Choosing a Glove
The most important consideration to take into account when buying a ball glove is what position you’re playing. Each fielding position has different needs and gloves are built specifically to meet those needs.
Middle infield– Shortstops and second basemen choose gloves on the smaller side so they can easily transfer the ball to their throwing hand more efficiently. A glove that allows for a quick transfer is necessary in order to turn double plays and because middle infielders play farther away from the batter. They have less to time field and throw once they get to the ball. I-webs are popular for these positions.
Third Base- Third basemen usually wear gloves that are slightly larger than the other infielders and choose single post or H webbing to help snag hard hit balls.
First Base- First basemen not only field ground balls, they must also catch a lot of balls thrown to them by the other infielders. First base gloves are specifically designed with a thin stiff pad in the finger area to help catch balls that bounce or short hop. This stiffer design directs the ball to the pocket and allows first basemen to scoop balls easier. A first basemen’s mitt is designed more for catching and securing the ball and less for quickly transferring it.
Pitcher– Pitchers gloves are similar in size to other infield gloves except that pitchers choose gloves with closed webbing so they can hide their grip on the ball from the batter.
Catcher- Catchers mitts take the most punishment from catching countless pitches and have a clamshell design with thick padding, closed webbing and a basket style pocket. They come in different sizes with the most common being 31” for youth and 32” or greater for adults.
Outfield- Outfielders choose an open or closed web design based on personal preference. Their gloves are larger in design featuring deep pockets that allow for a large catching area. These gloves are designed specifically for catching balls with less consideration given to how fast a player can transfer the ball from glove to throwing hand. There is no difference in glove design between the different outfield positions.
*Keep in mind that these are manufacturer suggestions that serve as a basic guideline. They are not finite rules as to sizing. Hand size, feel and good ol’ personal preference all play a big role in choosing the glove that is best for you.
Breaking In Your New Glove
That beautiful new glove is not going to be game ready when you first slip it on, so it’s your job to break it in. A little glove conditioner will help to soften the leather. Look for a quality product like Mizuno Strong Oil or Nokona Classic Glove Conditioner. Put the conditioner on a sponge or cloth (not directly on the glove) and then rub it into the areas of the glove that you want to make more flexible. Pay special attention to the palm, the hinge, the pocket and the web. Don’t forget the laces. Take some time and really work the glove exactly how you want it. You can use a ball or a ball-shaped mallet to form the pocket. Press and pull on the outsides of the glove to shape it to the ball. Be sure to let the glove have time to absorb the conditioner – usually 24 hours. If you have the time, the best way to break in a glove is by playing catch with it. After all, that’s what the glove was made for.
A couple extra tips here. Don’t go overboard with glove conditioner. It can seep into the glove and start to break down the leather. While it’s good to break in your new glove by playing catch and physically stretching it out, don’t try to speed up the process by driving over it or microwaving it. Those are just plain bad ideas. You’ve seen that person at the beach who sunbathes way too much right? That’s shriveled and cracked, not flexible and conditioned. You just invested a lot of money in a quality glove and your first notion shouldn’t be to destroy it.
Taking care of your glove doesn’t have to be a chore. You can easily give your glove a tune-up by tightening the laces, retying loose knots, and conditioning the glove (occasionally). A nice glove care kit will help with this maintenance. Again, use a conditioner made specifically for your glove. Avoid silicon sprays, linseed oil, and neat’s-foot oil as these will close the pores of the leather and cause it to dry out. Apply glove oil sparingly, as directed above. The oil will extend the life of your glove, keeping it from getting brittle and chapped.
When traveling with your glove or storing it in the off-season, keep it in a dry place with a ball in the pocket to keep its shape. Routine maintenance at least once a season and proper care will keep your glove performing for seasons to come.