The most important protective equipment that a catcher has is the gear that protects the face and head. While some use a catchers helmet for this job, others rely on the tried and true catchers mask.
With baseballs coming towards you at ridiculously fast speeds, it's vital that your head and face protection is strong, high quality, and reliable.
To help with your decision making, we've sorted through tons of options to present you with our top choices for the best catchers mask - with our top overall pick found at THIS LINK.
Continue reading below to learn more!
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Best Catchers Mask, 2023 Edition
A Brief History
When the average person thinks of a catcher, the image that tends to come to mind is the catcher's mask.
It is the heart and soul of a catcher's protective equipment - the piece of gear that most closely symbolizes the identity of a catcher.
Baseball has been around for a long time, but did you know that the game was originally played without catchers having any protection for their face? True story.
It may be hard to believe now, but it was common back in the early days of baseball for catchers to finish games with black eyes and bloody noses.
The first "catcher's mask" was introduced in 1876, but it doesn't resemble masks we use today. In fact, the first prototype it is said to have resembled a bird cage.
At the time, fans (as well as many in the press) hated the mask and even ridiculed catchers who made the decision to wear it.
Yet the mask provided a huge advantage to catchers, as it enabled pitchers to throw harder and it allowed catchers to play closer to the plate. By the 1880's, catcher's masks were widely used.
Over time, however, catcher's masks have evolved from being unsightly looking, overly large, oval shaped, steel contraptions to the sleek form that they have today.
Masks today - especially when compared to those that existed more than a century ago - offer far better protection and visibility, especially since modern masks are paired with a protective helmet, also commonly known as a skull cap.
For more insight on how modern masks are designed, check out the below video from All Star, a popular manufacturer of catcher's gear.
Catcher's Mask or Catcher's Helmet?
Catchers today can choose from two general options to protect their head and face: a catcher's mask or a catcher's helmet. The catcher's helmet is a relatively new introduction to the game, and you can learn more about them in our article on the topic.
While many catchers - especially younger ones and/or those new to Baseball - may find a catcher's helmet to be a better choice (or an actual requirement from their league), we recognize that generally the choice between using a mask or a helmet is a personal decision.
It is our hope that this site will provide you with solid information to help you make an informed decision on which one to use, assuming you have that choice.
Catcher's Masks and Fastpitch Softball
Fastpitch Softball catchers have, until fairly recently, traditionally worn catcher's masks. As you can see in the picture below, Stacey Nuveman from Team USA used a traditional catcher's mask in the 2000 summer Olympic games in Sydney, as an example.
However, around the mid-2000s, use of the catcher's mask in Fastpitch Softball declined as more and more began wearing catcher's helmets.
Today, practically all Fastpitch catchers use catcher's helmets, and this is supported by the fact that virtually every store and online marketplace sells only catcher's helmets for Fastpitch Softball catchers.
Difference Between Youth and Adult Masks
The current landscape of the catcher's mask marketplace is interesting.
Many brands of catcher's masks do not specify whether they are "adult" or "youth" masks. Instead, they simply fit anyone within a certain size range (i.e., hat size) of - for example - between 7 - 7 7/8 inches.
However, a quick search for "youth catchers masks" will yield some results containing products that are specifically made for youth catchers.
These products tend to be more lightweight, with smaller head sizes and frames, than traditional facemasks.
Our suggestion is to purchase a high quality, traditional mask if you (or your child) has a hat size within the range that the product specifies, regardless of age.
If you (or your child) is younger and has a notably smaller head than traditional facemasks allow for - and only if you truly don't want to use a catchers helmet - then we would suggest looking for a high-quality mask manufactured by a respected brand.
Keep in mind that if you go that route then you would also need to purchase a youth specific skull cap to go along with the mask.
And be sure to always check your league rules before buying anything!
What is the Best Catchers Mask?
Based on our research, the best catchers mask on the market today is the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask. It has a strong steel cage, a solid harness system and a design that enables you to have an increased range of view when playing behind the plate.
In summary, our overall picks for the best catchers masks are the following:
- All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask (best overall)
- Force3 Defender (top pick for safety)
- Easton Speed Elite Traditional Facemask (best choice for affordability)
- Easton CCX Grip Skull Cap (top skull cap)
Now that you've got a bit of background, keep scrolling to learn more about our picks for the best catcher's masks of the 2023 season.
Our Top Pick: All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask
Excellent quality, and built by a top brand
Our choice for the best overall catcher's mask is the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask (FM25LUC).
Note: If you prefer leather padding, you can get the same mask with leather pads by clicking HERE.
This mask is anchored by a strong - yet hollow - steel cage. The hollow nature of the steel reduces the mask's overall weight without compromising protection.
There are three All Star proprietary technologies built into this mask. The first is called I-Bar Vision™, which is a certain type of design that utilizes thinner, flattened bars which strengthens the mask and increases the catcher's range of view.
The second is the DeltaFlex™ harness system, which is a proprietary system containing a semi sticky substance that prevents gear from excess movement and shifting.
The third piece of special technology is the padding in the mask called LUC "Ultra Cool™". This is a special "dual density foam liner" built by All Star that helps keep the catcher cooler than they might otherwise be in a different mask.
Lastly, the LUC pads are moisture wicking, which is a great feature for hot days. These pads are comfortable and they are able to be removed and washed (i.e., they are machine washable).
In short, it's hard to go wrong with this mask.
Provides excellent visibility due to the patented cage design
Stays pretty steady - does not shift much in a game
Can be easily paired with the All Star catcher's mask sun visor - which we discuss here
Competitively priced despite its high quality and being made by a top tier brand
Strong, yet lightweight, steel bars for the cage
The All Star brand is very well respected among catchers
Nothing that we have seen thus far
Close up Images of the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask (FM25LUC)
Best for Safety: Force3 Defender (V2)
The safest catchers mask on the market
We've already written about the Force3 Defender catcher's helmet, and how impressed we were by it.
Well, we're equally impressed with the Force3 Defender mask.
This is truly a unique mask unlike any others in the marketplace. The Defender has what's called the patented S3 shock suspension system - containing strategically placed springs - and four, distributed memory foam pads.
When taken together, Force3 claims the Defender mask reduces impact by up to 50% over standard masks. Impressive indeed.
With concussions being a consistent problem among catchers, a mask that can help prevent concussions and potentially reduce head injuries is a welcome and needed innovation to the game.
(Please note: This mask is not "concussion proof". No mask is. There is always risk playing behind the plate.)
Interesting enough, many pro catchers are starting to catch on (pun intended) to this mask as well.
During the 2022 season, a substantial number of catchers wore the Defender mask across the MLB, including 2019 World Series champion Kurt Suzuki, 2021 World Series champion Travis d'Arnaud, Salvador Perez, Christian Vazquez and Yasmani Grandal (just to name a few).
We strongly urge you to check out this safe, innovative mask.
Foul tips and wild pitches are not going away any time soon, so consider investing in a mask that can help protect you from it.
(For additional information, check out our detailed review on Force3 Pro Gear's products for catchers.)
Shock absorbing spring design reduces impact from the ball
Generous internal padding cushions the face and head, further reducing impact
Multiple colors to choose from
Padding is lined with Unequal Technologies safety materials
Offers good visibility due to its single bar build
More expensive than an average mask. As might be expected, you pay for the added protection.
Good Video Overview Video About Force3
Close Up Images of the Force3 Defender (V2) Catcher's Mask
Budget Pick: Easton Speed Elite Traditional Facemask
Our top catcher's mask pick for affordability
The Easton Speed Elite is a good quality, affordable catchers mask that should be a top pick for ballplayers that are on a tight budget.
It is a very lightweight mask, so it will not weigh down your head and neck while wearing it over the course of a long game.
Keep in mind that having a lighter weight does not mean that the mask isn't strong. On the contrary, the Speed Elite's cage is made of steel, and it can definitely withstand a beating.
We also like that the design of the mask allows for the catcher to have a good field of view when looking out between the two parallel steel bars.
While there are ultra cheap masks out there that cost even less than this one, the Speed Elite's solid combination of good visibility and lightness, along with its affordability make this a top notch choice for many seeking a good budget option.
Noticeably light weight
Its steel cage provides good protection
There are multiple colors to choose from
It's made by Easton, a high quality brand
The straps can be difficult to adjust at first
View from Behind of the Easton Speed Elite Catcher's Mask
Top Skull Cap: Rawlings Coolflo
If you use a catcher's mask then you need to have a good skull cap (or helmet) to pair with it. For that, we recommend the Rawlings Coolflo.
The Coolflo has a "rubberized matte" paint finish, with various colors to choose from. Its multiple size options means that most adult and youth catchers can wear this skull cap without a problem.
(A quick note on sizing - Coolflo helmet sizes correspond the to the following hat sizes: Small (6 7/8 - 7), Medium (7 1/8 - 7 1/4), Large (7 3/8 - 7 1/2), and XL (7 5/8 - 7 3/4).)
Air circulates well in this helmet with strategically placed vents throughout it. Also, the covered leather headband placed inside the skull cap ensures you have a good fit and makes the helmet more comfortable to wear.
In short, the Rawlings Coolflo is a good choice that will pair well with most traditional facemasks.
It is super lightweight and comfortable
It looks great with its rubberized matte finish
There are multiple size and color options
Has excellent ventilation
It tends to run large, based on comments from multiple owners
Inside View of the Rawlings Coolflo
Thank You for Reading!
Thanks for reading this article. We hope you enjoyed it and that you found it to be helpful.
If you have any questions for us about catcher's masks - or about anything related to catching - then please reach out by heading over to the Contact Us page or by emailing scott [at] catchershome [dot] com. We always love hearing from our readers.
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