Ultimate Guide to Baseball Equipment & Training Aids for Youth League Coaches
Each year, youth baseball organizations are faced with the task of preparing for a new season. At On Deck Sports, our baseball specialists are coaches or youth league board members themselves. We know how much preparation goes into every season and we know specifically that fitting each team in each division with its own Team Equipment Bag is no easy task.
To help, we consulted with On Deck Sports’ Merchandise Manager, Phil Santos, who helped create a checklist of baseball equipment that every coach should have in their team bag. To make it even easier, we have created the “ideal” team bag across all the different age levels in your organization.
For a deeper dive on why you should have each of these, please continue reading:
To start, we know that your team will not be at the same field every night. This means you need to stock a team bag with the essentials to ensure no matter where you are playing, your team is ready for game action. This starts with the bag itself, and the Champro Oversize Team Bag is the perfect fit. This bag is large enough to fit all the essentials – featuring a square end design for maximum capacity. It has a hard bottom and wrap-around handles, making it easier to carry from field to field.
Once you have the bag, you need to fill it with the right equipment. Start with a fresh set of baseballs. We suggest game, practice and tournament balls to make it through your season. Start with your practice balls since you will need those in preseason preparations. Our experts suggest having at least seven dozen balls for practice. For any level of youth practice, the Champion OLB5 Raised Seam practice ball is a perfect fit. We offer it in a package of five dozen baseballs that comes with a ball bucket with a padded lid for easy transport. “We find the Champion practice balls to be a quality product at a budget friendly price,” On Deck Sports’ Merchandise Manager Phil Santos said when asked about the specific ball suggestion. “For those leagues that prefer to practice with the same brand of ball that they play games with, we have you covered there as well.”
We also suggest about two dozen White Whiffle Baseballs for indoor training (if needed) or for low impact training. For instructional leagues, we also suggest having cushioned practice balls for early training. The Rawlings ROTB5 is a perfect ball for this.
For league and tournament game play, the organization you are coaching in typically dictates the official ball. We suggest at least six dozen game and tournament balls. For teams in Little League we suggest four dozen Rawlings RLLB1 Little League Baseballs for games. For tournament play, we suggest two dozen Rawlings RLLB Little League Baseballs.
If you are coaching in a Cal Ripken League, we have baseballs that meet your leagues specifications as well. We suggest four dozen Rawlings RCAL1 Cal Ripken League Baseballs for games and two dozen Rawlings RCAL Official Cal Ripken Division Baseballs for tournament play. This combination will make sure you are meeting all league specifications and have the highest quality baseballs for your team.
For instructional leagues, we suggest the Rawlings RIFL (Reduced Injury Factor) Game Ball to help cut down on the risk of injury to young players learning the game. For T-Ball, we carry a specific ball – the Rawlings TVB Baseball. We suggest three dozen to make it through your season. With any of our baseballs, you can get a free On Deck Sports padded ball bucket if you purchase five dozen baseballs.
Next in your bag comes a full set of baseball bats. We carry a full line of baseball bats, but suggest Easton bats. We suggest six bats for your team plus a fungo bat for practice. Since your team will have players of different size and strength levels, we suggest an even split of -10 and -12 bats. This is easier to accomplish than it sounds. Getting three Easton S50 (-10) Bats in different lengths takes care of your -10 bats while three Easton S300 (-12) Bats in different lengths take care of the lighter bats. We suggest a 29, 30 and 31-inch bat for both drops. For T-Ball the Easton XL Tee Ball (-10) Bat is perfect, we suggest getting four bats, two in each length. “The EastonS300 is lighter for beginners and contact hitters,” Santos said about our bat suggestions. “While the S50 provides a heavier option for your players with above average bat speed. Teams can offer both to their squads without breaking the bank.”
For a fungo, the Easton Fungo F4 is perfect for any coach, and will make your pre-game fielding practice much easier. Another great tool for training is the Sky Bat. This modified racket is made to work on both grounders and fly balls with a greater area to strike the ball. This allows for a more efficient warmup, cutting down on mis-hits off the fungo.
Safety is a top priority for any coach, and On Deck Sports can help by putting great batting helmets into your bag to ensure the safety of your athletes. We suggest 12 helmets for your team, allowing a helmet for nearly every player. The Rawlings Youth Coolflo Batting Helmet is the perfect helmet for any league. Putting six with a cage and six without a cage in your bag will make sure that your players are safe at the plate, or in the on deck circle. Getting helmets in the 6 ½-7 ½ range should cover the players on your team.
Adding six Rawlings Chin Straps will allow your players to keep the helmet on when they are in the field of play. For T-Ball the Rawlings Coolflo T-Ball Helmet with the chin straps are perfect. You should only need six helmets at this level. “Although not required, our experience has been that chin straps, (and cages), help keep the helmet secured to the player head,” Santos said. “They minimize helmet movement, and increase player safety at the plate and on the base paths.”
To keep these bats and helmets organized in your bag we suggest a 12 Bat Fence/Carry Bag and a Helmet Fence/Carry Bag. These roll up neatly and keep your equipment organized and also attach to your fence and keep your dugout organized.
It is also important for your bag to include a catcher’s set, especially if you do not have a set catcher for every game who has his or her own equipment. The Champro Helmax Catcher’s Set is great for all levels, and comes in different sizes to fit your team’s age group. For Majors, the Age 9-12 set is the best fit while the Age 6-9 set is best for Minors, instructional leagues and T-Ball. The Helmax set comes with one CM3 HEL-MAX® one-piece youth headgear, one contour fit premium lightweight chest protector and one set of contour fit Air-Tech® leg guards – giving your catcher full protection behind the plate. “Providing your team with a proper set of Catcher’s equipment is key,” Santos said. “Players should learn, at a young age, how to use their gear to protect themselves, block wild pitches, and adjust to helmet sight lines. Protecting your players with the right Catcher’s set will increase their safety and increase their confidence. It’s a win, win!”
Since you never know what condition your field will be in, or what field you will be playing on before the season starts, it is important to include a set of bases and a home plate in your bag to make sure you are always ready for a game. We suggest a set of Throw-Down Waffle Bases and a Waffle Bottom Home Plate. These can be placed on any field quickly, and require no holes or digging in. They will fit easily in your bag, and keep you ready for your next game.
Your bag also needs some equipment for practice and training, and we can get you the best training equipment for your team. The first essential is a new batting tee for work on the side, in batting cages or in preseason training. Our suggested tee is the PVTee from ProMounds. The PVTee is extremely portable, versatile and tough – coming with a full one-year warranty from ProMounds. The tee features a flex-pivot that makes it nearly impossible to knock over, saving your back when teaching the fundamentals of hitting. It comes with a weighted base, and sets up in less than five seconds. It features a telescoping stem, allowing you to adjust the tee for players of all sizes quickly and easily. This tee will fit right in your bag and will last for years, even when dealing with young players who are learning the game.
Another batting tee option that is great for younger players is the Deluxe Batting Tee. It has the same telescoping style stem as the PVTee, accommodating players of all heights. This tee is attached to a rubber home plate, making it feel more like live hitting. “There may be no more important tool for developing young hitters than the batting tee,” Santos said. “Some leagues prefer to replace their tees every year, while others choose to invest in a longer lasting option. We have a suggestion for both. The PVTee is the best batting tee on the market. It is meant to be hit, can take a beating, is almost impossible to knock over, and flexes on miss-hits in order to displace the swing energy as opposed to absorbing it like most tees on the market.”
You will also want to work with your players in the field, and you can add the Rawlings Foam Quick Hands Trainer for that. It helps develop proper 2-hand fielding skills, and the soft foam construction with elastic finger strips will fit either hand.
Finally, make sure you are tracking all your team’s stats with a Baseball/Softball Scorebook. This is your convention scorebook, but is an essential item for every team bag.
If you stock your bag with this equipment, your youth team will be ready for the 2017 season. This high-quality equipment can also be paired with our Premium Series L-Screen to make sure your players and coaches are safe during warmups and practice. We also carry a huge selection of field maintenance equipment, training aids and other equipment to keep you game ready all season.