“The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?”
Ray Liotta aș Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams
Some major league baseball players have used the same gloves for years. This, despite having lucrative contracts with glove companies that provide freebies every year. Former major leaguer Adam Everett used the same baseball glove for six years. Shortstop Jordy Mercer used the same glove for ten years. Chet Lemon used the same glove for sixteen years. If you love baseball, you don’t have to play in the major leagues to know the relationship one can develop with their own glove. For many it is an extension of the human body. If you ever misplaced your cell phone and experienced those few seconds of panic, baseball players go through the same thing if their glove is misplaced for a short time.
Buying your son or daughter’s first glove can be the beginning of an emotional bond for some. I remember my dad, who knew nothing about baseball, bought my first glove from a neighboring wholesale sporting goods business in the Bronx. It didn’t matter to me if it was the right size or if the quality was not great. I just wanted to have my own glove. Today there are a lot more baseball glove manufacturers than when I was a kid.
Before I get into the nuances of breaking in a new baseball glove, let me say that after that first glove my dad bought, my next two were easy. Being a leftie living in a sports minded neighborhood, with only one other leftie, I was able to inherit the gloves that neighbor Peter, the older leftie up the street didn’t want when his dad bought his new mitt. So before you go out and purchase that Rawlings Heart of the Hide R2G $300. glove, check with some of your neighbors. Chances are their grown up kids are out of the house and they might have old broken in gloves lying around. In fact, with the price of sporting goods in general, I have always advised young families who are just getting started in youth sports to check with their neighbors who may want to part with some old equipment. If you knock on some doors, there is a great chance if the mother of the house answers and you explain what you want, she will lay down the red carpet and take you into her garage and tell you to help yourself. You may get a line like “I’ve been after my kids to go through their stuff for years, now you just did the job for them.”
When you do purchase a glove, there are some things that you need to know about breaking them in. The first thing I will tell you is you must adhere to the directions of breaking in the glove instructions put out by that company. If Rawlings recommends you putting hot water on your glove but you purchased a glove by Wilson, don’t do it. Get a hold of the directions that Wilson has put out and if they recommend hot water than it’s okay but follow their directions. Remember you don’t want to fill up a car that takes diesel fuel with regular gasoline.
A new glove will be stiff. I can tell you 100 ways to break it in. First and foremost on top of the list-have a catch with the new glove. As stiff as it will be, and with all the balls dropped at the beginning, you will at least begin to get used to it and start having a comfort spot as to the exact spot in the glove you want the baseball to land. I always thought it a little strange that these companies advise us how to break in a glove with an emphasis on where you actually catch the ball in the glove before you even have a catch with the new glove on. As you continue to play catch over and over again, the leather will stretch and actually begin to kind of mold to fit your hand. You want to have a natural feeling with the glove and you want it to feel like it is an extension of your arm. Play ball with mom or dad or your older brother and sister until you get called you in for dinner.
After you purchase your new glove, if there is a salesperson taking care of you, they might recommend that they steam the glove for you or they will try to sell you some oil for the glove insisting that this is a must and their product has Lanolin Oil which all good glove oils should have. This oil is good for most gloves and you’ll see that each company has their own brand. So if you buy a Rawlings glove they have a Rawlings Glove Oil which they call Glovolium. Wilson’s is called Wilson Pro-Stock Glove Conditioner. And even glove manufacturer Mizuno has their own Mizuno Strong Oil. You can purchase the oil but before you do I’d take it home and do a few things first. Why spend the money if you don’t need it? But if you do purchase the oil and apply it to your glove, make sure you never put it directly on the glove. The technique is to put a little on a rag and spread it over the glove as evenly as you can. If applied directly on the glove, it can leave stain marks.
When you are purchasing gloves for your son and daughter, don’t do what I used to do. I was under the impression the glove has to get bigger every couple of years. I was wrong. In fact when I was at a baseball game years ago in Yankee Stadium, the person I was with knew some of the players. Before the game they came over to our seats and when the second baseman came over, I was amazed that his glove was not much bigger than the out line of his hand. Chose the size of the glove wisely and don’t go for the largest glove thinking the player has a better chance of making a play. Control and feel are the biggest glove factors when making a play.
I have to address the catcher’s glove which is a kind of different type of animal. Coaching in my local recreational Little League for over 25-years, I convinced my league to purchase a new catcher’s glove for each team every year. The new glove would be the practice glove and the one from the year before would be the game glove. This worked great because the new glove got a lot of repetitions with pitchers throwing to other players or coaches in practice.
When you do this, you may miss out with the same catcher’s glove for the same player, but I have found even on the recreational level, the players who are serious about catching will purchase their own equipment especially the catchers glove.
Now some “do’s and dont’s for your new glove or your kid’s new glove:
- The best way to break in a glove is with repetitions.
- Check your neighborhood first for a used glove.
- Be consistent with the brand of glove and the directions they offer.
- You can store a ball in the pocket of the glove overnight. I recommend using an 11” softball wrapped with a belt or rope around the glove.
- Stretch the finger part of the glove every which way by hand. In fact if you can turn it inside out, stretch the fingers again.
- If you use glove oil spread with a rag.
- You can use a glove mallet to pound it on a soft surface.
- Don’t just put a name on it somewhere with a permanent marker but put a phone number. The phone number is more important.
- Don’t run over it with a truck or car. You can cause serious abrasive damage
- Don’t bake or microwave it. This can destroy the lacing.
- Don’t get gloves too big. Control and feel is the key to using a glove.
- Don’t over treat with glove oil.
- Don’t overexpose your glove to heat. It loosens the leather short term but you want the fibers to mold around your hand and that takes time.
As I stated before best takeaway is to play catch over and over again. The one thing I want coaches and parents to grasp it that an expensive perfectly broken in glove does not mean the ball will automatically pop into it. The player has got to move their feet to make the glove work. Too many players think because “I’m wearing an expensive glove, the ball will go into it.” Life doesn’t work like that. A good broken in glove is only part of becoming a good ball player.
If you buy a new glove, take care of it as you would a pet and never forget where you leave it! A great glove is part of your body!
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