Because baseball is one of the oldest sports in the U.S., it has changed dramatically through the history. Major advancements have been made to meet the needs of the team members. Protective baseball equipment is needed to prevent players from getting injured during the game. The bat and glove are easier to use and uniforms are lighter.
The ball was the first piece of the baseball equipment, therefore it suffered drastic modifications over time. In 1857 it was hand-made by players or merchants from yarn and string wrapped around a core and covered by a piece of leather. They were lighter and smaller than the modern ball. Today the baseball weights 5 ounces and is nine inches in circumference.
The baseball bat was originally made from wood. Usually the bats were very heavy and thick, because players wanted to make a hard contact. Babe Ruth had the heaviest bat ever used that weighed 54 ounces. In 1887 the National Baseball League reduced the bat to a lighter weight and rounded it. Today bats are made from ash wood, bamboo and maple. Composite bats are also common but aluminum bats are used only by high school and college students. It is uncommon for players to use bats heavier than 36 ounces.
The glove was not always part of the baseball equipment. Players that wore a glove were ridiculed and called weak. In the 1870s the use of such protective equipment grew, and in 1877 Albert Spalding wore a fingerless black leather glove on the field. Because it became a hit, he started selling to other players. Modern gloves are made from leather, have long fingers and a webbed “pocket”. They are often worn on both hands by the batter, although it is not required by regulations. The leather mitt worn by the baseman is rounded and has the four fingers connected. The catcher’s gear includes a similar padded mitt.
Modern baseball equipment includes the catcher’s face mask that protects the players from the fast baseballs that can reach 100 miles per hour. The mask was invented in 1875 by Fred Thayer, a member of the Harvard University Baseball Club. The catcher’s helmet usually integrates a face mask and is similar to the one used in hockey. The Batting helmet is designed to protect the head and the ear. Professionals have only one ear protector while juniors have standard baseball equipment with protection on both sides.
Baseball equipment includes a specific type of shoes known as cleats. The spikes attached to the soles provide the player with better traction. A catcher’s gear includes shin guards, knee savers and a chest protector. Both men and women use a jockstrap and women also wear a pelvic protector. All players wear uniforms and a baseball cap to protect their eyes from the sun.