T-ball is often the first exposure kids have to baseball, and the difficulty that catching a flying sphere presents. When selecting T-ball equipment, consider the age of the children and their inexperience with the sport, and select gear they can use comfortably. The better the equipment fits, the easier picking up the game will be.
Finding the Right Glove
It’s tempting to pick the biggest glove your T-ball players can handle to make it easier to catch the ball, but at this age it’s more critical to find a glove that fits the hand and is easy to use. That helps the players learn the fundamentals of catching the ball. Gloves should be small enough that they are easy for the player to move around, serving as an extension of the hand rather than as a large trap for the ball. In general, leather gloves last longer than plastic, but that’s less of a problem in T-ball because the glove likely will be outgrown before it wears out.
T-ball bats should be light enough that they’re easy to swing, but not so light that they whip through the air like a plastic bat. They need to be long enough that a player standing in the batter’s box who fully extends her arm will make contact with the ball – you don’t want bats so short that they require players to crowd the plate. Long, light bats tend to work best, and coaches should have a variety of sizes to accommodate the players on the roster. A bat is too heavy if a child can’t hold it out in front of her, with her arm straight, for 10 seconds without having to lower it.
Leagues generally supply batting helmets, but coaches should inspect them carefully before accepting the equipment bag at the start of the year. Check the padding on the inside to make sure it's not damaged or worn away. Many parents may want their child to have his own helmet, to make sure he has one that fits comfortably and to reduce the danger of head lice that may be spread by sharing hats. Don’t buy a bigger than needed helmet for your son to grow into, as that won’t provide the necessary level of protection. Many helmets have a chin strap and face guard to provide extra protection; some leagues require helmets with these features.
Because T-ball players are just learning the game, it’s inevitable that they’re going to be hit by a batted or thrown ball at some point. T-ball leagues generally use balls that have the look and feel of a baseball, but with a softer cover and core that reduce potential injuries. These reduced injury factor balls – commonly known as RIF balls – are used for games. Many leagues supply these, or they can be found at sporting goods stores. In addition, coaches may find plastic whiffle balls or tennis balls as useful practice options to prevent players from being afraid of the ball as they learn basic skills.
Cleats or Sneakers?
T-ball leagues generally don’t require cleats, but they can help a player keep her balance on wet fields and also prevent sneakers from getting dirty. As players get older, the design of cleats differs between baseball and other sports, but that’s not important for T-ball. Any cleats will do fine at this level of play. If you don't have cleats, there's no need to buy them -- sneakers are fine for what the kids will be asked to do.
Tees and Bases
Many leagues provide coaches with a batting tee, but one might not be enough to run a practice and allow for everyone to have enough swings to get better. Tees should be adjustable to allow each player to be able to swing when the ball is at his sweet spot. They also need to be durable to allow for the frequent contact from bats that swing below the ball. Flat, throw-down bases are fine for a casual practice, with breakaway bases used in games to prevent injury.
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