How to choose a baseball glove
Going to the sporting goods store and buying a baseball glove sounds straightforward, but depending on your level of play, it can be a confusing decision to make.
Today’s baseball gloves are made of many kinds of leather with different types of stitching, padding, and features. However, it can also be easy to overspend on features that you may not need.
Don’t rush to buy a glove because your favorite player is endorsing it, there is much more to selecting your equipment. Remember, the glove is what is going to save your hand, body, and face from a 120 mph line drive off the bat.
Because baseball glove selection can be a tricky process if you are not sure what you want, we have laid out the top considerations you should keep in mind when shopping for one of the most important pieces of baseball equipment.
Size and fit
Ever see someone catch a baseball in their glove only to see the ball take the glove right off the person’s hand? That happens when the glove is too big or loose for the hand, so the size and fit of your glove absolutely matters. Just ask JD Davis of the New York Mets:
When selecting a baseball glove, it is like shopping for athletic shoes or clothing. The size and fit matter for performance. They cannot be too loose or too tight. One additional factor that must be considered is the comfort as well.
A baseball player’s hands must be able to squeeze the fingers of the glove tightly around the ball, especially between the thumb and forefinger. When you see fielders make amazing plays, it is because they are comfortable with their glove and can control it as if it is an extension of their own fingers.
Position and level of play
Each position on the baseball field has different glove requirements. Below is a brief list of what each position should be looking for in a glove:
The most important factor for a pitcher’s glove is privacy, which means the net (or web) of the glove (a patch of leather 2-4 inches wide that connects the thumb of the glove to the rest of the fingers). Padding and length are not as important because a pitcher does not field many balls in play.
The catcher’s glove is heavily padded and must also be very flexible. They do not have separate fingers on catcher’s gloves, so the 4-finger padded area must be soft enough to scoop up a ball thrown in the dirt as well as catch a 100-mph fastball right in the soft part of the palm of their hand.
Some pitchers will even add palm padding to their glove. Just watch Salvador Perez during the playoffs back in 2014:
For 2B, SS, and 3B, the primary purpose of their gloves are to scoop up ground balls. Because of this, infielders want soft gloves with a high amount of flexibility. To do this, infielders will undo the stitching of the fingers and tighten them even more to force the fingers into the shape of a bowl.
However, a glove that is great for fielding ground balls may not be good for playing first base or other positions. Why is that? Watch this video and see why:
First Baseman Gloves
This is the strange one of the group. Because of the specialized nature of the 1B position, they have a special, fingerless glove just for them to “scoop” low throws that hit the dirt. To hear a further explanation, listen to the Chicago Cubs broadcasters talk about first base gloves and their importance:
For those that roam the open, grassy fields catching fly balls, the longer the glove fingers and webbing, the better. The reason for this is that with so much ground to cover, the best chance for outfielders to make a play is to have a glove that can give them more area to cover.
They also need soft gloves that can close easily and stay closed once they grip the ball. Imagine outfielders when they don’t squeeze the ball with enough force on their glove. You don’t have to imagine, it, just watch below:
Another factor to consider is the level of play. While some baseball gloves can cost several hundred dollars, a quality, soft glove that does not cost too much is a great option for youth players.
Until a player decides that they want to pursue being a professional baseball player, a good quality glove should only cost $50 or so, but if you can find a used, already broken-in glove, that can be just as good.
Material and construction
When most think of leather, we assume that it is cowhide or deerskin, but the truth is that baseball gloves are made from several different kinds of leather, and it depends on the player and the position as to what leather they choose.
For the major glove manufacturers today, they use mostly cow/steer hide, but will also use buffalo, kangaroo, or synthetic leather. With cowhide, there is also a choice between cow and steer hide.
While they are both cattle, steer hide comes from the backs of full-grown male steers which makes the leather stiff, heavy, and more durable. These kinds of gloves take a long time to break in but can last for several years.
For types of leather, baseball gloves are constructed with full-grain leather, kip leather, and cow/steer hide. Full grain leather is more natural and is a bit stiffer, but durable.
Kip leather is more expensive because it has been pressed to become thinner and lighter without sacrificing performance and is found in expensive, professional gloves.
When it comes to making a glove, each manufacturer has their own special techniques, but the basic construction is the same. Once the correct leather is chosen, pieces are cut out with what looks to be a large cookie cutter that contains all the shapes needed to cut leather and stitch it into a complete glove.
For a fun inside look, check out this brief video courtesy of the St Louis Cardinals:
Brand and price
There are many companies that make baseball gloves, but at the top levels of the game, there are 5 main manufacturers: Easton, Mizuno, Nokona, Rawlings, and Wilson.
When it comes to price, baseball gloves for Little League and youth baseball can run from $50-$100 brand new but can cost a fraction of that if purchase used. At the professional level, a new glove can cost a player $500 or more depending on the customization.
As you continue reading this series about baseball gloves, we will talk more in depth about what materials are used in glove manufacturing, how to best break them in, measuring for the perfect size for your hands, and how to care and maintain your equipment. To hear what MLB players look for in the best baseball gloves at each position, watch below:
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