When you think of getting your equipment ready for work, only one job includes hitting your equipment over and over with a hammer, spitting on it, and then running over it with a vehicle. While these are not the best methods, some people do this to get their baseball gloves ready for gameplay. With that much importance placed on one piece of equipment, it must be properly conditioned to do its job.
A quick internet search will give you many ways to break in a baseball glove, but we’ve filtered out the noise and will share how professionals break in their baseball gloves. Buying the perfect glove is only the first step in the long process of becoming ready. Once you have the glove, the leather needs to be softened along with the stitching, and the glove needs to be formed into the best shape for the player’s hands and the position they play.
Softening the leather
In past articles, we’ve talked about the different kinds of leather used for baseball gloves, but even with softer leather gloves, they still require breaking in. If you have ever put a brand-new baseball glove on your hand, you will notice it is hard to close your hand and squeeze the glove. That doesn’t mean the glove is bad, you just need to soften the leather. Below, we list the popular ways to soften your new leather glove.
By steaming a baseball glove, you are softening the leather with heat and water. This process is done by a specialized machine built for softening gloves by applying hot steam for periods of time. The heat loosens the leather and laces, making the glove easier to close, while the steam softens what are called the “breaking points” of a glove, where it is intended to fold completely (the bottom of the glove near the wrist, known as the “hinge”).
2. Oils & Conditioners
Some players will add mink oil, shaving cream, or saddle soap to their gloves to assist with breaking them in. Even if players do not use oil while breaking in their gloves, it is essential to have glove oil. Oil is especially important for players in humid climates because moisture damages leather. Did anyone ever tell you not to wear a leather jacket in the rain? Now you know why.
3. Glove Wrapping
Popular culture refers to this as the “old-school” way of breaking in gloves. To break in gloves this way, players will place a ball in the glove’s pocket, close the glove around the ball, and wrap it tightly with twine, rubber bands, or anything else that can tie it shut and keep it tight. You can then leave the glove as-is or place something with weight on it. Some people even put it under their mattresses and sleep on it.
4. Play catch
This may seem too simple, but the fact is that it works. This method just takes much longer. When a player plays catch with a new glove, after enough repetitions, the glove will naturally form a pocket based on how that player catches it, which makes for a comfortable glove that performs well.
Forming the pocket
When you think of the pocket of a baseball glove, some people think it is the actual palm of the hand, but the truth is that the pocket of the glove rests between the palm of the hand and the webbing of the glove between the thumb and first finger. Look at the diagram below, and you’ll see where the pocket is located:
So, what makes the pocket so important? When a player fields the ball, either outfield or infield, once the ball hits any part of the glove, if it is broken in correctly, it will fall into the glove’s pocket. As players progress, they are coached to grab the ball from the glove pocket because they don’t have time to look down into their glove. Trust in the equipment is the most important part.
To create the perfect pocket for you, glove wrapping and playing catch are both helpful, but if you enjoy getting out your frustrations, grab a hammer or a mallet and pound away on the pocket of the glove to make it deeper and softer. This will ensure the ball finds its way to the pocket every time you catch it. To see how the pros do it, watch the video below to see how 3x All-Star and 4x Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips has his gloves broken in. Why stop with a hammer when you can use dumbbells?
Flexing the glove
To ensure the leather is soft enough and the glove can be fully closed, the hardest parts of the glove need to be flexed to be pliable. We’ve discussed the importance of having the ball fall into the pocket once it’s in the glove, so to do that, the thumb, heel, and fingers need to be soft and flexible.
Flexing a glove can be done by hand, with a hammer or mallet, or in some cases, just anything hard and heavy. This is also called “flaring” the glove, which has the same intent as the other methods—to funnel the ball into the pocket of the glove.
Flexing a glove requires players to use their hands or a device to bend and manipulate the fingers on the glove by rolling it back and forth rigorously to soften the tougher parts and ensure the ball ends up in the pocket every time.
While this method costs the least, it does take the longest of all methods and can be difficult the first few times. However, playing catch to break in your glove is the best possible way to do it. The methods that speed up the process are good, but to break in a glove specifically for your hand and how you catch the ball, playing catch is best.
The first few times you play catch to break in your glove, closing the glove will be difficult. Still, with time and repetition, the glove will fold the way you want, the pocket will be comfortable, and the fingers will bend the way you want them to without adding or doing anything that might harm the leather.
Considering that your baseball glove is the only thing between a baseball and your body, it is an important piece of equipment that needs to be properly prepared for game use. Many gloves claim to be ready for game use right away, but if you want a glove that lasts, pay attention to the leather and what you put on it. Also, having a glove that performs properly can be the difference between winning and losing games. If you don’t believe us, just watch the video below and see for yourself:
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