For baseball players investing in a quality glove, its maintenance is crucial to ensure longevity and top performance. Dive into this article to debunk common misconceptions about leather and discover effective care practices for your baseball glove.
Cleaning your baseball glove
This is the number-one rule that most players ignore but shouldn’t. After each game or practice, as players collect their gear, the first thing they should do is wipe down their baseball glove. All you need to carry in your equipment bag is a simple rag or soft brush (like dish cleaning brushes) to wipe dirt, grass, and dust off the glove. But why is this so important?
Remember, leather at one time was the skin of an animal, which means even though it has been tanned and treated, it can still dry out and break down by being exposed to the elements. When you leave dust and dirt on your glove, you are drying out the leather, and dry leather cracks and eventually breaks.
To prevent this from happening, carefully wiping down the glove after each use is necessary. In addition to that, players must apply leather cleaner to their gloves at least once per week (if they play almost every day), wipe off the excess, and let it dry. If you do not have leather cleaner, a solution of vinegar and water will also do an excellent job of cleaning the leather without hurting it.
The most important thing to keep in mind when cleaning your glove is not to use too much water. While leather is water-resistant, it cannot handle too much exposure to water. If a leather glove is soaked in water, then as it dries, it will stiffen and begin to fade and crack. Therefore, if you use warm water to break in your glove, it is necessary to dry it right away. Also, because leather is porous, it can stain. Because of this, only use professional leather or glove-cleaning products.
Storing your baseball glove
Because leather does not do well in moist environments, it is essential to store your glove in a cool, dry place after it has been wiped down and conditioned.
If you live in a humid climate or have a humidifier running throughout the winter, then it is best not to expose your gloves to that. There is a balance, though. When winter comes, do not throw your glove into an equipment bag and forget about it. You run the risk of the leather becoming dry and cracking. Remember, both the glove and the stitching are made of leather and can become brittle or even crack if they are too dry.
Another factor to consider when storing your glove is maintaining its shape. After a whole summer of bending, flexing, and breaking in your glove, you want to make sure that all that hard work is not for nothing. To keep shape during storage, players will go back to glove wrapping (discussed in how to break in your glove) by putting a ball, wadded-up newspapers, or even a glove mallet in the pocket of the glove and wrapping it to ensure that when you take it out in the spring, it has the right shape, a soft feel, and isn’t cracked or fragile. To hear how the pros store then own gloves, watch below:
Maintaining your baseball glove
Regular cleaning and storage are both important to ensure your glove lasts the maximum amount of time, but so is regular maintenance during the season. As we mentioned, extreme weather and moisture are bad for your glove, so finding a way to store it on a day-to-day basis is essential. This does not mean throwing it in the trunk of a car or stuffing it in the bottom of a backpack and forgetting about it. If you are serious about the game, then serious care must be taken with your glove.
Also, because of repeated use during a season, a ball will loosen the glove’s laces and webbing. Because of this, a regular part of your glove maintenance program is to check the laces, tighten them, and adjust them throughout the season. To see how this is done, watch the video below:
Also, to make sure that the pocket of the glove stays true and does not look like a folded piece of paper, playing catch on a regular basis and storing the glove with a glove mallet or ball in the pocket will go a long way in maintaining the shape of your glove and making sure that it performs just like it did when it was first broken in.
Repairs and replacement
There are a few signs that your baseball glove may be nearing retirement. If you notice that your glove cannot hold on to line drives or your hand hurts when catching the ball, that is a sign that the leather is breaking down. When this happens, the pocket of the glove collapses, and the ball will hit the fingers more than the glove pocket, which can lead to finger injuries or fielding errors.
For repairs, we recommend that you go to a leather or glove repair shop, but this can be done by yourself with the right tools. The first part of a glove that usually breaks down is the lacing. It can be in the webbing, the fingers, or the palm, but once laces begin to break down, your ability to catch and hold on to the ball decreases. In this situation, if the laces are just loose, they can be retightened with pliers, but if they start to crack and break, then the laces need to be fully replaced.
As former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen once said, “I take better care of my gloves than I do my own family because they make me money.” While that was just a joke, the reality is that to succeed at any level of baseball, you need the right glove, no matter what position you play.
Because baseball has so much more equipment than just a ball, the upkeep and care required for game equipment is a full-time job. In fact, the unsung heroes in this category are the equipment managers for MLB teams. Even though MLB players must provide their own gloves, they get them for free and usually work with the equipment managers to ensure the best performance.
Listen to 3x All-Star and former MVP Josh Donaldson talk about storing and caring for his glove, and listen to how he stresses the importance of glove care and maintenance throughout the entire season:
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