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 critical 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 your top choices for the best Catchers Mask - our top overall choice being the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask, and our top safety choice being the Force3 Defender V2.
Continue reading below to learn more!
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Best Catchers Mask, 2018 Edition
A Brief History
When the average person thinks of a Catcher, the image that tends to come to mind is the Catchers Mask. It is the heart and soul of the Catcher's protective equipment - the piece of gear that most closely symbolizes the Catcher's identity.
Baseball has been around for a long time, yet the game was originally played without Catchers having any facial protection. The first "Catcher's Mask" - introduced in 1876 - is said to have resembled a bird cage.
Fans (and many in the press) hated it, and screamed at those who wore it. Yet the mask provided a huge advantage, as Pitchers threw harder and Catchers could play closer to the plate. By the 1880's, Catchers Masks were widely used.
Over time, Catchers Masks have evolved from being unsightly looking, oval shaped steel contraptions to the form they have today. Masks today - especially when compared to those that existed over a century ago - offer far better protection and visibility, especially since modern masks are paired with a protective helmet.
Catchers Mask or Catchers Helmet?
Catcher's today can choose from two options to protect their head and face - a Catchers Mask or a Catchers Helmet. The Catchers 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 or those new to Baseball) may find a Catchers Helmet to be a better choice, we recognize that ultimately the choice between using a Mask or a Helmet is a personal decision.
It's our hope that this site will provide you with solid information to help you make an informed decision on which to use.
Catchers Masks and Fastpitch Softball
Fastpitch Softball Catchers have, until fairly recently, traditionally worn Catchers Masks. As you'll see in the picture below, Stacey Nuveman from Team USA used a traditional Catcher's Mask in the 2000 summer Olympics.
Embed from Getty Images
However, around the mid-2000s use of the Catchers Mask in Softball tended to decline as more and more began utilizing Catchers Helmets.
Today, practically all Fastpitch Catchers use Catchers Helmets, and this is supported by the fact that virtually every store and online marketplace sells only Catchers Helmets for Fastpitch Catchers.
Difference Between Youth and Adult Masks
The current landscape of the Catchers Mask marketplace is interesting.
Many brands of Catchers Masks don't specify whether they are "adult" or "youth" masks. Instead, they simply fit anyone within a certain size range (ie, 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'd suggest looking for a high-quality Mask manufactured specifically for youth Catchers.
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.
Our Reviews of the Best Catchers Masks
Continue reading to see our choice for the best Catchers Masks for the 2018 season.
Our Top Overall Pick
All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask
Excellent quality, built by a top brand
Our choice for the best overall Catchers Mask is the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask (FM25LUC).
This mask is anchored by a strong - yet hollow - steel cage. The hollow nature of the steel reduces overall weight without compromising protection.
There are three All Star proprietary technologies built into this mask. The first is the I-Bar Vision™, which is a 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 sticky substance that prevents gear from excess movement and shifting.
The third piece of proprietary technology is the LUC "Ultra Cool™" padding. 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. They are comfortable and they are able to be removed and washed (ie, machine washable).
In short, it's hard to go wrong with this mask.
- Provides excellent visibility due to patented cage design
- Stays pretty steady - does not shift much in-game
- Competitively priced despite high-quality and being a top tier brand
- Strong, yet lightweight, steel bars for the cage
- The All Star brand is very well respected among Catchers
- Nothing we've seen thus far
Close-ups of the All Star Lightweight, Classic Facemask (FM25LUC)
Our Top Safety Pick
Force3 Defender (V2)
The safest Catchers Mask on the market
We've already written about the Force3 Defender Catchers Helmet, and how impressed we were by it.
Well, we're equally impressed with the Defender Mask.
This is truly a mask unlike any other. The Defender has what's called the (patent pending) S3 shock suspension system - containing strategically placed springs - and four, distributed memory foam pads. Together, Force3 claims the Defender mask reduces impact by up to 50% over standard masks. Impressive.
With concussions being a consistent problem among Catchers, a mask that can help prevent concussions and reduce head injuries is a welcome and needed innovation.
Interesting enough, pros are starting to catch on to this mask as well. The 2017 season saw an increasing number of Catchers wearing the Defender mask across the MLB, including World Series champion Brian McCann, Matt Wieters, and Yasmani Grandal (just to name a few).
We strongly urge you to check out this safe, innovative mask. Foul tips and wild pitches aren't going away any time soon, so consider investing in a mask that can help protect you from it.
- 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 materials
- Offers good visibility due to single-bar build
- More expensive than an average mask. As might be expected, you pay for the added protection.
Close-ups of the Force3 Defender (V2) Catchers Mask
Our Top Budget Pick
Easton Speed Elite Traditional Facemask
Our top pick for affordability
The Easton Speed Elite is a good-quality, affordable catchers mask that should be a top pick for ballplayers on a budget.
It's a very lightweight mask, so it won't weigh down your head and neck while wearing it over the course of a long game. Having a lighter weight doesn't mean that the mask isn't strong. On the contrary, the Speed Elite has a steel cage that 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.
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.
- Noticeably light weight
- Steel cage provides good protection
- Multiple colors to choose from
- Made by a solid brand
- The straps can be difficult to adjust at first
View from Behind of the Easton Speed Elite Catchers Mask
Our Skull Cap Pick
Easton CCX Grip Skull Cap
You need to have a good Skull Cap to pair with your Catchers Mask. For that, we recommend the Easton CCX Grip.
The CCX has a "rubberized matte" finish, with a variety of colors to choose from. Its multiple size options means that adult and youth Catchers can wear this Skull Cap.
Air circulates well in this helmet, with strategically placed vents throughout. Lastly, the "dual density" foam placed inside the Skull Cap ensures good protection and makes it comfortable to wear.
It's a good choice that will pair well with most Masks.
- It is super lightweight and comfortable
- Looks great with its rubberized matte finish
- Multiple size and color options
- Excellent ventilation
- It tends to run small, based on comments from multiple owners
Inside View of the Easton CCX Grip
We hope this review was helpful to you. If you have any questions for us, don't hesitate to reach out by heading over to the Contact Us page.
Thanks for reading!