On our Equipment Primer page, we cover all the equipment girls will need to participate in a game of fast pitch softball. On this page, we go beyond providing descriptions of equipment, and thought it would be helpful to parents if we reviewed an actual product. Not all products qualify for this review area because our space is limited. Equipment must be highly rated, and consistently ranked within softball circles as being high quality equipment - only the best for the HRYS family.
Face guards (also called Face masks)
This review is for a face guard generously supplied by RIP-IT. The model we received was the “Defense Pro".
The mask weighs a light 11.2 ounces (317 grams) and feels really solid. It is also really nice looking - something that is sure to please your player especially considering how spartan some of the older face guards look. The frame looks to be spot welded at all points where bars meet, so it is extremely sturdy and should last for many seasons despite being jostled around in girl's gear bags.
One of the functions of face guards is to keep the ball from contacting the players face. To achieve this, the mask bars have to be strong enough to withstand a line drive, close enough to each other to keep a ball from squeezing through, but not so close that the players vision is impacted.
RIP-IT achieves this juggling act perfectly. According to our tester, she has an excellent view through the opening and this is especially important for her because she wears glasses, and found that her old plastic mask was fogging up. As a pitcher, the last thing she needs is to be struggling to establish clear visual contact with the strike zone. Same for infielders attempting to make the perfect throw.
Another nifty trick employed by RIP-IT is to paint the inside of the bars with a matte black paint, thereby absorbing any stray light - the same reasoning behind eye black. See the picture below for a view of the inside of the RIP-IT mask. Any little thing to reduce distraction or glare is welcomed.
As you can see by the picture, there is ample padding on the inside of the mask both for the top of the mask where it contacts the player's temple, and on the chin cup. Both can be minutely adjusted as they are both attached to the frame with velcro. This lends itself to a feeling of extra comfort, and is a nice touch being especially important during double headers or travel tournaments. The padding also looks to be absorbent for those hot summer days here in Northern Virginia. And naturally, all the padding can be removed and replaced, essentially making the mask last as long as it fits the player.
The final part of the guard is the strap that holds the guard to the players head. RIP-IT has included the popular pony tail opening for those girls who want to restrain their hair from intefering with their play. The opening in the RIP-IT guard is extra large, making room for even the most thick of pony tails.
All in all, it seems as if the makers of this face guard have taken pains to think of every single detail in the construction. One of the most important, and brief mention was made of it above, comes in how the bars are spaced. Below, we compare our player's old mask with the RIP-IT mask. From one look, the old mask looks busily imposing and almost like the face guards used in martial arts.
Here, the clear benefits of manufacturing a guard in metal over one in plastic are obvious. The only drawback is the additional weight that comes with metal construction. The wide open design of the RIP-IT mask allows air to flow in, and the player's vision to be virtually unobstructed. No wonder our players glasses were always fogging up. The plastic mask weighs a feathery 5.7 ounces, though we have to wonder if an additional 5.5 ounces will make too big a difference, especially considering the length of each inning.
In the end, our vote for best face guard and one that we heartily endorse goes hands down to the mask from RIP-IT. If your girl is in 8U or greater, and shows any signs of playing more than one season, the safety, sturdiness, and espeically the extra vision gained will benefit you and her in many ways and is easiily worth the extra cost. Below, we include a link to the RIP-IT store where you will find the price is equal to that on Amazon. Shipping is free as well. As an added benefit, if you can gather a total of 6 parents to purchase masks, there is a significant 25% discount off the order.
RIP-IT: Main site
RIP-IT: Fielder's Masks