Gloves have come a long way since the early stages of the game when they were shared by both teams and left on the field between innings. Today's gloves have highly specialized forms to aid each player with performing position-related tasks. Here are some of the aspects to keep in mind while shopping for a new glove. And just so everyone is on the same page, a glove and a mitt are not the same. A glove has fingers, while a mitt does not. Gloves are used by everyone but the catcher (who has a special catcher's mitt) and the first baseman (who also uses a special mitt). While this article is titled Baseball and Softball Gloves, the information still pertains to shopping for mitts. If you are looking specifically for information on baseball gloves, click here.
Choosing the Right Glove
When choosing a baseball or softball glove you should consider sizing, budget, feel, and player position.
Let's talk about cost first. While it's not the most important consideration, it does warrant some attention, since like bats, gloves have a wide price range. The cheapest recreational mitts cost between $20 and $50. For growing children, it's a good idea to watch your budget. Before you know it they'll need a new glove. Plus, you don't want to spend $200 on a glove just to find out that Junior isn't interested in the sport anymore.
What about buying for adults? Expensive gloves and mitts are well-constructed and can be expected to last a long time. However, no amount of money will miraculously improve your skills. You might find that the more money you spend, the better fit you get. This is not a steadfast rule though.
Sizing by Age
Gloves are measured by their "pattern size", a measurement from the heel of the glove (by your wrist) to the top of the glove on the palm side. You want to find a glove that feels comfortable on your hand, which is free of rough edges or tightness. Take into account that the glove will feel stiff until it is properly broken in.
* Adult gloves are typically between 10"-13".
* Professional and even Little League gloves are required to be no more than 12".
* Youth gloves range from 8" to about 12".
* When measuring gloves, it's important to use a flexible tape measure, rather than a stiff ruler. When you do this, lay the tape measure across the palm of the glove, causing it to fold down and into the indenture of the glove, down to the heel of the glove.
** When purchasing a youth sized glove make sure the glove isn't too large.
** You do want a little space to grow into, but not so much that the child is unable to properly lift or close the glove.
* Eight year-olds can often use 11" gloves, but it all has to do with the individual. Trying the glove on is the best way to determine if the size is right.
When it comes to specialized gloves and mitts, you will have to reconsider sizing. Here's a rough breakdown:
* Adult Outfielders Gloves are 12" to 13".
* Adult Infielders & Pitchers Gloves are 10 3/4" to 12".
* Adult Softball Gloves are 12" to 14".
Lastly, if you want to get into specifics, here are things to know about webbing and backing in relation to field position.
* '''Open Web''' -- Preferred by outfielders and third basemen.
* '''Closed Web''' -- Preferred by middle infielders and pitchers.
* '''Open & Closed Back''' -- Individual preference, though middle infielders like open back.
What to do once you bring your glove home.
Breaking a brand new glove in may be one of the grayer areas of baseball gear. Generally speaking, manufacturers agree on the fact that leather oils, cream and shaving cream (yes, shaving cream) are perfectly fine to use for softening the leather. However, it's vital to avoid applying anything to a glove that contains silicon, which will undoubtedly dry the leather out, causing it to be tougher to use and shortening its lifespan. Below are a few more tips to follow when breaking in your investment.
* Though some people still swear by it, baking and heating methods should be avoided. This is the best way to dry leather out.
* To create a pocket, most people stick a baseball (or softball) in the glove where the ball will/should be caught, then wrap shoelace, string or rubberbands along the outer edge, so as to condition the glove to the shape of the ball. It's ideal to keep the ball wrapped in the glove for at least a day or two.
* Throwing a glove into a dryer will cause the leather to crack, which effectively ruins your investment.
* Akadema -- Inexpensive training gloves.
* Easton -- Specially designed to be 15% lighter than traditional gloves.
* Louisville Slugger -- Bionic technology in their catcher's and first baseman's mitts are their newest innovation.
* Mizuno -- Pro gloves that run over $250 and youth gloves as low as $20.
* Nike -- Dri-fit liners keep your fingers drier than with ordinary gloves.
* Nokona -- Many lines of leather gloves, and even gloves made of buffalo and kangaroo leather.
* Rawlings -- Top of the line gloves.
* SSK -- Inexpensive gloves for both youths and adults.
* Wilson -- They have been making gloves for more than 80 years. Their A200 is the model used in the Major League.