Northwest Independent
Baseball League

Fielding-Tips from the Pros - Selecting and Buying your Glove Vendors
SELECTING A GLOVE         Breaking in your new glove.

When selecting a glove there are a few considerations you must take into account. One of the most important things to consider is choosing a glove for the right position you will be playing. The gloves for each specific position have certain attributes to help the player at his or her position.

First Basemen Gloves:
Some say that the first glove worn by a baseball player was by catcher Doug Allison of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1870. It is said that he wore the glove because of an injured left hand. According to A.G. Spalding the first glove he ever saw on a player was worn by Charles C. Waite, in Boston, in 1875. Waite was playing first base and when asked by Spalding he said “He was a bit ashamed to wear it, but had it on to save his hand. He also admitted that he had chosen a color as inconspicuous as possible (flesh color as it was said), because he didn’t care to attract attention.” Spalding, who became the owner of A.G. Spalding and Bros., did not wear a glove until 1877. The glove Spalding wore was made from black leather and did draw attention to it. Since Spalding had made a name for himself the attention was more out of pity than humor. By the mid 1890’s, gloves were becoming not only more popular but also the new standard.

First baseman wearing gloves became a standard in the late 1890’s. As the first base position was ever evolving, the glove needed to evolve with them. First base mitts, as we know today, were invented in 1941. These early first base mitts had the five finger stalls with padding and then locked together with lacing between the thumb and index finger. Although it was very primitive in make-up, this style was very effective for the time it was used in.

Today the first base mitts offer many different types of leather combinations from cowhide to kangaroo. Also there are options with the color of your glove to the different features that your glove offers. Some of the features today that you see are open and closed backs, single post or double post webs, and modified or closed webs. The first base mitt has been ever so important to the evolving of The National Past Time.

Catchers Mitts:
The catcher’s position has always been the most physically demanding position to play in baseball. The need for improving equipment has always been increasing to add more protection and comfort. A catcher’s mitt for people who play the position is a “must have”, because no other glove can give them the kind of support, protection, durability and performance needed.

Baseball gloves in general became of widespread use by the 1870’s. The first person to start producing and marketing ball gloves was Albert Spalding, who started his own mail-order sporting goods business. His mitts were basically a fingerless glove with padding in the palm. In the beginning, most of his business came from catchers who wanted more padding and protection for their mitts. By 1890, an ex-catcher by the name of Harry Decker had patented his very own “Decker Safety Catcher’s Mitt”, which was basically a flat cushion with straps to hold it onto the hand specifically designed for catchers. These were just basic designs that would eventually lead to better and more sophisticated designs.

Over the years catchers mitts have added not only padding, but have developed more of a basket pocket, similar to what we have today. Catcher’s mitts now also have an oval shaped pocket and more padding while having more flexibility. Today’s gloves have been developed using the latest technology and are much stronger and durable.

When selecting a baseball catchers mitt there are several things you'll need to keep in mind in order for you to select the right mitt. First, mitts come in different sizes, of course there are youth and adult sizes, but also decide what circumference you be looking for. Usually youth sizes will have circumferences 31 inches or less and adult mitts will have circumferences 32 inches or greater. All of today’s baseball catcher’s mitts have a closed web. There is also the choice of an open back mitt which has an opening on the back of it right above the wrist, or there is a closed back which will have a finger hole for the index finger to be placed on the back side of the glove for more support. A few more factors to consider when choosing a catchers mitt are color and brand preference.

Infield Gloves:
In the very first years of baseball back in the 1860’s and 1870’s gloves were seen as unmanly. Then as the game picked up popularity and players became better and hit the ball harder gloves became more common and needed for protection. The first infielder’s gloves were actually a pair of gloves. They were leather gloves worn on each hand with the fingers cut off. By 1900, people started to wear only one glove on their non-throwing hand with more padding and a larger pocket. This was the beginning of the basic concept of the gloves we have today.

As time has gone by many improvements have taken place with gloves, especially infielder’s mitts. With infielders having such little time to react having a good glove improves their play greatly. The most important improvement was in 1920, when a web was designed in between the thumb and the finger stalls. This gave the gloves a larger and deeper pocket.

In order to be sure to select the proper glove for your position follow a few guidelines that may help. Pitchers for instance want a glove that has a solid web, this is because the solid web will hide their fingers as they adjust their grip on the ball for the next pitch. As for the size of the glove for pitchers it is up to personal preference.

Middle infielders usually prefer to have a smaller mitt so they can transfer the ball out of the glove to their hand as quickly as possible. Open web gloves are also preferred by middle infielders such as an I-web or H-Web styles. These web styles basically look as their names state, for example the I-web is shaped as an “I” with openings around it so the ball can be picked out of the glove easier. Another style of web is the Trapeez web, which in theory adds a sixth finger in the pocket between the thumb and the fingers. Usually second basemen wear the smallest gloves because they are lighter weight. Most second basemen use an 11 to an 11.5 inch mitt, while shortstops will usually use an 11.5 to an 11.75 inch mitt.

Third basemen on the other hand will often wear a bit larger glove around 12 to 12.5 inches long because they are the closest fielder to home plate. Balls hit at third base are hit very hard and come in fast. Plus, a longer glove allows them to pick up balls hit down the foul line easier, because of the longer reach of the glove. Some other factors that can play a role in deciding which glove to choose is a brand preference or the color of the glove.

Outfield Gloves:

When gloves first became popular among those who played organized baseball in the last part of the 1890’s gloves were not position specific. Gloves were made from old mittens or custom made from horsehide with extra padding added to both designs. As hitters began to hit harder and harder more and more padded designs became available. In 1920 when Bill Doak of the Saint Louis Cardinals approached Rawlings with his idea of lacing a web between the index finger and thumb to create a more natural pocket. This idea revolutionized the way gloves were made. This pocket design is what is still used today on all fielder gloves. It is actually almost like an extra finger, All Star Ozzie Smith who used this design once said “six fingers are better than five.”

Outfielders generally prefer a closed web style. Outfield gloves tend to be larger in design than infielder models in terms of the length of the finger stalls. Larger gloves allow outfielders to be able to cover more ground. Also, outfielders are looking to make a catch while infielders, who like smaller gloves, need to retrieve and release the ball as quickly as possible. Today many different models and sizes are available for outfielders. The most common sizes are from twelve inches and above depending on personal preference.

When selecting an outfielder’s model you first need to select the size that best fits your personal needs. The next thing you need to think about is web style that you would like, whether you would like an open web or a closed web. The third step would be to choose if you have a preference for an open back or a closed back. Your next decision would be to see if you have a brand preference. Finally you would make the purchase that best fits your specific needs. Gloves have changed over time and will continue to change for the better of the game.

Webbings of a Glove:
Players also choose gloves based on the webbing. There are two types of webbing, closed and open. A pitcher usually is going to prefer the closed webbing to help them hide the ball from the hitter. Outfielders and third basemen also like closed webbing for the extra support. Middle infielders are going to want an open web so they can get the ball out of their glove faster.

Pockets of a Glove:
The pocket is also a factor in choosing a glove. The size of the pocket will depend on the position you play. Shallow pockets are for middle infielders so they can quickly grab the ball and throw. Deeper pockets help outfielders bring in fly balls. Softball players also need a bigger pocket for the larger size ball that is used.

Backs of a Glove:
A player can choose an open or closed back glove. This is the part of the glove behind your wrist. The open back leaves a space open across the back by your wrist. It is really your personal preference, but some backs fit certain positions better. Middle infielders like an open back for the flexibility. Outfielders like a closed back and a finger hole for the extra support.

Wrist Adjustments of a Glove:
Some gloves come with a wrist adjustment. The wrist adjustment keeps the glove snug to your hand. An example is a Velcro strap that offers the convenience of pulling and adjusting to your comfort level. Another wrist adjustment would be a D-ring fastener that allows you to pull on the lacing and make the glove tighter.

The following is how glove manufactures recommend breaking in your new glove.

The best way to break in a glove is to use glove oil. Manufacturers have glove oil specifically made for the types of leather that they use. Glove oil keeps the leather “alive” while providing a softening condition and minimizing weight gain. Apply a small amount of glove oil to a sponge or cloth, then use the sponge or cloth to apply the oil to the areas of the glove that are currently firm. Start with the palm, the break point of the glove and then web. Then use the glove oil on all other parts of the glove including the palm, fingers, laces, and backside of the glove to help moisturize and protect the leather. Work the glove oil into the leather evenly. Do not apply the glove oil directly to the glove, as it will be too concentrated at the point of application. Also, make sure that the laces get oiled so they can stay moisturized so they will not dry and begin to crack. Otherwise, the webbing of the glove will come loose. Remember that leather is skin and leather experts tell us not to treat glove leather any differently than you would your own skin. Therefore prolonged harsh temperatures (oven, microwave) excessive water soaking, especially use of hot water, abrasives, the salt and acids produced from perspiration and excessive dryness all or individually can be harmful to the glove leather. You may also use this method and substitute glove oil for shaving cream with lanolin. Once the leather is conditioned, you need to break the glove in. The best way to do this is to just play catch with it. A mallet will help because it simulates catching the ball in the pocket. This will also help you speed up the break-in time because it can be done anywhere. Continue to play catch and use the mallet until the glove fits your taste. Once this is finished, you will have a glove that is game ready. To help keep the shape of the glove, we recommend wrapping a shaping ball into the pocket when traveling or storing the glove. This will help prolong the life of the glove from season to season.

Important Points to Remember:

• Excessive glove conditioner/oil will damage and shorten the life of a new glove.
• Allow the glove oil to absorb into the leather for 24 hours while wrapped around a shaping ball.
• Play catch daily until the glove is ready for game play.
• Use the glove oil sparingly, use can always add more.
• At the end of the season, apply glove oil very lightly to keep your glove from becoming brittle.
• Store your glove in a dry place with a shaping ball in the pocket to maintain the form.
• Never put your glove in an oven or microwave, the heat can damage the fibers of the leather.
• Do not use neat’s-foot oil, linseed oil or silicon-type spray, these tend to close the pores of the leather, causing it to dry, harden and become heavy.
• Do not apply the glove oil directly to the glove, as it will be too concentrated at the point of application, apply to a cloth first.
• Water will cause the leather to eventually dry out, crack and the laces to become brittle.
• A glove that is troublesome breaking in, usually means that the leather is very high quality.
• Using a mallet simulates catching a ball in the pocket and will help speed up the break-in time

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