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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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