches on each side and about three to five inches thick. Each base is held into the ground by a metal peg. Home plate is a flat, five-sided piece of rubber that measures 17 inches on the bottom, 8.5 on the sides, and 12 inches on the slants and looks just like a small house, hence the name. They're typically placed 90 feet apart from each other in a diamond shape.
The cap is a statement piece in baseball and is oftentimes a part of the team uniform with the logo on the front. It's not just for looks, it's also great at keeping the sun out of a player's eyes and can keep sweat from dripping onto their faces. Though it's often seen in movies and by fans in the stands, in the MLB, it's actually a penalty to catch the ball in your cap. New Era baseball caps became the official cap of the MLB in 1954. You'll see New Era baseball caps on and off the field, as many people wear them for fashion.
Batting cages are where players practice their batting skills with or without a pitcher. You'll see these cages next to fields or at indoor batting cage facilities. Some cages have automated pitching machines that place the ball right where a player wants it or pitchers can stand behind a screen and throw the batter pitches to hit. The batting cage is enclosed by mesh netting and is usually 70 ft long and 12 ft high. This way, the balls stay close and the clean up afterward is much quicker. While it's a helpful tool for players, some people head to the batting cages for fun.
Players need more than just a bat to hit home runs out of the park. Players wear batting gloves on their hands to improve their grip on the bat. They're not required, but can be helpful and prevent blisters. Batting gloves can also help control the vibration and rattling feel that hitting the ball can bring. When on the bases, players can use batting gloves to protect their hands during a slide. It's important that they fit a batter's hands well, or else they won't work as well. They can also be worn for style and can make you look pretty cool at the plate.
You'll see offensive players, whether at-bat or running the bases, wear helmets to protect their heads from being hit with the baseball. These helmets are made of plastic with a foam interior and have an extension (called an earflap) to protect the ear that is facing the pitcher's mound when the player is at-bat. Younger players might have a facemask attachment for extra protection. Helmets weren't required by the MLB until 1971, but it's best for even the most experienced players to wear them to prevent head injuries. A 90 mph fastball straight to the head would not be very pleasant.
This piece of equipment is what keeps the rest of a player's equipment organized during a game. There's a lot of equipment to carry around to play baseball, and it might not all fit in the typical backpack, so many players use a bat bag to help out.
Bat bags come in various shapes in sizes and usually have special pockets to hold bats. You'll often see bat bags hung up on the fence of a dugout so players can easily grab equipment and go to the field. They take up a good amount of space, but make team travel much easier.
This is the part of the uniform that ties everything together. Baseball pants are usually quite snug fitting, but to make sure they stay up, almost all players wear elastic, adjustable belts. They range to fit around a 22 to 42-inch waist and are about one inch in width. They're usually coordinating with the team's color. In the early years of the sport, belts were used solely for decoration. Belts aren't a required piece of equipment, but they're certainly helpful. Between running, sliding and diving, belts make sure pants stay in place.
Practicing baseball skills takes a lot of reps, which means teams go through a lot of balls in any one practice. At any team's baseball practice, you'll find one, if not several buckets of balls ready to be thrown and hit. Not only does the bucket make a great seat for a coach, but in order to run drills, coaches often go through quite a few baseballs. Buckets usually come with 18-30 balls in them. This way, players can have a catch, coaches can hit several balls for players to field, and players can get solid hits in the batting cage all at the same time.
Not only are catchers' gloves different, but catchers also must wear additional equipment to protect themselves from the extremely fast pitches they are constantly receiving. Collectively, the special protective equipment they wear is called "catcher's gear". Catcher's gear includes a catcher's helmet, a padded upper body covering, and knee, shin, and foot guards. A catcher's helmet is similar to a batting helmet, but it has a metal facemask on the front that allows the entire face to be protected. Not every pitch is accurate, so it's important for catchers to protect the front of their body.
Each part of a catcher's body needs protection when facing fastballs behind the plate, especially the chest. A catcher's chest is typically in the strike zone, meaning if he doesn't catch the ball, it would hit him right in the chest. Chest protectors cover from below the neck, all the way down to a players chest, sometimes including some shoulder protection. They're typically made of a foam that softens the blow of a baseball and are easy to take on and off with straps that go around a player's back. They're also usually made with ventilation to keep a catcher cool, since underneath all of his equipment it can get pretty hot for a catcher.
Catchers are involved in the action during every pitch. The strike zone is typically around a catcher's chest and head area. So if a catcher misses the ball, there's a good chance it could hit them in the head or face. To prevent any major head injuries, catchers wear long helmets. They come with metal face masks around the mouth for protection, and have an eye opening just wide enough to see without obstruction. The inside of the helmet is padded with foam for protection and has vents or holes to keep a catcher cool during the action. Catchers helmets are usually easily slipped on and off so that if a catcher needs to catch a foul ball or talk, he can.
Catchers must be fully equipped behind the plate. One of their many pieces of equipment is their leg guards. If a catcher misses a pitch, the leg guards prevent them from getting any leg injuries by bearing the brunt of the hit. These cover from the top of the knee all the way to the top of the foot with hard plastic. They're simple and easy to put on, just cover each leg with the front of the guard and there are straps that hook around the back. Also on the back of leg guards, you'll sometimes find knee saver pads that make crouching a bit more comfortable and take some strain off of a catcher's legs. This is a required piece of equipment used to keep catchers safe.
Certain positions have a special type of glove, like the catcher. This glove is much bigger and has more padding than other gloves, as these features allow a catcher to set up a better target for an incoming pitch and soften the blow. Catching 90 mph fastballs isn't easy, so catchers need as much padding as possible. This padding does make a catcher's hand less flexible for a catcher. Catchers started wearing them in the mid 19th century and other positions followed suit. These mitts can be made for both right and left-handed players and are usually made of leather.
Baseball players always seem to be chewing something, whether it's sunflower seeds or chewing gum. In the early days of the game a lot of players would use dip or chewing tobacco. Some used it to channel nervous energy and others used it to keep busy when there wasn't much action going on. Gum and seeds are much safer alternatives to tobacco and keep the chewing tradition going. Chewing tobacco is also used by players to absorb saliva, so players don't have to go to the bathroom during the game. As a fielder, you can't leave during the middle of an inning or you won't be able to return to the game.
The dirt of the diamond and grass of the outfield can be best navigated with cleats on a player's feet. With spikes on the bottom to dig into the dirt and sand, players can get enough traction to move around the field freely to score runs and make outs. Cleats can also provide a player with foot and ankle support to stay safe during the game. Cleats are usually made of leather and spikes can be made of either metal or molded plastic. Metal cleats are the most efficient, but plastic cleats are a much cheaper and still effective option.
At just about any baseball game, you'll see baseball players chewing and spitting all around the field. Chewing tobacco (AKA dip, chew, or smokeless tobacco) was mostly used in the earlier days of the game also used by players to keep their mouths moist, so that they could spit in their gloves to keep them moist, to channel nervous energy, or to keep busy when there isn't much action going on during the game.
Most MLB stadiums now no longer allow chewing tobacco as it's been linked to several health risks, including cancer. Players now use safer alternatives like chewing gum or sunflower seeds.
This piece of equipment is not as tasty as it sounds, it is a round weight that goes around the barrel of a player's bat. The weight can range from four ounces for younger players to 28 ounces for the heavy hitters. Player's often use it while practicing on deck to give them a heavier feel to the swing. This way, when a player is up to bat, their swing will feel lighter and easier, allowing them to swing the bat quickly and with ease. You might also see players swinging two bats when on deck to give the same effect.
It's typical to see baseball players with two black smudges or lines underneath their eyes during games or practice. This is eye black and is used to keep the sun and glare out of a player's eyes. Baseball season is typically from early spring to mid-fall, meaning players are often playing in direct sunlight, so they need all the help they can get to be able to see. Some players use stickers and some smudge grease on their face. It's not a required piece of equipment, but it can be helpful on a sunny day. It also is a part of the traditional baseball look and can be a cool or intimidating addition to the uniform.
All defensive players use a glove in order to handle and field the ball. A baseball glove is made of leather and sometimes synthetic materials. Unlike regular gloves, all the finger compartments are attached, and it is shaped to allow the player to catch the ball or hold it in place. The finger compartments are much longer and wider than a player's fingers to allow a player to better secure the ball and to make picking the ball off the ground easier. They vary in size depending on the player, there's a glove for everyone. They're typically worn on a player's less dominant hand, as the other hand is used for throwing.
For any fielder, catching the ball is a must, but the first baseman has a huge responsibility by having the first chance to get a runner out. Because of this, first basemen have a glove that is more mitt-like, wider, and with a deeper web. This way, it's easier for them to scoop the ball, catch the ball and keep control. First basemen could get away with using a regular fielder's glove, but a first baseman's mitt will certainly be more effective because of its size. These mitts can be made for both right and left-handed players and are typically made of leather.
When players walk up to the plate and prepare to swing, they've got to make sure the bat will stay firmly in their hands throughout the swing, even when sweat can get in the way, grip tape is what gets the job done. Most bats already come with some grip tape on them, (wooden bats use pine tar) but it can wear down over time. Players can buy polymer grip tape or use athletic tape as a cheaper alternative, either will do the job. Not only is grip tape effective, but with some cool colors, it can add some personality to your bat.
Baseball teams need to stand out from their opponents, the team jersey is an important part of the uniform that helps to do just that. For younger players and those playing recreationally, this might be a t-shirt with your team name on the front and your number on the back. For more competitive or professional teams, this is typically a polyester button up shirt, with your name, team name, logo, and player number. After a couple slides and dives, jerseys will get some new designs in the form of grass and dirt stains. Jerseys are often required in more formal games, but for pickup games whatever you have on should be fine.
Since baseball is usually all men on the field, jockstraps and protective cups are common pieces of equipment during gameplay (ladies use pelvic protectors). Both are used for the comfort and protection of the genital area during gameplay. Jockstraps are elastic bands that go around the waist and a front panel made of a breathable polyester or cotton. Protective cups are curved pieces of hard plastic that can fit inside of jockstraps. Neither of these are required pieces of equipment, but since baseball has a high risk of injury and some contact it's smart for players to take precaution.
Baseball pants are another uniform essential. They're often made of polyester and the same color as the jersey and come down past the calf, but above the ankle. Players can choose to have their hem open or closed, whatever is most comfortable. They're often a neutral color at the beginning of the game, but end up with plenty of grass and dirt stains. Often held up by a belt, baseball pants should fit tight, but still be breathable to allow players to run comfortably. Since the pants bear the brunt of slides and dives, pants usually come with extra fabric around the knee and back end area for support.
In the center of the diamond, one will find a flat piece of rubber atop a mound of dirt. The height of the mound corresponds to the distance between the bases; for every 10 ft that distance goes down, the pitcher's mound must go down two inches. A diamond with bases that are 90 ft apart has a 10-inch mound, one with 80 ft apart has an 8-inch mound and so on. The rubber itself is 24 inches long and is about 60 feet away from home plate (for a 90 ft field).
If the pitcher doesn't show up to practice, if players want to hit rapid-fire balls at a specific spot or just build their confidence at the plate, teams can invest in a pitching machine. There are a few types to consider: wheel style, arm style, and compressed air. Wheel style machines use two wheels set at a certain speed to propel the ball forward and are the most popular. Arm style machines simulate gameplay and deliver the ball in an arm-swinging motion, so the batter can see it coming. Compressed air machines use air pressure to shoot the ball out and don't require electricity, so they can be used just about anywhere.
Baseball players usually wear long, calf or knee-high socks to play ball. Players can use socks to keep their feet nice and dry and add an extra layer of calf protection. There aren't usually any requirements for the kinds of socks players wear, but they are typically long and match the team uniform in color. It's been said that players began showing their socks to show off their calves and impress the ladies in the crowd. Though they aren't required, socks (white, red, or any color) are important enough to be incorporated in the name of two different MLB teams.
Baseball pants might cover a players legs, but don't necessarily provide protection that players need when hitting the ground to slide in safely or make the diving catch. That's where sliding shorts come in. Underneath baseball pants, players often wear these shorts that have padding on the thigh and rear end area to protect against bruising. They're most often form-fitted and made of moisture-wicking material to take care of any sweat. These aren't a required piece of equipment, but might save a player a few injuries and break some of those falls, you can never be too safe!
At just about any baseball game, you'll see baseball players chewing and spitting all around the field. Back in the day, players would use chew or dip AKA smokeless tobacco to keep their mouths moist in the field, then use their spit to keep their gloves moist, to channel nervous energy, or to keep busy when there wasn't much action going on. It's now banned in over half of the MLB baseball stadiums and mostly frowned upon for its health risks. Instead, players opt for a healthier way to keep their mouths moist in the field, sunflower seeds! They've now become a traditional part of the game for players and fans. Whether they're in the dugout or on the field, you'll definitely be seeing sunflower seeds at a baseball game.
The baseball season usually begins in the spring and ends in the fall, players often play during the day and games are usually canceled when it rains, meaning players are subject to a lot of sunlight when on the field. There are a lot of methods used by baseball players to avoid the sun and using sunglasses is one of the most common. This is another unofficial part of the uniform. It helps players keep their eye on the ball on sunny days, so that they can make plays. They're often form fitting to the face so they don't fall off. They also typically protect from UV rays to keep a player safe.
Underneath the jersey, players usually also wear a tighter fitting undershirt. Undershirts aren't a required part of the uniform, but are quite popular and often seen during games at all levels. Most leagues require undershirts to be a neutral color so as not to distract from the jersey. Long-sleeved undershirts can help keep players warm for games played in colder weather and short-sleeved undershirts are preferred in warmer weather. Compression undershirts can provide extra support for muscles and wick sweat during games, but undershirts can also be as simple as a cotton t-shirt. They're also often worn by themselves in practice.
It's time to get suited up. The baseball uniform is an important and iconic part of the game. Many of these pieces of equipment are helpful during gameplay; some help to prevent injury and some simply help a team look unified on the field. Not every single piece of equipment is required, but here's a full list of what a baseball player might wear as a part of his uniform: