Baseball doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as dangerous as football and other contact sports, and yet the amount of protective equipment worn by baseball players can be surprising. The reason, of course, is that a ball can travel at extreme speeds, potentially injuring anyone it accidentally comes into contact with. That’s why safety remains a priority during a baseball game.
In addition to helmets, mittens, and other iconic pieces of baseball gear, baseball players sometimes use protection for their sensitive parts as well. Perhaps you heard the discussion centered on the question ‘do baseball players wear cups’ before, and in this article, you will have a chance to learn a bit more about the background of this practice and the extent of its adoption at all levels of the sport.
What is a cup in baseball and why is it needed?
Cups are plastic guards that can be worn between the legs and under the uniform, protecting the player from the dangerous impact of fast-traveling balls. They are considered a part of standard equipment and manufactured in different sizes, so they are suitable for players of different ages and physical builds. A cup is made from hard plastic and needs to fit comfortably across the crutch area, but it limits the range of motion to a certain extent and may not be very comfortable to wear for a prolonged period.
Since the risk of being hit directly depends on the position on the field typically occupied by the player, cups are most frequently worn by catchers. This is why this item is sometimes described as a ‘catcher’s cup’, even if it’s not limited to this position only.
Pitchers wear them for the most part, too, as they are exposed to high-speed line drives coming at them from a short distance. Other infielders, such as first basemen and third basemen, are also recommended to wear protection of this kind due to a high probability of being hit by an errant ball that arrives too quickly to move out of the way.
What is the proper way to wear a cup in baseball?
A cup can be difficult to fit underneath the uniform, so it’s very important to learn how to wear a cup for baseball properly. The main task is to fix the cup in place, so it doesn’t rub against the skin and cause irritation or scratches while remaining completely firm on impact. The most optimal method of equipping a cup depends on the type of underwear the player is wearing and the exact design of the cup, but the general principle is to position the cup centrally and then wrap it tightly so that it remains in place when the leg moves.
Traditionally, jockstraps were used for this purpose, but this garment has to be worn on top of another pair of underwear, and it takes a lot of effort to fit it well. While you can still see some baseball players in jock straps, this type of underwear is increasingly going out of fashion, being replaced by compression shorts made specifically for athletic use. These shorts are designed with an opening in which to insert a cup, and they simplify the process of equipping it quite significantly while reducing the level of discomfort. They eliminate the need for an extra layer of clothing and provide extra protection against strains and muscle pulls.
At which levels of competition is a cup recommended?
Protection from impact is important regardless of the player’s age, but understandably the level of safety concern is greater in youth baseball than in the major leagues. Anyone wondering if baseball players wear cups while they play must first consider the competition and its rules. Wearing a cup is mandatory at some positions in the Little League, as player safety is considered more important than peak performance. Adopting cups early is also a way to build good habits and prepare the player for his adult career when he will be facing much more powerful hitters.
Cups are highly recommended at least for pitchers and catchers at all levels of baseball, and they are a regular part of team-issued equipment. While there is no rule mandating the use of cups in the MLB, it is understood that players are fully aware of their benefits and willing to protect their health. The frequency at which MLB players wear cups during practice or games is not clear, but this safety measure is quite widely adopted by players in the most affected positions. Still, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that many MLB players avoid using them, which puts them at risk of painful and potentially dangerous incidents.
What are the reasons to not wear a cup?
It’s quite obvious that a properly fitted cup brings a safety improvement for the person wearing it, so it’s surprising to learn that numerous players ignore those benefits. While there are no statistics that tell us how often baseball players wear cups, this part of the equipment is certainly not considered to be cool. A part of this might stem from a macho attitude common among athletes, where physical risks are easily dismissed and protective measures are ridiculed as unnecessary or unmanly. This line of thinking can prove to be foolhardy if the player happens to suffer a direct hit between the legs.
Players expected to move around the field a lot complain that a cup might limit their mobility, which is a valid argument. Another reason not to wear a cup is that it’s not a very pleasant experience, although modern cups are more anatomically shaped and tend to cause less discomfort. Again, there is some truth to this, but the annoyance caused by the cup is nothing compared to the pain and anguish that would result from being hit by a foul ball. Hence, more work should be invested in educating young players about the advantages afforded by this sturdy piece of equipment.