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.
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 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.