When most people around the baseball world think of Rawlings, they think of the wonderful gloves they make. As you probably already know Rawlings has been involved in baseball circles for ages, and they actually supply the baseball used in the big leagues every game. In fact they were founded all the way back in 1887 and since then have primary focused in the baseball area (with a little bit of football mixed in). According to Wikipedia, in 2003 around half of Major League baseball players wore Rawlings around their hand. That is a staggering number so it is easy to understand how catcher’s equipment can be lost in the shuffle.
>> Read More: Part 1 – Rawlings Full Sets
>> Read More: Part 2 – Rawlings Chest Protectors
>> Read More: Part 3 – Rawlings Leg Guards
>> Read More: Part 4 – Rawlings Masks
>> Read More: Part 5 – Rawlings Catchers Mitts
That being said…based on what I am reading from reviews and specifications, not considering Rawlings may be a mistake. The price points are quite reasonable and the level of protection you’ll receive sounds on par to many of the bigger brands like Easton, All Star, Mizuno, and Under Armour.
This page breaks down what we feel are your best choices when it comes to Rawlings catcher’s gear. We first look at the full sets they offer (as that is easiest) and then go down to the individual pieces. And yes, we look at mitts as well!
Obviously the easiest and quickest way to support the Rawlings brand is with a full set of gear. It takes the guess work out of sizing, colors and everything else. Most times as well, you’ll find that the full sets are cheaper than if you purchased each piece individually. In 2017, Rawlings has a couple of different sets: the Matte series and the new Velo. We overview both in the sections that follow.
For those looking for a bit more advanced equipment, Rawlings offers a Matte series which rivals many of the top brands of gear around. Although pricier than the Velo we will describe later, you will certainly get everything you need out of this set.
- Pros: Custom Fit, Increased Coverage
- Target: Competitive
- Sizes: Adult, Intermediate, and Youth
- Colors: Black, Red, Royal, Navy, Maroon, Purple, and Green
- Price: $320 – $380
One of the main features included in the Rawlings Matte series is its ability to provide a customized fit for every catcher. Having properly sized gear makes you a better catcher! Some of the more important details include:
- Chest Protector – The Matte chest protector uses a dynamic fit system with additional adjustable should caps, back harness, and neck area. It also features better absorption allowing you to feel very little in the chance you get hit in the chest area.
- Leg Guards – The leg guards provide a great amount of coverage and include an extra “supertoe” for further instep enhancement. This lightweight, triple knee system also promises to keep you as mobile as possible.
- Mask – With a durable aluminum cage, the Matte helmet promises to provide you with the most comfort possible while still keeping your head as protected as possible. With an enhanced jaw design on the interior, you will feel like a brand new catcher!
- Pros: Less expensive, Lightweight, Durable
- Target: Beginner to somewhat competitive
- Sizes: Adult, and Intermediate
- Colors: Black/Grey, White/Silver
- Price: $250 – $280
The Matte series described above is perfect for competitive level catchers. But not all of you are at the competitive level. Some are just beginning their catcher journey while others feel like they want just a bit more out of their gear but don’t want to go too far down the budget line and pick up crappy equipment. That is where this series comes in. Although not as many bells and whistles are included, this is still a great set that should not be ignored. The more important features include:
- Chest Protector – The Velo chest protector features enhanced rebound control. Constructed using wedge shapes in the abdomen region, any baseball that hits you on the surface of the chest protector should fall as close in front of you as possible. As you can well imagine this provides a huge advantage to those catchers who don’t have a special surface like this as the ball could really end up anywhere.
- Leg Guards – Offering full shin protection, the Velo series shin guards have been built using a triple knee design allowing you to not only feel good in the crouch position, but also move around as much as you like. One of the biggest complaints often associated to leg guards are their stiffness and lack of mobility. These should provide a fix for that.
- Mask – The main benefit catchers will find using the Velo helmet is the increased field vision it provides. In addition it also features a comfortable leather chin pad, and offers a scratch proof outer shell allowing you to keep using it for many seasons. It also has an enhanced moisture control system so that your sweat doesn’t impact you during the game.
If you are looking for chest protection that will keep you protected and last longer than expected then you should consider one made by Rawlings. In fact, World Series winning catcher Yadier Molina wears this gear right now, so if the pros use it then it must be pretty good! Currently the two main chest protectors being offered by Rawlings are the Matte series and the more expensive Pro Preferred. We provide our thoughts based on the features below.
The Pro Preferred chest protector is the newest model to be offered by Rawlings. You may be thinking that you have heard of this model before and you probably have. As mentioned earlier, Rawlings has specialized themselves in the glove market and one of their successful models is the Pro Preferred. It’s nice to see this name available for catcher’s gear now as well.
So what does it offer? One of the first things is that it is supposed to be quite revolutionary in terms of providing a nice comfortable fit. Rawlings uses what they call a “Dynamic Fit System” which is supposed to provide the best fit possible and adjust automatically to whichever way the catcher is positioned. The Pro Preferred also features an interesting “C” channels shape around the sides to wrap it around your body. This in itself has quite a few benefits as it should make you feel more protected but at the same time provide a bit more mobility and easiness to move.
Another advanced feature that may sound small but is quite neat is that fact that they’ve extended the left shoulder slightly. This gives the catcher a little bit of extra protection in the shoulder area without making any sacrifices to their mobility.
Lastly, like many other chest protectors, it includes a newer ventilation system. This system is called “TRI-TECH” padding and serves the same purpose of allowing good clean air to circulate and remove the sweaty, and hot air that resides between your body and the equipment. Although this series is slightly more expensive, if it is anything like the same model of gloves, it should last a long time and make for a great choice this summer.
- Sizes: Available in Adult (17 inch), and Intermediate (15.5 inch) sizes
- Colors: Black, Cardinal, Green, Grey, Maroon, Navy, Purple, Royal Blue , and Scarlet
The Rawlings Matte is the top dog when it comes to a nice combination of price and features. The Matte series uses a brand new innovation called PORON XRD to further keep the catchers chest area protected at all times. According to the product sheet, this new feature creates almost a molecular protective barrier that is able to withstand the greatest impacts you can face as a catcher time after time. Where some chest protectors wear out a bit easier, this one is supposed to keep its full level of protection long after being purchased.
A chest protector that assists with rebound control can be considered a great asset to a catcher. And that is exactly what the Matte series has as well. It has been designed using a flat front so that when hit, the ball is supposed to bounce in a downward direction and fall right in front of you.
In terms of customization, the Matte allows a catcher to adjust from the back harness, neck area and in the shoulder caps. This ensures that many different catchers can apply they own fit while using it.
- Sizes: Available in Adult (17 inch), Intermediate (16 inch), and Youth(15 inch) sizes
- Colors: Black, Black/Grey, Green/Grey, Navy/Grey, Royal/Grey, and Scarlet/Grey
In the next section we take a look at the top choices of leg guards offered by Rawlings. When purchasing leg guards, a catcher should look for them to have a nice snug fit around the knee area as this spot is the most vulnerable. Like the chest protector section, we feel based on the feature lists that the Matte and Pro Preferred series are the best bets for the 2017 season.
The Rawlings Matte leg guards should make for a great choice for any somewhat competitive to competitive player. One of the most common things to look for when deciding on leg guards are the amount of protection they provide, especially in the knee and shin area. One of the main features to look for with respect to the level of protection are whether or not the leg guards feature a double or triple knee design. Although both are good, a triple knee design provides more protection and are more cognizant of the catcher when they are in the crouch position. The Matte series includes a triple knee design so you can feel quite confident in them.
In addition, the Matte series includes a specific impact management system. Knowing that Rawlings has put extra effort into creating an item that can withstand lots of impact should make you feel confident that they should last a long time and keep you protected from the sharpest hit foul balls. Impact resistance has also been extended to the ever important knee area by using Rawlings own Poron XRD technology.
One of the final features that we feel is worth mentioning is the Pro Dri moisture management system that is included. As you can imagine, having any leg guards wrapped around you for an entire game can be quite a nuisance especially when it comes to sweat. This system should help manage this and make you feel more comfortable.
- Sizes: Available in Adult (17 inch), Intermediate (16 inch), and Youth (15 inch) sizes
- Colors: Black Out, Black/Grey, Green/Grey, Navy/Grey, Royal/Grey, and Scarlet/Grey
Pro Preferred Leg Guards
The Matte series we described above are perfect for just about any catcher. However if you are looking to spend a bit more money and go with the best version then the Pro Preferred model might be exactly what you need. As we also explained earlier, one of the main things to look for in terms of level protection are whether or not the leg guards include at least a double knee design. The Pro Preferred series (like the Matte series) includes a triple knee design providing an advanced level of protection.
What really distinguishes the Pro Preferred from the Matte series is the moisture management. Although the Matte series does have a moisture management system in place, the Pro Preferred uses Rawlings brand new TRI-TECH padding. This new padding promises to keep air circulating between the leg guards and your legs for the entire game. So all of that hot, and stinky air that sits inside can make its way out while fresh cool air can come in making for a more comfortable experience when stationed behind home plate.
Another advanced feature that you don’t see on many other leg guards in and additional strap that keeps the toe flap in place. So even if you are in the crouch position, standing up to survey the field or running to back up one of your team mates the toe flap remains in place and allows you to remain protected.
- Sizes: Available in Adult (16.5 inch), and Intermediate (14.5 inch) sizes
- Colors: Cardinal, Grey, Green, Maroon, Navy, Purple, Royal, Scarlet, and Black
A catcher’s helmet is arguably the most important piece of equipment that a catcher will wear and one made by Rawlings should be a good choice. Each of the models you will see below should provide the sturdiness and protection required to sit behind the plate. Rawlings has been in the baseball business for a very long time and has created great gear for many different positions and therefore I believe catcher is no exception. On this page we feature the following models: the Pro Preferred Series, and a more traditional styled classic face mask.
Pro Preferred Mask
The first helmet that we’d like to take a stab at reviewing is the newer hockey themed Pro Preferred series. Like the leg guards from the same series, one of the most intriguing features of this mask is the newer ventilation system that has been included. This system named CoolFlo promises to keep you feeling good all game long by providing an easier way for cooler air to come inside. I know the feeling of sitting with my mask on and sweat dripping from my face in the later innings. And without a doubt it is one of the more annoying aspects of having to wear a mask so this feature certainly has my interest.
Outside of the air circulation aspect, another important consideration is how well it protects you. Thankfully it seems that the Pro Preferred has you fully covered so you can just concentrate on being the best catcher possible. The cage of the mask itself is built using stainless steel material which should make it very strong and be great at withstanding any sort of impact. In case there is any doubt, the helmet meets NOCSAE standards who certainly know much more than I do about judging head protection.
Although the helmet is above average in terms of pricing, it does seem to offer quite a bit of advanced innovations that catchers are looking for. Namely in the area of comfort and protection, you should have no confidence issues when sitting behind the plate with this helmet strapped around your head.
- Sizes: Available in Adult (7 1/8″ – 7 3/4″), and Youth (6 1/2″ – 7″) sizes
- Colors: Black, Cardinal, Dark Green, Maroon, Purple, Navy, Red, and Royal
Unlike the newer hockey themed helmets like the Pro Preferred series above (and from other brands), catchers looking for the more traditional face mask option should take a closer look at the Rawlings LWMX model. Inspired by one of the best catchers of all time – Mike Piazza – there is quite a bit going for this simple and efficient model.
Often one of the biggest complaints of a catcher is the bulkiness of the helmet and how it makes them feel quite uncomfortable. With a lighter face mask like the Rawlings LWMX, catchers that hate the bulkiness offered by the newer styles may like this option instead. In addition to this model in particular being branded as light in weight, it also provides the catcher with an easier and quicker way to remove their entire mask at once. So when you need to fling your mask off to join in the play, you can do so much quicker when making use of the face mask option instead.
Another thing to note about this model in particular is a couple of extras that have been included. The interior is covered entirely in leather which provides two important things catchers look for: comfort and moisture management. Secondly for extra protection, this mask includes a throat protector to cover even more area that could possibly be vulnerable.
All of this and I really haven’t mentioned the best part…the price. At less than $50, catchers looking for that traditional style with the ability to throw it off with ease should really consider this option.
In the next section of our review, we take a look at Rawlings mitts which are extremely popular. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they have models to suit young, old, inexpensive, or pricey players. So even though we only take a look at a couple of options here, there are many others to look at as well in case neither of the Player Preferred or GG Gamer series look good to you.
Player Preferred series
The Player Preferred Mitts offered by Rawlings are one the most popular and most purchased mitts available. And for good reason! Priced at under $60, the Player Preferred mitts offer a lot of bang for your buck. These gloves are often described as being easy to control and comfortable to wear. The Player Preferred series itself (for all players) aims to provide a product that provides deep pro-level patterns and provide a look that makes the glove perceive to be much older than it is.
One of the first things to note is the high quality leather that has been used in the Player Preferred series. Rawlings has provided full grain leather which provides a great amount of durability and an almost game-ready broken in mitt from the get go. For the cost, I don’t there aren’t too many other brands that can offer this same level of quality.
Another couple of features that I should mention are the Speed trap heel shape and Flex Loop backing used for this series. What do these features mean and how will they benefit you? Used in conjunction these features should allow an easier close for a catcher while at the same time providing additional flexibility whether the pitch is right in line or you have to go dig it out from the dirt.
With exceptional control and leather lacing, this glove has become a favorite with all levels of catchers from young to old as it is quick to break in and use right away instead of a long waiting period. Although rare, this mitt is available to both left and right handed throwing catchers making it perfect for many recreational leagues.
We hope that you have enjoyed our look at the top options when it comes to Rawlings gear. As we mentioned there is quite a lot to like about what they offer and we feel that you’ll see some great benefits when using their gear.