Best Fastpitch Softball Catchers Gear – Sets / Chest Protectors / Legs / Masks (Updated: 2021)
The catcher…arguably the most intriguing positions in all of sports! And with all of this intrigue also comes quite a bit of difficulty when trying the find the best fastpitch softball catchers gear.
Not only do you need equipment that fully protects you, but in order to be at your best, it should also allow for mobility, and a sense of security.
And who wouldn’t want to play at their best?
So whether you are competitive, just learning the position, we feel the recommendations below will make you better. Note: Equipment recommendations you will read below have now been updated for the 2021 season!
Best Softball Catchers Gear Sets
Looking for the best full sets of fastpitch catchers equipment at the moment? Here we present the top options: All Star Vela, Easton Prowess, Under Armour Victory, and Mizuno Samurai. The nice thing about full sets of gear is that in most cases you should receive a discount when making a purchase.
1- Easton The Fundamental by Jen Schro
I’m sure most of you reading this blog have heard of Jenn Schroeder (or Jenn Schro for short). She is one of the top instructors in the world of softball with a primary focus on catchers. You can read more about her on her website – but in short – she is one of the most accomplished softball trainers and works with some of the best softball players in the world.
Just with Jen Schro’s backing, I feel confident that Easton The Fundamental would be the top choice in fastpitch catchers gear for 2021. This set comes in Small, Medium, and Large sizes and therefore is great for any age group.
So what is included?
The best feature in my opinion would be the Fundamental chest protector within this set. One of the main reasons for this is how it provides catchers with their own custom fit with its four strap system. Back in the days when I used to catch, I found the equipment to be rather bulky and the chest protector was often my biggest hindrance. In addition, the Fundamental chest protector is designed to better protect the neck and collarbone areas.
The next feature to overview is the Fundamental leg guards which are tough and durable as you’d expect. Both better knee shape and shin coverage have been applied to the leg guards so they are able to wrap around to provide better coverage and more comfort. Speaking of coverage and protection, the leg guards also have a breathable liner included so that you can keep as cool as possible – especially crouched down in the hot sun!
The final piece to the puzzle is the helmet which has been constructed using high protective ABS plastic for increased durability. It uses a steel cage system to ensure your face area is always protected from foul balls or any other dangers. Another nice feature is that the Fundamental helmet uses a sleek glossy paint that looks fantastic and extremely professional.
Overall, the Fundamental Jen Schro is a great choice backed by one of the top names in the industry.
2- All Star Vela
When people talk of catcher’s gear, some brands are normally known a little more than other brands.
All Star is one of those brands and is one of the more actively searched year after year. We believe that the All-Star Vela Pro series is a perfect set for advanced & competitive catchers. At a reasonable price point, this gear has quite a bit to like!
The MVP2500 helmet that comes with this set is top of the line and should keep your head protected in all the right spots. It is built using an forward-thinking design and uses high impact resistant ABS plastic to ensure your noggin is kept safe. In addition, for another layer of safety, the back panel has been better designed to ensure that straps are always fastened in place.
Next comes the chest protector, which is built from the famous All Star System 7 series. What is nice about this chest protector is that it has been designed to be a bit narrow in the shoulder area to fit the female player a bit better. In addition, the narrower shoulder area provides the catcher with increased mobility and therefore better coverage. Within the chest protector itself, specific high protective plates have been placed into the more prone areas (i.e. throat, collar bone and chest).
The last piece of the Vela set is the System 7 leg guards. The best features of these leg guards are their versatility. Some catchers like to wear shorts, especially when the weather gets warmer. Using the DeltaFlex harness allows for this as the straps do not dig in like they normally would. In addition, the leg guards should provide excellent mobility.
Overall, this is a great set worthy of any fastpitch player.
3- Under Armour Victory Series – Best Youth Fastpitch Gear
The next set of gear comes from another popular line. You’ve probably seen the “Protect this House” line made by Under Armour…well this is the version for fastpitch catchers. In my opinion, this is the best youth fastpitch catchers gear set available.
Under Armour is often regarded as one of the top equipment producers as they put in a ton of effort into research, and design to hopefully create more innovative and better products. We think any catcher would enjoy wearing the Victory Series.
The Victory Series chest protector looks to be a true winner. One of the main things it should do well is the ability to deaden softballs on impact. So if you’ve got a little bit of a wilder pitcher on the mound, this should help keep passed balls from occurring as much. There are four different points where adjustment can occur providing you with a nice and snug fit. In addition, Under Armour has augmented this further by providing catchers with two light adjustable shoulder extensions specifically made for female players.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at the helmet included in the picture above, it just looks high quality and polished. In addition to looking nice, it should be sturdy as well as it too contains high impact ABS plastic allowing it to take more punishment (although we hope that does not happen). The helmet also included advanced cleaning features so the lining around the chin and head area do not stink so easily.
The last piece in this set is the double knee designed leg guards. According to the specification list, these professionally designed leg guards also contain high impact plastic including really thick pieces in the high usage areas. Within the knee area, and extra gel pad has also been provided to provide even better impact protection.
Overall the Victory series is a great middle to high end set and should be on your radar as well – especially for youth players.
4- Mizuno Samurai
One of the most popular sets for 2021 is the Mizuno Samurai fastpitch series which is available in Adult, and Intermediate sizes.
- Chest protector: shaped to specifically fit a woman’s body, the Samurai G4 uses many advanced level features including reduced rebound technology to keep blocked balls closer to your body. With a newer design, Mizuno has reduced the weight of the previous version even further allowing you to remain mobile and always in control. With a personalized neck pad, this chest protector has even more bells & whistles than ever before.
- Leg guards: the top feature of the leg/shin guards is the new K-Pad that has been added to the knee area. This patented product can be removed if desired but provides a much better fit surrounding the knee area. For even more quality, the leg guards feature stainless steel clamps to avoid any sort of breaking in the near future.
- Helmet: With 3 levels of high quality EVA foam surrounding your head at all times, you can rest assured you will be safe. Another item that makes the helmet so advanced is its ability to ventilate and keep the catcher comfortable at all times. After all nothing is worse than a humid day with your head stuck inside a mask!
Best Softball Chest Protectors
Nothing completes a softball catcher’s arsenal better than a nice sturdy chest protector. The chest protector is one of the most recognized pieces of equipment across any sport and serves a very important purpose. I couldn’t imagine how bad it would hurt to be hit by a foul ball squarely in the chest. In fact for some, it could be fatal especially if it hits around the heart area. Some keys for finding the right chest protector include:
Always make sure to find a chest protector that fits around your full body. This is especially important in women’s softball as there can be many different body sizes and shapes.
Just like a hockey goaltender, a catcher could equip themselves with the bulkiest chest protector possible and be fully protected. But if you can’t move, you are hurting your ability to play at a high level.
Many chest protectors today come with numerous layers of protection throughout the entire chest protector. Make sure you avoid wearing gear that feels flimsy and worn out.
5- Easton Jen Schro
The Easton Jen Schro chest protector is probably your best bet when it comes to chest protection. For one it is already very popular based on the reviews that have come in from others, and secondly it comes from a great brand known for the strong catchers gear they produce.
We discussed this line of gear earlier on the page, but Jen Schro is considered one of the premier catching instructors in the softball world. The equipment with her name of it uses her input so you can feel confident in the product.
So what makes the Jen Schro itself a better option that say some of the others? Here are a few reasons:
- Female specific fit – the Jen Schro chest protector features a female specific silhouette design unlike some of the other models you’ll find (or possibly have used). This specific design matches a females body and therefore provides a better fit and more importantly gives more protection.
- Better fit – As you can see in the image, the Jen Schro comes equipped with a couple of side clips making it easier to adjust. These clips also allow the catcher to remove their chest protector with more ease. Instead of having to loosen the straps and pull it over your shoulders, all you need to do is release the clip on each side which should provide ample space to slip out.
- Better rebound control – Another neat aspect (which you can see in the photo) is the ab area. It uses a sort of grip surface pointed a bit downward which reduces ball spin should your pitcher be a bit wild. This reduces the chance for the ball to escape and keep runners on their bases.
6- Mizuno Samurai Chest Protector
The Mizuno Samurai series has been around for a while and offers a nice option for those looking to spend a little less money than the Jen Schro described earlier. Although it does not include as many advanced features there is still a lot to like about this model and I would venture to say it would be perfect for most levels of catchers. It’s main features include:
- Designed to meet a woman’s needs – in other words instead of being designed for the male body, the Samurai conforms perfectly to female players. This provides more protection and also a better fit.
- Choice of eleven different color combinations perfect for any team
- Lightweight – A big bulky piece of equipment is no fun. In the chance you need to run around, having a nice light weight piece of gear can make the difference between helping your team or helping the other team get out of their jam.
- Custom fit and personalization – The wings attached to the Samurai chest protector can be removed and along with the three different adjustment levels that can be made to the back, a nice custom fit should be achieved for any catcher. In addition, a name plate is provided on the back to allow a catcher to personalize their equipment.
Best Leg Guards
You can’t underestimate the value of a proper fitting set of leg guards when playing the position of softball catcher. Although most people will think of soccer first when they think of leg guards, it should go without saying that a softball catcher can use them in the exact same way. The shin area is one of the most critical as the catcher sits in a prone and uncomfortable position which in turn leaves the shin area exposed. Leg guards protect the catcher from runners sliding into home, and from passed balls or foul tips.
When purchasing a set of leg guards, one should look for the following features:
- Protection: Finding a set of leg guards that offer full leg protection is key. Many often do not protect the entire knee area which is why some top companies use a triple knee protection design.
- Mobility: Let’s face it, every once and a while a catcher needs to move and run around. The best set of shin guards leave the catcher not even noticing them while running.
- Comfort: Sitting in the catcher stance for long periods of time can cause lots of strain. Leg guards that offer further padding to assist in the area of comfort are best.
7- Mizuno Samurai (Great choice for Youth)
Whether you play for fun, or play to win, the equipment you wear can certainly be a factor for whether your team wins or loses. If you have ever had to use hand me down or older equipment in the past, you probably know how uncomfortable it can be to try to move. Although you don’t always think of a catcher as being the most mobile of positions, it certainly can make the position difficult when you have little to no mobility and are unable to help your team.
The Mizuno Samurai G3 fastpitch series leg guards are designed specifically with women in mind and provide comfort, performance and durability in an easy to wear package. The main features include:
- Triple knee cup – The triple knee cup included should provide a great amount of protection. The design promises to provide more flexibility so that even when you are in the crouch position, you can feel safe from any sort of liner or impact to the knee area
- Choice of seven different colors to match any team
- Patented K-PAD – Another great feature in terms of protection is Mizuno’s own patented removable K-PAD. Resting on the inside right against your knee it promises to provide a more snug and comfortable fit while still keeping the entire knee safe.
- More protection along the shin – in some cases leg guards do a great job at protecting the knee area but can sometimes leave the shin a little vulnerable. The Samurai G3 series has really thought bout everything and has added more along the shin so that you do not need to worry about any foul balls hurting that area.
8- Easton Jen Schro
Regardless of whether you are new to fastpitch, or you have been playing for quite some time now, odds are you need some form of leg guards that can provide the protection you require, without constricting your movement.
Designed to provide the protection you need, without emptying your wallet, the Easton Jen Schro series provides all that and more for advanced catchers (i.e. competitive level). Easton calls this series “the VERY best“, and there are many catchers who believe that is the case!
The main benefits listed with these leg guards include:
- Choice of nine colors to match your team
- Better protection and mobility as the leg guards have been designed to provide a better wrap around the shin and knee areas
- Additional padding to provide better support
- Uses brand new Inner Knee Padding Plus which protects the catcher from injury and pain when in the blocking position or when they are directly on their knees
Available in one of nine popular team colors, this model comes equipped with an armor riveted shin plate design that ensures this model will stand up to whatever you can throw at them.
It features a lightweight shin, knee and toe plate that is designed specifically to protect you from ball impacts. This model also comes equipped with a soft cushion foam lining designed to keep you comfortable no matter how long the game may go on for. These guards are designed for movement, ensuring you are able to move quick enough to make nearly any play that comes your way.
Best Catchers Masks
If you are thinking of stepping behind the plate to play the position of catcher then you must have a strong and durable helmet. You can go a little less expensive in some of the other areas, but I do not recommend leaving your head vulnerable.
With fast ball speeds (especially in fastpitch softball) there is a great risk of substantial injury to the head area by both passed balls and with foul tips. With concussions so prevalent in today’s world, it is crucial to select a helmet (or mask) that will keep your head protected at all times.
When thinking about picking up a brand new mask one should consider and look for the following:
Ensure that the helmet you choose provides a sufficient amount of protection. Many standards exist which leagues follow so be sure to check the regulations required by your league.
A clear field vision is critical to the catcher position so that they can see everything around them. Having a helmet that sits directly in the eye sight can cause issues playing the position.
Carrying extra weight on top of the neck can cause many strains. Ensure that the mask is light enough so that you don’t feel a strain in your neck.
9- Schutt 2966 Air Maxx
If you prefer a more traditional style of catcher’s helmet designed specifically to fit players of all ages then look no further than the Schutt 2966 Air Maxx. Available for purchase in 24 different colors, this model features a traditional hockey mask design with an outer shell that is made entirely from the same technology Schutt uses for their football helmets.
You’ve more than likely heard about all of the concussion issues in football. Schutt has been on the forefront of making improvements in the youth football area to provide better protection.
The main features of the Schutt Air Max are:
- Choice of 24 popular colors
- NOCSAE approved – honestly I could tell you how well this helmet will keep your protected but just knowing that it is NOCSAE approved should make you feel comfortable.
- Ventilation system – one of the worst feelings as a catcher is being sweaty and not being able to do anything about it. Although no helmet can keep you sweat free, there are many that have systems in place to make you feel fresher by bringing cooler air inside your helmet and taking the bad air out. The Air Maxx includes one of the more advanced systems to get as much air in as possible.
- Better field vision – As a catcher – being able to see the entire field is EXTREMELY important. Acting as a second manager on the field, it is important for the catcher to know what runners are doing and various defensive sets. The Schutt Air Maxx provides catchers with a nice full vision of the entire field to make it easier to play at your best.
10- Mizuno G4 Samurai
We’ve already shown off the Mizuno Samuari series a few times on this page, and we believe for good reason. This Samurai G4 helmet contains many features to help make you a better catcher while all the while keeping you protected. This gear is one of the more popular options available to catchers.
Some of the main features and benefits you can receive include:
- Comfort – like the Schutt Air Maxx described earlier, the Samurai G4 helmet should provide all catchers with a nice snug fit. Although some catchers prefer loose helmets, the large majority want it to feel almost like a facemask in that it conforms directly to your head area. When you have a nice fitting helmet, you’ll be able to make plays easier and hopefully not notice it as much when you have to run or crouch during that long at bat.
- High level of protection – The outer shell of this mask is built with high strength plastic which should be able to withstand any sort of impact. Although I certainly hope you don’t end up taking a foul ball to the head, if it does happen you should feel quite confident that the only issue you’ll have when wearing the Fastpitch series is slight nervousness. In other words, your head will still be protected by the mask. Plus it meets NOCSAE standards, and they wouldn’t stamp their name on just any mask.
- Air circulation – The Samurai G4 series also features carefully place vents throughout the helmet which helps in managing sweat and moisture. The last thing you want as a catcher is your sweat dripping all down your face and into your eyes as it would effect your game immensely.
- Field view – Another item to look for in a helmet is one that provides a good view of the entire field. Let’s face it…a mask will never provide you with the same view as you’d have without it. However, many models like the Mizuno Samurai series have made it easier to see as much of the field as possible so you can make all the plays you need.
Isn’t all gear the same?
One of the more asked questions I hear is “isn’t all of the gear the same”? Although each set you’ll see will look shiny and new, i’ve learned there is quite a bit to research involved when looking into this particular equipment.
If you think about it, there is no one else on the entire field that has to wear this much gear so it better be comfortable. Catching is probably the most dangerous position on the field as well as they’ll be involved in just about every play and receive the ball the most.
Sitting right behind the batter I could not even begin to imagine how nervous I would be if I took a liner right off my mask, chest, or knee. So although it may be quite a pain, it certainly is worth the effort to find the right equipment to keep you fully protected, comfortable, while still allowing you as much mobility as possible so you can do your job.
Final Thoughts on the Best Fastpitch Softball Catchers Gear
I hope that you have enjoyed my overviews of the different softball catchers equipment choices that are available. As alluded too earlier, this position can be tricky to find the right gear for but the main things to keep in mind are protection, comfort, and mobility. We believe that any of the choices on this page will provide all of that and more.