Owning a good glove is a hallmark of any baseball players time on the field, and breaking in that glove is a long-standing part of the game.
Regardless of experience level, every little leaguer, high school player, and professional who gets a brand-new glove needs to break it in if they want to be successful in the game.
Think about it. For many players, nearly half the game’s time is spent out in the field trying to catch a ball. If those players’ gloves don’t fit Ã¢â‚¬â€œ well, like a glove Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it won’t help them catch a baseball well.
A good glove needs to be broken in, softened, and molded to the shape of the hand using it.
From tried-and-true methods to creative strategies that product results, this article will cover all the best ways to break in a baseball glove so baseball players everywhere can get back on the field with a glove that’s ready to play.
Additionally, this write-up will dive into the materials that make up a glove and the importance of breaking it in before use.
Here’s what players need to know about breaking their mitt in and the best ways to get the job done.
- The Importance of Breaking In a Baseball Glove Before Use
- What Baseball Gloves Are Made Of
- Best Ways to Break in a Baseball Glove
- Best Products to Break In a Baseball Glove Fast
- Start Breaking In
The Importance of Breaking In a Baseball Glove Before Use
Scooping up ground balls? Catching those hard-hit line drives? Snatching the occasional pop fly? All of these things are hard to do with a baseball glove that hasn’t been properly broken in.
Too many people have made the mistake of going into a game with a brand-new glove, ready to show it off and show off their skills. Anyone who tries this will soon find that even slow hit baseballs are hard to catch, and balls may unexpectedly pop out of the mitt after catching.
The last thing anyone wants to worry about in the middle of a game is their glove. To avoid these pitfalls and create a perfectly broken-in baseball glove, players use countless different ways to get the job done. More on that soon.
But before getting into break-in strategies, why should players care about breaking in their glove entirely before using it? This parallel may clear things up:
A baseball thrown at a wooden board will bounce right off it. Unless there’s something on the other side of the ball to trap it against the board, there’s no catching it. A baseball thrown into a net will naturally get wrapped up in the net and become much easier to catch.
In this example, the wooden board is an exaggerated version of a glove that’s not broken in well. The net, on the other hand, is a glove that’s perfectly broken in.
Naturally absorbing the ball’s power when it hits the glove makes it that much easier to catch. That is the goal of breaking in a new mitt. When a mitt is broken in correctly, it will do the following:
- Naturally close around a ball when it hits it
- Require little effort to open/close the mitt
- Stay slightly curved even with no force causing it to do so
All of this makes for easier catching, better games, and more time playing rather than fiddling with a glove.
What Baseball Gloves Are Made Of
Aside from small pieces like nylon thread and small plastic reinforcements at the base of the thumb and the pinky, most gloves are entirely made of leather.
While most of this is cattle leather, some manufacturers get creative with other materials. For example, The Texas-based Nokona Glove Company primarily uses Kangaroo hide from Australia and some leather from cattle.
Beyond that, most gloves come from cattle leather that falls into four different types: full-grain, kipskin, premium steerhide, and cowhide. Here’s a little info about each one:
- Full-grain – Natural grain remains, causing a heavier, stiffer glove. These require more work to break in, but full-grain gloves offer superior durability and performance
- Kipskin – Kipskin is soft, luxurious leather, causing a lighter, smoother glove. These gloves take much less time to break in
- Premium Steerhide – Steerhide is stiffer and more substantial than other types, taken from adult steers’ back shoulder. It requires a lot of break-in time, but a popular choice of the pros
- Cowhide – Known merely as leather, this is usually a medium-weight material with a reasonable break-in period. Cowhide is generally best for amateur or youth players
- Knowing what material a glove is made out makes it easier to determine the best way to break it in. The stiffer the material, the more work one will need to do
Best Ways to Break in a Baseball Glove
Primed with the knowledge of glove materials and the importance of breaking one’s glove in, it’s time to dive into the best ways to break in a baseball glove. From traditional to non-traditional methods, let’s take a look at how players can get the soft, broken-in glove they need.
Weigh Down the Glove
One way to break down and soften a baseball glove’s material is to weigh it down with a heavy object
What someone uses as a weight is up to them. People get really creative here, depending on what’s available to them at the time
Some people find a baseball-sized ball with a lot of weight and place it in the palm of the glove for an extended time. Others may use home weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, to apply pressure to the glove
Alternatively, one could also place the glove beneath something substantial, like a desk, appliance, or couch
As long as the player knows what type of material they’re working with to avoid applying too much pressure or weight, it can help break down the stiffness of a brand-new glove
You May Also Like: Measuring Hand Size For Baseball Gloves
Moisten the Materials For Softening
Another proven way to soften a glove is to moisten the glove (typically leather). Moistening the leather works by seeping into the material and slowly breaking down the stiff grain
To try this method, heat a bit of water to about 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit and use a spray bottle to spritz any part of the glove that needs to get softer
While some people are tempted to heat the water once it’s already on the glove via microwave or oven, it’s not a good idea. Warm it up before it goes on the glove
Once the glove is moistened with water, adding a bit of glove oil or conditioner with a sponge can help soften it further. Just ensure there’s enough water on the glove at all times, as too much oil concentrated in any one area can leave it heavy and soaked
Play Catch With It
The most tried-and-true method, and arguably the most fun route to take, is playing catch with the glove to break it in naturally
Playing catch as much as possible will allow the glove to form around the hand and loosen up the leather slowly. Each time the player catches a ball with his glove, the glove will get a tiny bit softer
The best part about this method is that it’s the only way to truly guarantee a glove will bend around its player’s hand structure
Rather than merely getting soft, the glove gets molded around the hand that will be in it all the time Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no need for additional products or crazy weights. It’s a surefire way to guarantee a custom fit every time
Of course, this is the most time-consuming method. For those in a time crunch, playing catch over and over again might not be feasible
Use a Mallet or a Bat
Using a mallet or a bat can break down the material by force, similar to how playing catch will do so
There are special baseball glove mallets explicitly made for this purpose. These products feature a short, thin handle with a rounded sphere at the end, designed to create the ideal glove structure when used to repeatedly hit the palm of the glove
An individual could accomplish the same thing with a 5 lb. dumbbell, baseball bat, or regular wooden mallet
The idea here is to use the mallet to beat the glove repeatedly (ideally with the glove on the hand that will be using it) to create a softer shape that molds to the hand. Additionally, players will want to pound the web where you want your glove to break to create a fold there
The process of beating a glove with a mallet can iron out unwanted wrinkles in the pocket and create a perfect valley for a baseball
Get Creative With a Mattress
What’s heavy and flat and great for breaking in baseball gloves? Mattresses! Many players have found success using this trick to get a soft glove in just a few days’ time
The reason this works is that not only is the glove taking the weight of the mattress all day, but it’s also sustaining all of the individual’s weight when they go to sleep at night
While it might feel a bit like The Princess and the Pea for a few nights, this method can take a stiff glove and make it feel wonderfully worn
To get the shape just right, consider placing a baseball in the palm of the glove and folding it over around the ball before putting the mattress on top. Some extra moisture and glove conditioner can also boost the softening effects
For best results, use a mattress that’s on top of a box spring, not directly on a bed frame or resting on the floor. The box spring is stiff and flat, which allows for more direct pressure onto the glove
Pair a Baseball With Some String
When in doubt, a simple combination of a few baseballs and some string can make a world of difference when softening a new glove. As far as string goes, using something like a heavy cord or strong rubber bands typically work the best
To begin this method, start by gathering materials. Then, place a baseball or two into the palm of the glove (with the hand inside) and wrap the glove around the ball
With a free hand or a partner to help, take the string and hold one end under the thumb. Then, wrap the remaining string around the widest parts of the glove, binding it together. Tie it as tightly as the hand will allow, and then remove the hand from the glove
Keeping the ball inside the glove, place the tied-up glove somewhere it can remain undisturbed until it’s softened and molded around the ball. It usually takes a night or two
This method can be amplified by moistening the glove or applying a bit of baseball oil or conditioner first
Turn It Inside Out
A unique method of its own, some players prefer to turn their glove completely inside out to break down the grain. This method gets a lot of funny looks from other players Ã¢â‚¬â€œ so beware. However, several people claim that it’s one of the best ways to get the job done
Turning a baseball glove inside out isn’t the easiest task. It takes some poking and prodding until every aspect is flipped. Once a player achieves this, they can leave it just like that overnight
In the morning, the glove gets turned back around to its normal side. Players will find how much more pliable the leather is already, without having to do a thing
This method specifically helps the glove pocket to stay wide open, and the fingers remain straight. Players who have struggled with this in the past might find use out of this particular method
Work the Leather By Hand
A traditional manual method of breaking in a fresh glove is simply working the leather by hand over time. For players that have time on their handsÃ¢â‚¬â€but not necessarily time to play catch for hoursÃ¢â‚¬â€ this could work
For example, long car rides or commutes are great opportunities to spend some one-on-one time with a baseball glove. Pushing, pressing, and massaging the leather will slowly make it softer and more pliable
Similar to beating the glove with a mallet, manual manipulation requires no additional equipment. By manipulating the material on and off for several hours (or even a few days), a glove can reach the same level of flexibility as it would with a mallet
Anyone could boost this method’s effectiveness with a bit of moisture, glove oil, or glove conditioner. While these products aren’t necessary to achieve the ideal results, it may speed up the process
Steaming the New Glove
Finally, one of the most common methods used to break in baseball mitts is steaming. Steaming is so common that many stores and companies offer glove steaming services as a done-for-you option
This method can help people who don’t have the time to go through the trouble of breaking in their glove. Even still, steaming the glove doesn’t have to happen in a store somewhere. It can be accomplished at home
The steaming process couples a moist heating element with mallet beating to relax the leather enough to the point that it’s game-ready
First, apply a layer of glove conditioner to open up the leather pores. Then, steam the glove with a clothes steamer. Finally, remove the steam and manually beat the glove with a mallet or small weight to break it down further
Best Products to Break In a Baseball Glove Fast
As mentioned above, a few products can go a long way in breaking in a baseball glove. Nearly all of the methods listed previously can find boosted effectiveness when used in tandem with at least one of these products:
Hot Glove Mallet
This Hot Glove Mallet is made specifically to break in a new baseball glove
This mallet’s design is perfect for getting that ideal glove shape because the mallet’s head is shaped and sized just like a baseball
Additionally, the slightly tapered end makes it easy to break in the finger pockets one by one
This mallet is also available at an extremely affordable rate. Anyone who sees themselves playing baseball (or even just playing catch) for several years would see the value in investing in one of these mallets
This mallet goes hand-in-hand with the break-in methods of steaming or moistening the materials
Wilson Premium Glove Oil
Alternatively, a glove oil can help to open up the leather pores and create a more flexible material. It also conditions the leather and helps it maintain its shape and quality for years
This particular oil comes in a spray bottle, making it quick and easy to apply with little to no mess left over. It’s a combination of neatsfoot and other beneficial oils designed to relax leather
Applying a layer of oil to a new glove before using any manual method of breaking in can increase results
Whether the plan is to place it between your mattress and box spring, beat it with a mallet, work it by hand, or shape it with a baseball and string, the results will be better with a bit of conditioner applied first
Hot Glove Deluxe Glove Wrap
Instead of using random cords lying around the house or a shoelace to fold and hold a glove in place, how about using a glove wrap intended for this exact purpose?
Hot Glove makes this dual-banded glove wrap that can create and keep the pocket shape and includes a plastic baseball-sized softball for the glove can wrap around
Players can also use the wrap after the glove is broken in to maintain its shape year-round. The wrap has a slit in the middle, creating two half-bands, which gives the player more flexibility to create the perfect shape
Arguably the best part about this wrap is it’s stretchiness. This wrap can create the best shape for the entire family’s new gloves, from youth-sized gloves to adult full-grain leather
The desire to break in new baseball gloves often leads to bad decisions and poor choices. It also leads to accidents that, though well-intended, can damage the integrity of a glove
Here are a few answers to the most frequently asked questions about breaking in new baseball gloves so new players can learn from past players’ mistakes:
Can I Use the Oven or Microwave to Soften the Glove?
While many people claim to have had great results from microwaving their glove, this method is not recommended by any means. Microwaving or heating in an oven pulls moisture from materials and will dry out the laces, causing them to shatter
Microwaving can completely ruin brand-new gloves or, in the very least, require a full re-lacing
Could I Use a Car to Drive Over the Glove?
No. Driving over a glove is not a good idea. While applying weight and pressure is good for softening the material, applying upwards of 2,000 pounds is too much. Instead, use a mattress, an appliance, or a glove mallet
I Heard it’s Best to Soak the Glove in Oil, is that True?
Oil is beneficial to leather gloves. However, it’s only good in moderation. Submerging a baseball glove in oil will soak too far into the glove, making it much heavier
If the oil cannot make its way out of the glove, it can eventually break down the leather. When misused in this way, glove oil can cause more harm than good
Is It Okay to Leave the Glove in a Hot Car to Soften?
Leaving a glove on a hot car’s dashboard during the daytime is a strange (but not unheard of) method to breaking down a new glove
Similar to putting the glove in a microwave, placing the glove in direct sunlight trapped in a hot car can dry the leather and laces out, making them brittle and breakable
Start Breaking In
Learning how to break in a baseball glove isn’t necessarily difficult, but it’s still a vital first step before any baseball glove pick can be used on the field.
Armed with an understanding of your glove’s materials, the importance of breaking one in, and various methods that can make a more flexible, forgiving glove, hopefully, players out there can cause less damage and get their glove broken in faster