Can Softball Pitchers Wear Sunglasses? (Quick Read)

Weather is one of the biggest factors when it comes to a softball game. This is especially true on hot sunny days for those that have sensitivity to light.

Infielders and outfielders can wear sunglasses, but what about pitchers?

Can Softball Pitchers wear Sunglasses? In most softball leagues pitchers can wear sunglasses. There are no stipulations in any the major rule books to prevent their use. There are stipulations however – especially for sunglasses with reflective surfaces. It is up to the umpire for the game to judge whether or not the sunglasses worn by the pitcher are permitted.

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The general unwritten rule in softball is that pitchers can wear sunglasses while on the mound. When playing, the sunglasses cannot distract the batter or the umpire. But, if the glasses give off any glare that distracts the batter or the umpire then the umpire will likely ask the pitcher to remove them.

Sunglasses that Cause Issues

As there is no official rule with respect to sunglasses and pitchers – there is still the question around what a pitcher can do to help with glare and poor visibility from the sun.

While it’s legal for pitchers to wear sunglasses, many avoid it even if they have issues with sun glare.

The issue with sunglasses predominately comes into play when a pitcher uses darker sunglasses that are reflective or polarized. We’ve mentioned this many times in this blog, but softball can be a game of inches. The reflective or polarized glass can cause a hitter or umpire to have a slight distraction in visibility therefore providing an advantage to the pitcher.

For the pitchers who wear glasses, they typically elect to wear clear sunglasses as opposed to dark ones. The clear glasses also help with keeping wind and debris out of their eyes.

Because of the grey area involved, many softball pitchers simply don’t wear sunglasses even if they have visibility issues. They simply don’t want to potentially cause a game stoppage and have an umpire ask them to remove their glasses. Some pitchers get into a groove or rhythm and any sort of stoppage or game slow down may cause them to falter and lose their timing.

Similar to Uniforms

The issue with sunglasses is similar to the rules that exist for softball uniforms.

Although pitchers are allowed to wear sunglasses, they cannot wear clothing that is the same color as the ball – especially on their arms. The color will blend with the ball and make it harder for the batter to determine when the pitcher has thrown it. This rule applies in baseball, too, as pitchers cannot wear white or gray sleeves that could camouflage the ball.

Completely Up to the Umpire

Umpires and tournament managers have the final say regarding competitive edges during the game. Umpires work to keep the game fair for everyone involved, and they could ask players to change their eyewear or other gear to keep the game fair.

Whether or not the umpire allows the sunglasses to be worn is ultimately up to them. There are plenty of instances where they could be deemed distracting for the other team, leading to the opposing coach bringing it to the umpire’s attention.

Example Situation

For example, let’s say that there is a 10u softball game going on and the pitcher is absolutely dealing out on the mound. She has begun the game with six straight strikeouts to the first six opposing hitters. The players start to get frustrated, wondering why everyone is striking out and struggling so much against this pitcher.

Suddenly, a player notices the sun reflecting off the pitcher’s sunglasses shining toward the batters.

She brings the situation to her coach’s attention. He lets a few more at bats go by so he can see for himself. Once he realizes that the sunglasses could be making it difficult for his batters to see the ball, he approaches the umpire to tell the pitcher to remove them.

In this case, the umpire can take two different approaches:

  1. He can tell the pitcher to remove them because he agrees that the sunglasses may be the true reason behind the plethora of strikeouts.
  2. He can tell the coach that the sunglasses are not the problem here and that she is simply just pitching a great game.

The coaches and players can only plead their case to the umpire so much, but at the end of the day, it is all up to the umpire. They’re the ones controlling the game, so if they don‘t determine the sunglasses as being distracting, the coaches and players will argue for nothing.

Why do many pitchers not use sunglasses

As mentioned earlier on, pitchers are allowed to wear sunglasses.

However, that does not mean that pitchers prefer to wear them. It’s not really to their advantage to wear them. Some could see it as a disadvantage even for the pitcher to wear them.

With that being said, there are many reasons why pitchers choose to not wear sunglasses.

They can get in the way

Teams often have visors to block the sun, and sunglasses can be a nuisance, especially for pitchers who move significantly when they throw the ball.

The last thing a pitcher wants to worry about is having to adjust their glasses with every pitch. They should have focus on getting the hitter out and not their gear.

Night Games

Many softball games are played at night, making sunglasses useless in these situations.

Sun Direction

Even if a game is played during the day, the pitcher is never looking directly at the sun. Occasionally, there may be a pop fly hit near them in the infield, but even then, the infielders should make those plays and not the pitcher.

On top of all of this, many pitchers feel that sunglasses actually affect their visual depth perception in a negative way. Anything that affects the pitcher’s vision creates a disadvantage for them. Pitchers must be able to clearly see the catcher’s signs and their target.

Positions who benefit most from Sunglasses

Sunglasses are most helpful to outfielders since the majority of pop flies are hit in the outfield.

Trying to catch a towering fly ball with the sun beaming down on you can be a scary feeling for an outfielder, so sunglasses are definitely the most beneficial for them.

Even though infielders don’t get near as many fly balls or pop ups as the outfielders do, they still prefer to wear sunglasses as well. In contrast from outfielders, infielders usually get those lightning-fast line drives or hard ground balls that require them to react very fast. Any glare from the sun can give the infielder a tougher time gathering up these balls, making the sunglasses useful to them.

Alternative to Sunglasses for pitchers

Since a lot of pitchers elect not to wear sunglasses, they do have a few different options that could benefit them in order to protect from the sun. If the sun is a problem, pitchers should have their eyes checked and see if their ophthalmologist can suggest eyewear that will help.

Eye Black

The most common option is wearing eye black (affiliate link).

Eye black comes in the traditional stick that players just smear underneath their eyes before the games. It also is available in removable stickers which avoid the mess that comes with the stick version. Eye black reduces the amount of light that reflects off the face of the player.

Although the eye black may not protect from the sun as well as sunglasses do, it most likely is less distracting especially for the pitcher to go this route wearing eye black instead of the sunglasses.

Many “old-school” players like to wear eye black instead of sunglasses.

Using your hand to block the sun

Another option that works as an alternative to wearing sunglasses is simply shielding the sun with their non glove hand while attempting to catch a fly ball. Players who don’t like using sunglasses or eye black can use this as a last resort option, however; it may not be considered the best option.

Equipment choices

Some teams choose visors or hats. If a team does not require everyone to wear a visor or hat, the pitcher can ask the coach if they can wear one.

It’s a good idea for pitchers to practice the same way they play. So, if they want to wear a hat during a game, they should practice with one. The same goes for pitching while wearing sunglasses.