Baseball Equipment Choices

We all have our personal crusades, and one of mine is to help convince parents to provide servicable equipment for their young ballplayers. In my years in and around youth baseball I have seen kids trying to play ball with gear that would challenge professional athletes, much less children trying to learn to play the game.

The other day I was talking with a fellow who works in a used sporting good store in Carrollton who told me that it’s almost impossible to sell even a used leather glove ($50+) to a parent for their child. Folks protest “He’s only a kid, not Ken Griffey Jr.!” and walk out with a cheap synthetic glove that will never break in, never form a correct pocket, and that their kids can’t open or close.

They’ve saved a few bucks, but have also set their kid up to fail at baseball, effectively wasting they money they spent on the cheap gear, as well as league fees and all the time they’ll spend driving the kids to games and practices.

The Glove

I think we all agree that we want baseball to be a positive experience for our kids. We want them to develop skills, learn teamwork and have a measure of success in athletics, but when we send them out with poor equipment we doom them to failure.

Time and again, I’ve spotted a frustrated kid on the practice field and temporarily traded gloves with him (or her), taking their vinyl discount store mitt and giving them my beat up old leather baseball glove to use.

I’ll then toss them a few easy ones and quickly progress to more challenging throws, and the inevitible dawning of recognition on thier faces that, “hey, I can do this!” accompanied by a big ear-to-ear smile is absolutely priceless. I feel guilty giving back that plastic glove after practice, but at least I’ve shown them that they have the ability they need to build their skills, all they’re lacking is a decent glove.

The Bat

The baseball bats are another area where a kid can make immediate improvements. A nine-year old kid trying to swing a 25-ounce bat (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it dozens of times) will never have any real success at the plate. Most youth bats are marketed by drop factor, the difference between length in inches and weight in ounces, and the speed at which a player can swing the bat is the greatest single indicator of success.

The larger the drop factor the better, as long as the bat is legal in the league (Carrollton PONY Baseball has no limits on bat weight or diameter). A drop factor of ten or above will help give a young player an edge, but high-tech metal bats can be expensive, between $130 and $300 and more.

How to Purchase

The good news is that you can buy good equipment at bargain prices if you work at it. Good bats can be purchased at online auctions for a fraction of their retail price. Some are used, some are factory blemishes and some are brand new, but at any given time you can find high-tech bats online for excellent prices.

Baseball Gloves are a little more personal, and there are elements of weight, size and fit that have to be evaluated firsthand. If you absolutely must find a bargain, one way to approach the situation might be to visit a sporting goods store and identify a few good brands and models, and then shop for them online.

When shopping online, stick with new gloves. With use, leather gloves will stretch and shrink to fit a player’s hand providing an almost custom fit. A used glove might have been worn by someone with much larger hands than your child and will not fit properly. Specialized gloves such as first basemen’s mitts are generally not necessary for young players.

Buying gear in resale shops is another way to go, but some resale shops have given up selling their highest quality equipment in the store, preferring to sell at online auctions where buyers recognize the value of their goods.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for at a resale shop, tell them what you’re looking for. They may have access to stock other than what’s on their shelves and might be able to locate what you need, or might agree to take your name and number in case anything comes up.

Finally, if you can only purchase one piece of quailty equipment, go for the glove. There are usually at least a couple players with good bats on a team, and most kids are proud of their bats and willing to share.

Thinking of registering Your Child for Carrollton PONY Baseball?

Here’s some answers to our most frequently asked questions, and some information, to help you decide in which age group your child will have the most success and fun.

Ages 3 through 8, all receive appropriate uniforms, major league replicas of their favorite major league teams. T Shirt, Hat, and Baseball Pants, for every child that plays.

Teams can be formed by you, with friends you already know, or we can help form teams, from neighborhoods, by closest elementary schools. You can bring a full team, or a partial team, or sign up indiviually, and we will form a team for you.

At least 10 games, some during the week, in the early evening, and some on Saturdays.

A participation trophy, to keep on that shelf in the bedroom!

A free pass, to our end of season carnival, with games, jump houses, snow cones, refreshments, and loads prizes! The carnival is held at the ballfields, where the games are played, at McInnish Park.

Individual and Team pictures, on Picture Day! (additional cost)

Tons of great memories for the entire family, and children of all ages.

But which age group do I need to sign up for?

3-4 Blast Ball – The kids hit a softball sized foam ball, with a large foam bat, off of a Tee and run to first base, which they jump on, and the base has a horn inside, which sounds when they reach safely. (everyone is safe!) Seven to eight players per team. Gloves are optional.

4-5 Blast T Ball – The same equipment is used, as in Blast Ball, but the kids run ALL the bases, including home plate, and the players begin to have some structure at the field positions. Eight to ten players per team. Gloves are optional.

5-6 T Ball – The kids use aluminum softball bats, T Ball bats,  or any type of wood bats and a baseball sized safety ball. All the bases are used, and fielding positions are beginning to be learned. Most players wear a glove when fielding.

6-7 Machine Pitch – Machine pitched ball, and all three bases. New this year, is the two division concept. The 6’s will be grouped as one division, and given the chance to hit a ball off of a tee, if they are unsuccessful with four balls pitched from the machine. We believe machine pitch is much better for the kids, as the ball is pitched, with more consistent speed and location, as opposed to coach pitch, where the success depends greatly on the coaches ability to throw strikes. The 7’s will get 6 machine pitched balls, and defense becomes a much more integral part of the game.

8’s Modified Kid Pitch – Players pitch to batters, with an umpire, and balls and strikes are called. The player gets 5 pitches to a batter, who can either hit the ball, strike out, or be hit with the ball. There are NO walks. If the pitcher fails to throw strikes, the batter is then given 2 “coach pitches’ to hit, or sit back down in the dugout. The defense plays the batted ball no matter if the pitcher threw it, or if the coach threw it.

Laying Out A Practice Baseball Field

You’ll need to know the baseline distances for your age group and the distance from the back tip of home plate to the back corner of second base. If you know the baseline distance and have a calculator handy that can do square roots, you can figure out the second base distance yourself, or feel free to use our distance charts. We’ll use a baseline distance of 60 feet for our examples:

The formula makes use of the Pythagorean theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) and is shown below:

The distance from home plate to second base = Pythagorean theorem

Here’s how to do it:

  • Baseline = 60′
  • Square the baseline (multiply it by itself)
    60 x 60 = 3600
  • Double the square of the baseline
    (3600 x 2 = 7200)
  • Take the squre root of that number

(7200 sqrt = 84.852814)

  • The whole number portion of that distance (84) is the number of feet from the back tip of home plate to the back corner of second base. Multiply the decimal portion (.852814) by 12 for the number of inches
    (.852814 x 12 = 10.233768)
  • The distance is 84′ 10 1/4″

    METHOD ONE

The first method we’ll show you requires a long tape measure (minimum 200 feet) but is very straightforward, minimizes mistakes and requires less walking. You could also use a piece of string, knotted or marked at the appropriate places.

Step 1

Step 1. Determine the location of home plate to begin your measurements. We’ve found that driving a base stake through the hasp on the end of your tape measure and a short distance into the ground is a good way to pin the tape at this point, or you can ask a helper to hold it down for you.

Step 2

Step 2. Run your tape out to the second base distance. Mark that spot so you can find it later. While the tape is being pulled tautly at second base, you can have a helper place the pitching mound at the appropriate distance.

Step 3

Step 3. Now we’re ready for the fun part. While still at second base, roll out a measure of tape equal to your age group’s baselines times 2. For 60 foot baselines, that’s 120 feet of tape. Hold down the 120′ mark where the back tip of second base will be, have a helper find and grab the 60 foot mark on the tape and walk in the direction of first base. When the helper has taken all the slack out of the tape, both from the pegged end at home and the end you’re holding, drop first base inside the right angle formed by the tape. The outside corner of the base should be exactly at your baseline distance (60 feet in this example).

Step 4

Step 4. Have your helper, still holding the 60 foot mark, walk toward third base. When the tape gets tight again, drop third base into the angle.

Done

Step 5. Place second base with the back corner at the mark you made in step 2 and your practice baseball field is perfectly square! Easy, yes?

METHOD TWO

You can get by with a shorter tape measure for this method provided that your baselines are 70 feet or less, but you’ll do a lot more walking.

This is the method given in the official rulebook, and involves using your tape measure as a giant compass. If you remember seventh grade geometry, you’ll feel right at home with this one.

Steps one and two below are exactly the same as in the previous method.

Step 1

Step 1. Determine the location of home plate to begin your measurements. We’ve found that driving a base stake through the hasp on the end of your tape measure and a short distance into the ground is a good way to pin the tape at this point, or you can ask a helper to hold it down for you.

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3. While your tape is still pegged at home, find the baseline distance on the tape and pull it tautly toward first base. Wrap the tape around a base stake or a stick at the baseline distance, and while keeping the tape tight, scribe an arc in the dirt through the area where you think first base will be. Make this a large arc – it’s no fun having to come back later and do it again.

Step 4

Step 5. With the tape still pegged at home, scribe an arc simiar to the one you made at first base in the area of third base.

Step 6

Step 6. Move the end of the tape to the mark you made when at second in step 2 and peg it there, or get a helper to hold it. Stretch the tape toward first base and make another arc. If you were close when you made the home-first arc, this arc will intersect that one. That intersection is where you will place the outside corner of first base.

Step 7

Step 7. Pull the tape toward third base and make your last arc. Place the outside corner of third base at the point where this arc intersects your home-third arc.

Finished! Place the back corner of second base where you made your original mark at second (step 2) and your field is square.

DISTANCES