If you're a fast-pitch softball catcher you'd certainly never get behind the plate without wearing your mask, chest protector and shin guards. But your ensemble isn't complete unless you're wearing the proper mitt. There's a huge difference between a fast-pitch softball catcher's mitt and the type of glove worn by slow-pitch softball catchers. If you play any other position in either slow-pitch or fast-pitch softball, you don't have to be so picky about your fielder's glove.
Fast-Pitch Vs. Slow-Pitch Gloves
Unless you play catcher, you can almost always use fast-pitch and slow-pitch gloves interchangeably. Some manufacturers label their softball gloves as either fast-pitch or slow-pitch models, but with a few exceptions, you don’t need to pay attention to those labels, because all softball gloves are designed to catch the larger ball. If you’re a fast-pitch pitcher, however, make sure to buy a glove with solid webbing so hitters can’t see the ball when it’s in your glove. Otherwise, the position of your hand on the seams might be visible, which could tip the hitter off to the type of pitch you’re going to throw. This caution isn’t necessary in the slow-pitch game. Even if you can throw a curve, your pitch will travel much too slowly to fool the hitter, so it doesn’t matter if she knows what’s coming.
If you do play catcher, then there’s an important difference between a slow-pitch and fast-pitch mitt. In slow-pitch softball you main job is to catch the pitcher’s soft tosses, and to occasionally catch a throw from a fielder, so you don’t need a special glove. To handle plays at the plate you may wish to use an outfielder’s glove or first baseman’s mitt, because the larger pocket makes it easier to catch the ball. A fast-pitch catcher, however, requires a heavily padded mitt -- basically a larger version of a baseball catcher’s mitt. Without a well-padded mitt your hand will be sore, at best, after catching fastballs all game long. At worse you’ll suffer a hand injury.
In both fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball, outfielders should always use large-pocketed gloves to make catching easier. You’ll need a slightly smaller glove to play second base, third base or shortstop, so you can transfer the ball to your hand quickly after scooping up a grounder. First basemen should use a larger-pocketed first baseman’s mitt, since your job is mainly to catch the ball.
Extra Large Softballs
Some leagues use 14- or 16-inch circumference softballs. Under ASA rules, the larger balls are only used in slow-pitch leagues, and most typically in men’s leagues, so you may never encounter them. But if you do, you’ll probably need the largest glove you can find, regardless of what position you play.
Softball Vs. Baseball Gloves
The main categories of gloves you’ll find in your neighborhood sporting goods store are baseball and softball gloves. Whether you’re playing slow-pitch or fast-pitch softball, you don’t want to wear a glove designed for baseball. A baseball is about 9 inches in circumference, while most softballs measure 11 or 12 inches. Baseball gloves, therefore, contain smaller pockets so a player can more easily dig the ball out of the glove to make a throw. But you need a larger glove to catch the larger softball. Under Amateur Softball Association rules, a softball glove may reach 14 inches tall, measured from the first finger to the bottom edge, whether it’s a fast-pitch or slow-pitch glove.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.