Two-piece vs hockey style helmets
When playing a catcher you’ll have to make the decision on which kind of helmet you would like to wear. In some leagues, they make the hockey style mask mandatory (I think from little league to high school now) and make the old style two piece helmet banned from being worn. But is it justified in making only that one style mandatory while college and the pros can wear either one?
Catcher gear history
In the beginning, catchers didn’t use ANY protective gear at all! It’s hard to imaging playing a catcher in this game without any protection with all the foul balls and collisions that happen in the game. It wasn’t until Roger Bresnahan in 1907 appeared in a game with a mask, chest protector, and leg guards that started it all. The helmet he dawned was the two piece helmet but with no hard helmet. Roger used his hat turned backwards with the face mask when catching. But then again catchers also stood farther back behind the plate fielding pitches on the bounce. This gear led to catchers moving closer to the plate.
Since then, gear has evolved and come a long way. Catchers now use a hard helmet with their mask for protection from baseballs, collisions, and the rare back swing of a hitter.
Many players swear by the two piece helmet when catching. They believe it offers the catcher great flexibility in removing the mask but keeping the helmet on for protection. Catchers also like the feel of the mask sitting out farther on their face compared to the hockey style counterpart. But as with both style of helmets, there are pros and cons for each.
- Cheaper in price
- Not too close to face (some players find this a pro as some a con)
- Can take off mask for vision and keep helm on for protection
- Cooler as in temperature as it doesn’t covers the sides of your face
- Doesn’t give complete protection compared to the hockey style mask
- Vision isn’t as large as when wearing the other style mask
- Offers better protection
- Better vision compared to two-piece
- No movement when throwing or collision
- More expensive
- Once you take it off there is no more protection
Which style offers the best protection is actually an easy choice to make. The hockey style mask has greater protection versus the two-piece style. This is due to the two-piece helmet not covering the side of the face. This is a big area to cover as a batter could hit this area on a back swing and if the catcher does not have any protection then it can cause some damage. By playing a position that demands a lot from the body, every protection that can be taken should be put to use. Catchers typically do not have a long career so anything that can help increase it is a big plus.
As stated in the pros and cons, the hockey style offers more vision to the catcher as it’s closer to the face and has a bigger open face area. Catchers need to be able to see everything that is happening on the field. They are the only position player than has vision of the WHOLE field (fair ground territory). Reducing vision will only hurt the catcher especially if that interrupted vision is blocking a runner on base.
This is harder to judge as different people have different preferences to how the mask should sit on the face. Some prefer it to be away from the face and not have anything against the side of their face as others like the enclosed feel the hockey style mask grants. It’s hard for someone to tell another which is best so be sure to try on both mask styles and see which you prefer.
Ease of Use
Experienced catchers who have worn the two piece mask don’t have this problem but players starting out with the two piece mask you may find difficulty to putting the mask on. A lot of players have to use both hands with one hand holding the strap behind the head and the other pulling the mask down in place. It may cause some inconvenience to players. Eventually you’ll get the feel of the strap and be able to use one hand to flip the strap behind the have and pull the mask down in one go. This is how most professional players put their mask on with using this type of mask.
The hockey style mask is the same as putting on a hat. Place the back side of it on the back of the head and pull down. This is the more user friendly style for newer catchers as there is no problem putting this mask on with one hand.
Each style has their own pros and cons and which one is best for the player depends on what factors they weight more on such as ease of use, comfort, and etc. The best way to determine the best helmet is to go down to the sporting goods store and try them both on. Most catchers will feel a connection to one mask over the other and will make up their mind pretty quickly. Good luck on the mask hunting!