Whether you're playing a casual softball game at a company picnic or an official contest in an organized league, you'll need some basic equipment. As you play in more competitive leagues, you'll find restrictions on the type of equipment you can use. Fastpitch catchers at highly competitive levels will need more equipment than at lower levels, for example.
Depending on your league, your bats may need to be approved by the Amateur Softball Association of America. Approved bats must contain the ASA logo. Some leagues have restrictions regarding aluminum and wood bats. Younger players may be required to use bats with safety knobs on the end. These are large end-caps on the handle that help players keep their grip on the bat to prevent the bats from flying into the stands or dugouts on wild swings.
Softballs come in a variety of sizes, from 10 inches to 16 inches in circumference. Players use balls 12 inches and smaller in fastpitch games, with 16-inch balls used for slowpitch games. Ball in many organized leagues must meet ASA specifications that limit the ball's circumference, color and coefficient of restitution -- its bounciness.
Whether you play in an ASA-sponsored league or an independent association, a fastpitch softball hitter should always wear a helmet. Getting hit in the head with a pitch can lead to serious injury and even death. Also wear a helmet in the on-deck circle to protect yourself from foul balls. Wear a glove in the field to help catch the ball. Use a softball glove, which has a larger pocket than a hardball glove. Wear a catcher's mitt to play catcher in fastpitch softball. Consider a larger first baseman's glove to play first base. If you're a competitive player you should also wear cleats to improve your speed and traction. Check with your league office or coach before using metal spikes, or simply buy shoes with plastic cleats.
You can use dirt patches, T-shirts, pieces of plastic or any other flat material for bases in casual softball games. Safety is key, so make sure your material won't cause someone to trip as they run the bases. Organized leagues may require ASA-approved bases that attach to the ground. If you play in a league with fast athletes who will be sliding into bases on regularly, consider breakaway bases. These prevent players from injuring themselves on hard slides by allowing the base to break free from its ground attachment on contact.
The faster the speed of the pitches in a league, the more protective equipment a catcher will require. This will include a catcher's mask, chest protector, athletic cup for males and shin guards. Some catcher's masks feature throat protectors.