It’s getting cold out there!!!! And low temps can lead to some pretty miserable tournaments for everyone involved. If you’re dealing with serious dread over the frigid remainder of your kid’s fall ball schedule, then it’s time to invest in a good portable heater or two. I’ve been doing some research on the best model to buy and Mr. Heater Big Buddy is by far the favorite according to reviews by hundreds of coaches and sports parents.
According to Seminole Tony on the Northwest Georgia Baseball Association forum, Big Buddy heaters are worth their weight in gold. They put off lots of heat, are easy to use and easy to transport.
“A little trick I use is take a roll of heavy gauge plastic and section off an area low along the fence (usually at the opposite end of the dugout from the entrance 2-3ft. high) to block any wind. Place the heater in the corner watch the players flock to it like a moth to a flame. Runs on 4D batteries and two 1 lb. propane tanks. The heater on high will last 6+ hours. Don’t forget zip ties to secure the plastic to the fence. One other trick is to roll the edges a couple of turns down to make it stronger for the ties to hold to. It also allows you to re-use the plastic over a whole tournament.”
I second Tony’s suggestion about hanging plastic tarps to block the wind in the dugout. This, of course, is referring to a dugout made of chain link fencing.
Seminole Tony also says….“I used mine (heater) tonight at my son’s high school game on the bleachers and I had to get up several times because my rump roast was done. Trick to bleacher placement is to put the heater under the 2nd or 3rd row bleacher seats and hang a blanket over the top seat just behind the unit(which is facing forward towards the field)almost to the ground. You sit above it with some of your closest friends and just cover up. The blanket that hangs down contains the heat forward and up. This way usually will keep 6-9 rears warm through a cold game.”
For Hands and Feet
It’s a special kind of misery when your fingers and toes are so cold that they feel like they’re going to break off. Here are a few items that travel ball players and parents rank highly in the “must-have during cold weather” category.
These Franklin Cold Weather Batting Gloves are thicker than regular batting gloves, and have a neoprene back to keep hands warn. Since my sons haven’t tried them, I can’t give a first-hand impression (yeah, pun intended), but they’re recommended by Pro Baseball Insider and received very good reviews on Amazon.
If there’s one essential cold weather product you’ll want to buy in bulk, it’s these things. Hand warmers! I suggest taking up a collection at the beginning of the season to buy a few boxes. Keep them in the dugout for players to grab when they need them.
They also make toe warmers that fit under the toes to keep them toasty. (I’m not sure how comfortable these would be for players running bases.)
I was researching different brands of battery-powered heated socks looking for ones to recommend. However, several people I talked to swear by these Heat Holders socks. And, according to the thousand-plus superlative reviews on Amazon, they’re essential cold-weather gear.
Even though the theory that we lose half our body heat through the tops of our heads has been debunked, the average head can still get pretty darn chilly when it’s out in the elements for any length of time. We recommend an extra layer between the hair (or scalp) and ball cap.
Your player’s noggin will be oh so much warmer with a fleece-lined beanie that covers the ears too. This one fits nicely under a ball cap and isn’t too tight.
Tights and Undershirts
In order to stay warm and warmed-up (as in muscles stretched and ready for action) compression fit material is the smartest choice. But not everyone is a fan of the tight feel of compression garments. (I’m sure not.) For a more flexible alternative, choose “fitted” leggings and undershirts. Both Under Armour Cold Gear and Nike offer high quality warmth in their undershirts and leggings. Nike even has three levels of thickness: ProWarm, Pro Hyperwarm and Pro Hyperwarm Max. Like most Nike and Under Armour items, they’re expensive, but worth the money if your player is going to be doing outdoor tournaments and camps over the next few months.
For you parents, grandparents and other sideline dwellers, be sure to always have blankets. ALWAYS. (Nice, thick ones! Not those light knit afghans with big wind holes all through them.) One to sit on and one to drape over you. Multiply that by the number of people coming with you to the ball field and that’s how many blankets you’ll need. If you haven’t already, go put all those blankets in your car. Right now. I’ll wait.
Great! Now don’t take them out until at least May.
A couple of reminders to go with the heater talk earlier in the post: Keep metal bats away from heaters. The heat can weaken metal and shorten the life of the bat. And warming bats this way is against the rules. Also, be sure to check ahead of time with each tournament facility to see if they have any specific rules about heaters in dugouts.
And speaking of metal bats, they don’t like the cold. But we’ll be talking about that in our next post. Stay tuned.