All baseball players hold an emotional connection with their glove. They make every effort to take care of their mitt and keep it in the finest condition during the seasons. After all, it is no secret that having a good baseball glove is a crucial part of being successful in the game. Players spend almost 50% of the time in the field trying to catch a ball. You cannot excel in the game if you fail at fielding well. And this is where the role of a top-notch baseball glove starts. So how to you properly break in a baseball glove and take care of it?
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A good baseball glove helps the player take extraordinary catches that remain fresh in the memory of fans for years to come. In addition to helping scoop out ground balls, a superior glove will help you easily catch hard-hit line drives and the occasional pop flies. However, your performance as a baseball player will be severely compromised if you do not have a good baseball glove. What makes a baseball mitt good? It depends on how you break in the glove when you first buy it.
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Why Is It Important To Break In A Baseball Glove Before You Can Use It?
Many young players cannot resist the temptation of playing the game with a brand-new glove without properly breaking it in. However, this is not clever. If you do this, you will find that the ball will not stay and unexpectedly pop-out of your mitt. You will have a tough time catching even a slow-hit ball. In a game like a baseball that demands quick reflexes and good hand-eye coordination, you cannot risk playing with a glove that makes it difficult for you to catch the ball.
To illustrate the point further, imagine a net and a piece of plywood board. If you throw a baseball at a plywood board, you will find that the ball bounces off it and you will need to use your other hand to hold it. Alternatively, a net easily absorbs the ball as it naturally wraps around the ball entering it. The same happens with a baseball glove. If it has not been properly broken in, it will be rigid, and the ball will not stay there. On the other hand, a finely broken in glove will naturally absorb the ball like a net.
After you start to break in your brand-new baseball glove, look for these characteristics to check if you are on the right track to breaking it in correctly.
- It naturally closes around when a ball goes into it.
- It requires little effort for your hand to open or close it.
- It tends to stay slightly curved on the sides even if no force is acting on it.
The Importance of Glove Material
Before we discuss different methods of breaking in a glove, it is essential to understand that glove material will play a critical role if you want to break in a baseball glove accurately and quickly. The thumb rule here is that the softer the glove leather, the shorter the break-in time required for the glove. On the other hand side you should know, that stiffer leather (like cowhide or rawhide) can be broken in as well and last a lot longer.
Avoid buying gloves that are made of synthetic material or gloves broken in by the factory already. Synthetic material will be hard to break in and the leather of game-ready gloves has most likely not been treated nicely by the manufacturer. This results in decreases durability.
How To Properly Break In A Glove
As we have already discussed above, a baseball glove is one of the few sporting goods that are not ready-to-use the moment we buy them. You need to break in the mitt before you can use it to take some celebration-worthy catches. There are several ways to break in a baseball glove. A single search on the internet brings up many ways to break in a glove than you could try. However, the prevailing idea is to apply something that softens the leather and then to use some form of pressure to shape it further. So, let us try to make it simple.
This what you need to do to get your mitt game-ready:
Moisten The Glove’s Leather
New baseball gloves are quite stiff. So, the first things you need to do is to soften the leather. Here is a way to do it:
Pour a small amount of hot water (between 150°F to 170°F) over an area of the mitt that you want to make softer. First try this with a not so important area, like the back of the glove, to see the response of the leather!
You can also apply a small amount of glove oil with the help of a sponge. Never put the oil directly on the glove as may be too concentrated at the point of application and leave that spot heavier than other parts. Moreover, a small amount of oil equally applied to all parts works fine. Using too much oil may reduce the life span of your mitt.
Other softening agents that can also be used are saddle soap, baby oil or Vaseline. The method is the same. Use a small amount of the agent and evenly apply it on the mitt.
Work On The Most Rigid Parts
Now that you have your mitt soaked in warm water or some softening agent, the next step is to start working on the hard parts to make them softer. The technique is simple. Put your hand into the mitt and start moving your thumb and pinky back and forth towards each other to begin breaking in these rigid areas of your glove. Squeeze the palm line by pushing the back fingers and pull the webtop to stretch it a little. Repeat this process as many times as you can or until the glove is completely dry.
Hammer The Glove
Like other leather products, the baseball mitt softens with extended use. However, to speed up the process, you can use a wooden mallet. Pounding the glove with a mallet works the same way as playing the catch. This can help form a nice pocket for the ball to fall into as well as remove any unwanted creases for a smooth finish. Pounding the glove is considered to one of the most effective methods to soften the glove.
Shape The Glove
Another effective way to soften the glove and creating a pocket is to put a ball in it. The procedure is to put the ball in the area where the pocket is to be formed and then wrap the glove with two or three rubber bands. The bands should not be tight and form an “X” like shape as they overlap one another. Leave the rubber-wrapped glove be for a few hours. This will help the mitt take the form you want and not return to its natural form. Pound the pocket again with the mallet after removing the ball to make it evener.
Just Play With The Glove
The most effective and practical way to break in a baseball glove till date is to play as many catches as possible with it. By playing the catch day in and day out, your glove will start to take the form of your hand, and the leather will soften as well. In addition to being fun, playing the catch is the best way to ensure that your glove breaks in to your hand structure, as no oil or plummeting can take the place of actual game experience.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Avoid Microwaving Your Glove
You will find many people suggesting that using the microwave oven is the fastest and easiest method to break in your glove. They will ask you to put your mitt into the machine and turn it on. While this may seem promising in comparison with the time-consuming methods we have discussed above, it is the most harmful way to break in your brand-new mitt. It may work in the short-term, but it will drastically reduce the life of your glove. If you ever try this method out of curiosity, be extra cautious. Don’t leave the mitt in the oven for too long, or your kitchen may smell like a cow that just got struck by lightning.
Do Not Leave Your Glove Wet For A Long Period of Time
As we have discussed above, using hot water helps to break in your glove and is quite effective. However, what you need to avoid is to leave your mitt wet for an extended period of time. For it may become too heavy to use and stink bad. So, after you have poured hot water on the glove and have made it soften, make sure to use a fan or other means to dry it as early as possible.
Caring For The Glove Throughout The Season
Now that you have learned the Do’s and Don’ts of breaking in a glove, it’s time for some pro tips on how to take care of your favorite mitt.
Always try to store your glove in your house in a safe place rather than putting it in your garage or trunk of the car during and off the seasons. It will help the glove maintain better condition and increase its useful life. In addition to it, do not forget to take care of your glove’s leather. Applying a small amount of conditioning cream will keep the leather in a much better condition.
However, use the glove conditioners and oils carefully. Over-caring for your glove can be damaging, as applying too much oil can shorten the leather’s lifespan and make it heavier. Around three to four treatments per season should be sufficient to keep your mitt in excellent condition all year.
There are no shortcuts to breaking in a glove properly. However, using the above techniques and tips will go a long way in helping you making your glove game-ready.
Get home safe,