Softball Solutions- FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Softball Solutions Background
Defensive Face Masks
How Do I Choose a Bat?
How Do You Properly Break In A Glove?
Unravelling The Mystery of Gloves†
Softball Solutions Background
I have been teaching fastpitch softball pitching lessons as a business since 1997.† I have coached travel teams longer than that.† I found out quickly that the girls were being short-changed on everything from coaches, to training facilities to equipment.† Have you ever had to hit off of softball pitching machines from 60' at your local batting cages?† That is the distance from home to 1st base. Do you think those same facilities would consider making the boys bat from their 90' distance to 1st base?...no way!† That started my "IT'S NOT BASEBALL" campaign and my journey to offer the girls something better.† My training facility has batting cages that pitch from 40'.† My store is primarily FASTPITCH SOFTBALL.† I buy stuff retail without the manufacturer knowing about it - just like you, then I put the items through the wringer...I use them and abuse them and if I like the product, and I see results, I make it available to my students and I sell it at my store.† Otherwise, I throw it in the trash and move on.†
This is *MY* store...not some giant conglomerate.† As a small business owner, I never lose site of the fact that you are the customer and I am here *because* of you.† I do my level-best to research, test†and supply superior products and provide intelligent, knowledgeable answers to your questions.† Many of the items, products and brands you will not likely find at your local retail sporting goods store because they do not have the knowledge or experience I have.† Part of my service to you is that knowledge and experience.
In both my personal and business life, I am about as easy-going a guy as you will ever meet.† One thing I have found is that in general, people are losing their manners and their respect for one another.† I should not have to say this, but should you choose (and it is a choice) to treat me or my employees in a rude manner, you can expect the same in return.† If we make an honest mistake, we will take responsibility and fix it.† If you make a mistake, we expect the same from you. If you call or email with courtesy, general†friendliness and patience, we will bend over backwards for you.† However, if you decide to bring†anger, hostility, and a general bad attitude, you can expect us to dish it right back to you.† If you can't be civil, then we do not want your business.
The player's first thought: "I'M NOT WEARING THAT!".
The parent's first thought: "HER BRACES!".
Every year the game gets faster and the players are bigger-better-stronger-faster-smarter. Every year, more kids - specifically pitchers, 3rd baseman and 1st baseman are hit in the face by a sharply hit ball. Despite attempts by the ASA to 'mush' the ball from a core .50 to a core .47 and despite attempts to slow the bats down...from eliminating titanium, to the BPF regulation, to the MPH limitations, and now to the new composite restictions. Restrictions which by the way, are so severe that some bat companies are getting out of the composite business completely. All of this and the balls are still coming back at the players faster and faster. In case you have not noticed, the ASA is in the process of systematically moving the pitchers back farther. It started years ago when they moved the 12U back from 35' to 40'. Then 18U Gold went back to 43'. Then all of 18U followed with a 43' pitching distance. It is just a matter of time before 16U and High School ball is at 43' (both should be there already). With these changes, you'd think there would be fewer injuries. But the facial injuries are increasing.
The braces and the teeth are important and broken noses are bad - don't get me wrong. I do not mean to minimize these injuries...but dude...if you get hit in the eye orbit with a ball, you are in trouble. The bones of the cheek and eye orbit have hollow areas behind them; the sinus cavities. A hard blow to these areas can shatter these brittle and thin bones. Now you are talking about reconstructive facial surgery. And I have not even mentioned the thought of a detached retina or actual eyeball damage.
A defensive mask can prevent these serious and potentially life-altering injuries. For those players who don't like the looks or claim the mask obscures your vision ...yeah-yeah-yeah...I've heard it all before with the batting facemask. But now it just a given and everybody handles it just fine. In fact many players don't know anything different as they have always had a batting facemask.
And parents, think beyond the money that goes into the braces. Think about the potential for disaster that lies in being hit in the face. Get your player(s) a mask and make them wear it! It won't be long before it is mandatory anyway.
How Do I Choose A Bat?
There are plenty of crummy bats on the market.† Most of the 'Big Sporting Goods Stores' carry the bats with the biggest profit margin.† They don't care if the bat is right for you as long as they get your money. † Rarely will you find anyone in the 'Big Sporting Goods Store' who knows anything about the bats.† The fact is that most bats have tremendous marketing plans that are superior to the bat itself.† The corporate giants have the budget to GIVE bats to colleges because they know their customers are sitting in the bleachers and will want THAT bat.† You can't blame the colleges for this...they are getting FREE BATS!† One thing you will notice is that ANDERSON and MIKEN bats are rarely seen at major colleges because they are smaller companies and do not have the massive budget to simply give them away.† Their reputation is based on performance and largely word of mouth.† While other bats come and go, Anderson and Miken have consistently been top-rated bats year after year.†† The Anderson RockeTech†is in my opinion, the best bat on the market and consistently the top-rated bat.† The Anderson TechZilla is proving itself to be the hardest hitting -10 bat on the market.† Miken usually improves it's #1 fastpitch bat with a few tweaks, repaints it and renames it each year so it is easier to keep track of when it was made.† But it is always one of the hardest hiiting composite bats.† Sizing can be tricky.† I have some charts I use to fit a range of bats to a player. But the single most effective way to size a bat is to swing the bat and measure the bat speed.† The Swing Speed Radar†measures bat speed.† Probably 75% of the kids on any given team are swinging the wrong bat (you'd be surprised to see the data...I was!).† The right bat for you is the heaviest bat you can swing without losing bat speed.† If you can't measure the bat speed, you can't size a bat properly.† Every league, every association, every high school and every travel team†should have at least one Swing Speed Radar available to measure the kids and ensure they are swinging/purchasing the right-sized bat, rather than just guessing and hoping for the correct choice.† Don't make an expen$ive mistake or buy into a great marketing plan.† Do your research and ask questions.† A good bat is not cheap and should not be purchased on a whim.†
Gloves come in many shapes and sizes.† The position(s) you play can influence what glove best fits your needs.† Typically 2nd base and Shortstop players prefer smaller, quicker gloves with a good 'stick' quality - something in the 12.5" range.† While 3rd† base, Pitcher and Outfield can wear the same glove, they will probably benefit more from a slightly larger size - something closer to the 12.5" to 13" range with a little more give or 'trap' quality.† Both catcher and 1st base typically use specialty mitts for those positions.† Check out†Salinas†and Guerrero†selections - they are the best examples of the quality and craftsmanship coming out of Mexico right now.† Never heard of them?† I'm not surprised.† They are a small companies providing incredible hand-crafted gloves.† If you are playing Slow-Pitch Softball, check out Bat-Attitude Gloves as well.† You probably have not heard of them either. I am always looking for new and exciting products.† These guys are making some serious gloves.† Regardless of the position you play, you need a quality glove.† There are literally hundreds of cheaply made gloves at your local 'Big Sporting Goods Store'.† If you buy them, you'll probably need to replace them every year due to poor quality. A higher quality glove will give you many years of service.† The biggest mistake people make with young players is purchasing a glove that is too small.† A good 12" - 12.5" glove will work for even the little guys. Akadema†makes fastpitch softball gloves designed to fit the smaller hands of girls.†
How Do You Properly Break In A Glove?
First off, understand what the real goal is:
1.) shape and **slightly** soften the glove
2.) keep the dirt out
This has been a topic of conversation for many many years.† There are many products that claim to do many things.† Most don't do more than any other and some do more harm than good.† Any liquid oil you use on your glove is going to soak in through the leather pores and reach the padding, eventually making the glove heavy and sloppy.† So I would advise against any liquid oil.† Foams will do the same thing.† After the foam bubbles pop, the remaining liquid just soaks in again, making glove heavy and sloppy.† I do not recommend anything that suggests you put your new glove in the oven!† Do you know what oven temperature will cause the Velcro or other non-leather materials to be compromised?† I would never dream of putting a fine jacket or fine leather shoes into the oven...neither would I put my good glove in the oven.† So what is the answer?† Well, simply and inexpensively, Petroleum Jelly.† Petroleum Jelly will cover the pores and keep the dirt out.† Wipe a thin layer on ...get it in the knots and the lacing as well.† And then wipe it off.† Even though you are wiping it off, it is still there as a thin coating covering the pores and trapping the dirt BEFORE it gets inside.† Gloves wear out just like your carpet.† Dirt and grit get in the glove and grind it - effectively sanding it down.† The Petroleum Jelly will keep the dirt out of your glove and will not soak into the padding. As far as softening the glove.† You don't want it too soft.† You want it to hold its shape.† Good old catch and throw is the best way to break your new glove in properly.† Secure your glove in a Glove Locker to maintain the pocket and don't ever let it lay flat.
Unraveling the Mystery of Gloves
††† Softball gloves typically run a little larger than baseball gloves at any given position, but the general concepts remain the same.††ëStickí is a description for a glove/mitt characteristic which is designed to field a ball more in the palm in order to transition the ball from the glove to the throwing hand and thus get rid of the ball quicker ñ think 2nd Base and SS.†† ëTrapí is a description for a glove/mitt characteristic which allows the glove to close around the ball in the pocket to a.) absorb the sheer shock from the velocity and b.) to allow the player to run/fall/tumble/roll and still keep that ball locked in the glove ñ think outfield and 3rd base.† ëMittí is short for mitten (no fingers) where a glove has fingers.† Only two positions are allowed to wear a mitt; Catcher and 1st Base.† Both of those positions require ëtrapí style designs to scoop and hold the ball securely while the player is potentially in odd positionsÖswinging arms to maintain balance, stretching, etc.
†ëTrapí and ëStickí influence the shape of a glove to a large degree or a small degree depending on the amount of emphasis in their respective design.† The size of a glove is typically measured from the base of the palm of the glove to the tip of the index finger.† A shallow pocket vs. a deep pocket design will create a difference in the apparent height of the glove.† A shallow pocket will have a straighter line from the base of the palm up through the index finger.† †Whereas a deeper pocket will create more bend in the glove from the base of the palm up to the end of the index finger.† Although the distance may measure the same, a shallow pocket will create a taller glove, while a deeper pocket will create a shorter glove.† To compound this, like shoes, different manufacturers can ërun a little smallerí or ërun a little largerí.† Outfielders typically want larger gloves and infielders more commonly wear smaller gloves.
†Webbing is for the most part, a personal choice, but there are some benefits and drawbacks depending on your needs and desires.† In addition to the above mentioned design styles, there are then different web styles which contribute to various attributes.† There have been many, many styles of webbing.† †Some are old designs whole others are a little newer, but there have been few truly innovative pocket designs in the past 50-years.† Some add more to the ëtrapí characteristic, while others add more to the ëstickí characteristic.† You can actually customize your glove by adding a trap-style pocket to a stick-style glove or by adding a stick-style pocket to a trap-style glove to tailor the glove to your personal needs or desires.† Smaller gloves like those used at 2nd base and SS will typically have tighter webs which are usually closed webs or thicker Double H webs and add to the ëstickí characteristic, providing less flex.† Shortstops typically want a little more flex than 2nd base and 3rd base typically wants more flex than shortstop. Some infielders specifically want open webs so that the infield dirt will more easily shed out of the glove after fielding a ball in the dirt so they can transition and throw with less dirt on their hand. †A closed web has more leather and will spread the stress of capturing the ball over a larger patch of leather.† Larger gloves are more likely to have webs which have a little more flex in them to offer better trap.† So they usually have web designs that stretch a little more.† The position influences different web designs for different reasons.† For example, pitchers commonly have basket-weaves and two-piece webs because they hide the ball better than other designs and prevent opposing teams from seeing through the glove to glimpse hand, finger and ball positions thus ëtelegraphingí or ëtippingí the pitch. †Another example might be a multi-position player who uses the same glove at different positions.† A single slightly larger trap-style glove might be just the ticket for a 3rd Base / Pitcher / Outfielder.† Open webs will stretch more over time because they have fewer lacing points to support the web or because they have more lace in their design creating more flex points ñ such as a traditional 6-finger web (often identified by a name containing the word ëtrapí such as ëTrap-ezeí or ëFlytrapí ) or T-webs. † † † Basket webs have thin strips woven together (like the name suggests) which allow some flex but without as much stretching of the lacing.† I believe that is at least one of the primary reasons that the basket weave is so popular.
†In addition to size, pocket design, and webbing, the back of the glove comes in different flavors.† It can be open or closed.† Some are tightened with Velcro straps, while others may have a buckle or no tightening mechanism at all.† Some are slotted or have a hole designed to allow the player to stick the index finger out of.† And even that can have options such as a cover to protect the back of the finger.
††† Stay away from synthetic materials if you can.† They may feel nice and flexible at first, but they will never settle in the way quality leather does.
††† There is no shortage of gloves and glove options.† Ultimately, your glove selection has to be right for you, your playing style and your position.† What is right for you is not necessarily right for someone else.† That is why there are different manufacturers and different styles of gloves and mitts.† It is all about choice and performance.† Some of the best gloves I have ever seen are coming out of Mexico such as Salinas†and Guerrero.† Buy a good quality glove and take care of it (read my article about Vaseline and wrap that glove in a Glove Locker.