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How to break in a baseball glove

How to break in a baseball glove

Every baseball or softball player has a special relationship with their glove. Countless catches, grabs, and snags have molded its every crease and seam. That mitt has taken a lot of work to shape, and it all starts with the break-in.

Before playing, players of all levels should break in their gloves. Breaking in your glove properly will ensure that it is comfortable to wear and moves smoothly with your hand. Your glove can also make a pocket to grip the ball more securely. To get the right fit and feel, keep reading.

 

Why do baseball gloves need to be broken in?

Breaking in your baseball glove eliminates any unwanted rigidity and personalizes the fit of the glove. Some people also create a pocket that holds the ball more securely. There are different ways to break in your glove depending on its material.

Baseball gloves made of synthetic materials are supposed to be game-ready right out of the box, but cowhide or steerhide gloves must have their leather softened first. The break-in process varies by leather grade and can take anywhere from days to weeks. 

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Breaking in a baseball glove: myths and truths

When you purchase a new baseball glove, you will immediately note that it exhibits all of the symptoms of the new-baseball-glove syndrome. It's stiff, not form-fitting, and possibly uncomfortable.

Truths

The truth is that a glove that has been broken in is more comfortable. This is part of the reason why most players continue to play with their old and decrepit gloves. Nothing beats a perfect fit. However, keeping a genuine leather glove in good shape does require some tender love and care. 

Myths

It's difficult to break in a baseball glove

People often think that breaking in a glove rapidly is tough but it is possible. Catchers have been known to focus on making their mitts more malleable during the two-hour trip to a game. Although it may not be perfect, the job yields results.

It’s possible to break in a glove overnight

It is possible to break in a glove overnight, but not entirely. Some people even go so far as to sleep wearing their new gloves. Playing catch and stretching the fabric will be much more effective than a bad night of sleep.

 

How long does it take to break in a baseball glove?

Some people say it takes them 2 to 3 years to break in their baseball glove, while others say it can be done in 24 hours. The truth is that it depends on the frequency of usage of the glove as well as the method employed to break in the baseball glove.

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5 tips to break in a baseball glove

1. The right method

Nomar Garciaparra, the former Boston Red Sox shortstop, had one rule: no one else's hand could be in his glove. Among elite baseball players, Nomar's rule is well known. Why? Because the leather stretches and molds to suit your hand and accommodate your movements as you break in a glove. You want a glove that feels natural on your hand as if it's an extension of your arm that you don't even realize you're wearing.

That's why the most effective approach to break in a glove is to catch baseballs with it. The glove will automatically mold to your hand with time and repetitions, creating a bespoke fit and a pocket that adapts to how you catch the ball. You must break in your glove by using it if you want it to be the best-fitting and best-performing glove possible.

2. The fast method

A combination of warm water and manhandling is the fastest way to break in a glove. You'll need the following items:

  • A pail of steaming water (not boiling)
  • A mug
  • A supple surface (a pillow or carpet)
  • Glove hammer/glove mallet

For this method, fill the cup halfway with hot water and pour it over the glove. The leather will loosen up and become more malleable. Careful, soaking the glove will result in saturation and subsequent over-drying. Wear the glove and throw a baseball in it for about an hour and you’ll be set.

3. Glove steaming

It's simple, quick, and effective to steam your glove. The technique, however, has the potential to harm the leather's fibers. You should also know that Wilson's one-year glove warranty is void if you steam them. Steaming your glove softens the leather, but it also reduces its durability. Steamed leather also tends to lose its shape with time, to the point where it's almost too soft to use. So, if you're looking for a game-ready glove right now, this is a good alternative… Just don't count on the glove to survive longer than a season.

4. Wrapping gloves

Glove wrapping can be a useful additional strategy for breaking in your glove. Wrapping your glove with a ball in the pocket is the old-school way.

It is not difficult to wrap your glove:

  • Touch the pinky and thumb together to close the glove (with a ball in the pocket).
  • Wrap the glove in string, elastic, rubber bands, or anything else that will keep it closed securely.
  • Allow it to settle for a few days before unwrapping it and repeating the process.

Wrapping the glove stretches and holds the leather in place for an extended amount of time, making it easier to work with.

5. Conditioner and oil

During and after the break-in period, glove conditioning products and special glove oils are great to preserve the fabric of the baseball glove. You should only use glove conditioners and oils that have been approved by the manufacturer.

Don't use Vaseline, chapstick, or olive oil on your glove because they will harm and/or saturate the leather (leaving it greasy, heavy, or dried out). A little goes a long way when it comes to oils and conditioners. In general, all you need to do is apply a light application and gently rub it in with a clean cloth.

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The wrong way to break in a baseball glove

Microwaving it 

Microwaves and ovens are designed to cook food not to break in baseball gloves. If you bake a glove, the moisture in the leather will be drawn out. That means the glove will be dry once it has cooled off (and sometimes, brittle).

Shaving cream

Shaving cream used to contain lanolin, a natural oil derived from sheep that enhanced leather but lanolin is almost seldom used in shaving nowadays. In fact, chemicals in modern shaving cream contain components that might degrade and weaken the leather's fibers.

 

Shop for baseball gloves

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