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Head Protection for Youth Baseball Catchers

When it comes to youth baseball, equipping catchers with the right gear is crucial for both performance and safety. One of the most debated pieces of equipment is the type of head protection catchers should use. In this guide, I will highlight the importance of hockey-style head protection over the traditional skull cap and face mask combo.

The Importance of Proper Head Protection

Head injuries are a serious concern in baseball. Catchers are particularly vulnerable due to their position directly behind the batter. While many Major League catchers still prefer the traditional skull cap and face mask due to their lighter weight and better ventilation, there is a growing trend towards using hockey-style helmets.

The Hockey-Style Helmet Advantage

Hockey-style helmets offer superior protection compared to the traditional combo. The design of these helmets provides better coverage of the head and face, reducing the risk of injuries from foul tips and backswings. Despite their heavier weight and potential to be hotter, the increased safety they provide is invaluable, especially for young athletes.

A Real-World Example: Payton Henry’s Injury

To underscore the importance of this issue, let’s look at a recent event from a Triple-A International League game between the Mets and Blue Jays affiliates on May 31, 2024. During the game, Buffalo Bisons (Syracuse Mets) catcher Payton Henry was struck on the left side and back of his head by a backswing from batter Pablo Reyes.

This incident, captured on video, highlights the risks catchers face. Henry was positioned correctly inside the catcher’s box, yet the batter’s one-handed backswing managed to catch him off guard. The fact that Henry was wearing a skull cap and face mask combo, indicated by the helmet with an elastic strap left on the ground, suggests that a hockey-style helmet could have provided better protection and possibly prevented his injury.

Addressing Concerns About Hockey-Style Helmets

While some argue that hockey-style helmets can be cumbersome, especially during long games or hot weather, the safety benefits they offer outweigh these drawbacks. Here are a few considerations:

  • Weight: Modern materials and design improvements are making hockey-style helmets lighter and more comfortable.
  • Ventilation: Manufacturers are continually improving ventilation systems to keep players cool.
  • Protection: The comprehensive coverage of hockey-style helmets significantly reduces the risk of head injuries, especially for the back and side of the head.


For youth baseball catchers, the priority should always be safety. The hockey-style helmet, despite some of its drawbacks, provides superior protection compared to the traditional skull cap and face mask combo. The incident involving Payton Henry serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers catchers face and the importance of using the best possible protective gear. Coaches, parents, and players should strongly consider opting for hockey-style helmets to ensure the safety and well-being of young catchers on the field.