Accessories are usually integral pieces of equipment for many different sports, including baseball, where you can often see hats, socks, and compression sleeves worn by a lot of players on the field. But, there is one more baseball accessory or piece of equipment that is considered by many players and baseball fanatics that is more important than the other mentioned before, and this accessory is the chest protector. To know more about it, here are details about chest protectors and their importance in baseball.
What is a Chest Protector?
The chest protector is a piece of protective baseball equipment that is often worn by specific players and officials on the field. The chest protector would usually have a lot of padding at the front to serve as protection for the chest, and the padding is usually made from cotton. Most modern versions of the chest protector would also have flexible shoulder paddings to provide more protection to the body while also not impeding the movement of the shoulders.
The player that wears chest protectors on the field would also wear the catcher helmet, which looks like a motorcycle helmet but with an elongated chin section and a metal net or rails at the front for safety.
Who are the Players or Officials that Wear Chest Protectors?
In a regular game of baseball, there are two people on the field that should wear chest protectors, and these are the catcher and the umpire. If you’re not yet familiar with these positions, here are pieces of information about them.
The catcher is a position taken by the player of the team that is pitching. So, if a pitcher of the New York Yankees is going to throw the ball towards the hitter, the catcher should be the player belonging to the Yankees as well. The main goal of the catcher, as its name already suggests, is to successfully catch the ball from the pitcher without moving his or her legs while in a crouching position. However, what stands between the pitcher and the catcher is the hitter, who will do his or her best to hit the ball so that the catcher wouldn’t get it.
The umpire is an official in baseball that is commonly standing or crouching behind the catcher to see if there are illegal plays or moves done on the field. For many years, there was only one umpire on the field to officiate the game, but after the 20th century, the league owners realized that a sole umpire has too many responsibilities on the field, so they then decided to create an umpiring crew that will divide officiating duties among a few umpires. However, the only umpire that should wear a chest protector is that one stationed behind the catcher, as he or she will need it for protection against the ball.
When Did Chest Protectors Become Popular in Baseball?
Chest protectors were first used by umpires and catchers in baseball during the 1880s, although the protectors were first worn under the uniforms instead of outside the jerseys. There is no concrete explanation why players and officials started wearing chest protectors outside their uniform, although some believe that players complained about how uncomfortable the protectors are when they are fitted tightly on the body. However, by the 1970s, umpires in several baseball leagues have started to wear chest protectors inside their uniforms to emphasize that they are officials and not players.
The chest protector was then improved upon by American baseball catcher Bruce “Robby” Robinson, who added the “Robby Flap” to the new design of the accessory. The Robby flap is a shoulder padding that is not sewn to the chest protector entirely; instead, there is a thick strap that connects the padding to the protector. The strap allowed catchers and umpires to have a better range of movement for their shoulders and arms.
Benefits of Wearing Chest Protectors
Chest protectors have numerous benefits for the catcher and umpire, and these benefits are mainly focused on the safety and protection of those that wear them. Here are details about the advantages of wearing chest protectors.
Provides Protection Against the Ball
There are several instances where the pitcher is capable of throwing a ball at high speeds, which can be dangerous for the catcher and the umpire since being hit by it on the body can be painful. To protect the catcher and the umpire, they will need to wear chest protectors so that they won’t have to suffer from injuries that may force them to leave the game or, worse, the entire season.
Can Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death
There have been a few instances where catchers would get hit by a ball on their chest and suffer sudden cardiac arrest, which may result in their death. To prevent this from happening, many baseball leagues around the world require teams to provide chest protectors for their catchers. If you are playing baseball for fun, you should still wear a chest protector if you are going to be the catcher so that you will remain safe.
During colder seasons or temperatures, many baseball players struggle to keep themselves warm while playing on the field. Luckily for catchers, they get extra warmth by wearing chest protectors that are made from materials that are supposed to keep you warm, like cotton or sometimes even down insulation that is more effective in keeping the temperature stable on the body.
Can Provide Comfort
Most modern chest protectors are lightweight and soft, which is why they can be very comfortable to wear even though they may look bulky at first glance. However, keep in mind the chest protectors shouldn’t be too soft, as they won’t provide protection if they are too squishy. So, purchase chest protectors that still have ample rigidity to them while still being lightweight.
As evident in this article, the chest protector is arguably one of the most important pieces of baseball equipment that every team or league should have on the field. Before starting a game, it is essential to check if every necessary piece of equipment for baseball is present, including the chest protector that should always be worn by the catcher if he or she is playing.