In some ways, picking up a brand new baseball or softball glove is like adding a new member to your team. But before your glove can officially hit the field, it needs some all-star training so it can show up in peak condition.
As with many sports traditions, it seems like every player has a different technique for breaking in softball or baseball gloves. What one person swears by, another scoffs at. Still, as long as your method doesn’t damage or destroy your glove, if an alternative way works well for you—go for it!
However, we’ve tried out the following strategy for years. Personally, we believe it’s a wonderful, tried-and-true method that’ll get your softball or baseball glove ready for the diamond in no time.
Why Break in a Softball or Baseball Glove?
Curious why players even need
to break gloves in? Well, just like every person is unique, so are the ways they like their gloves to feel when catching or throwing the ball. Also, hand sizes, shapes, and where the hand precisely fits into the glove changes from athlete to athlete.
With endless glove preferences, there’s simply no way for glove manufacturers to create a perfect, one-size-fits-all glove. That leaves it up to individual players to break each glove in so it matches their specific preferences.
However, rather than a chore, athletes usually consider breaking in their gloves an exciting ritual. As most players see their gloves as extensions of themselves, breaking them in feels more like a special way to connect to their new equipment.
How to Break In a Softball or Baseball Glove
1. Condition Your Glove
There are many fantastic conditioning oils and creams specifically created for breaking in or maintaining gloves. These liquids enhance flexibility, maintain the glove’s shape, repel moisture and speed up the time needed to break the glove in.
Before you start any breaking in method, thoroughly cover the glove with the conditioning oil, including the palm, laces, back and fingers. However, be careful not to overuse oils or conditioners. Too much can ultimately cause degradation and weigh down the glove.
ANOTHER OPTION: Rather than using conditioner, some players prefer soaking their glove in warm—but not quite boiling—water. This softens the leather without adding heavy oils.
2. Tie Up Your Glove With a Ball Inside
A classic method—countless players from tee-ball to the pro leagues have tied up their gloves with string or rubber bands and a ball to create the perfect fit.
However, remember that this is only one step. If you neglect to complete the steps that follow, the results often end up subpar.
- Grab a ball that matches the size of whatever ball you’ll be regularly playing with
- Place the ball in the palm of your glove
- Tightly tie the glove up with string or rubber bands while the ball sits snuggly inside
- Leave your glove securely tied up overnight
- The next day, unwrap the glove and take out the ball. There should now be an apparent “pocket” where the ball was placed.
3. Smash Your Glove With a Mallet
Now for the fun part!
- Go grab a mallet. There are mallets created especially for breaking in gloves. If you don’t have one, use a rubber mallet or a ball peen hammer. Otherwise, you’ll risk scruffing up or scratching your new glove.
- Next, turn the glove inside-out and start hitting your baseball glove with the hammer or mallet. Place an extra emphasis in and around the pocket, though do be sure hit the rest as well.
- Continue hitting the glove rigorously until the stiffness dissipates.
4. Play Ball!
Once the glove feels flexible and comfortable, start playing catch right away. Also, when playing catch, ensure the pitcher aims directly for the palm.
Playing catch is the best way for the glove to fully adjust to your hand and your natural playing rhythm, habits, etc. Soon, your new glove will feel like it was always a part of you.
Now, it’s time to play ball!
How to Maintain Your Broken In Your Softball or Baseball Glove
After your glove’s been properly broken in, there’s still work to be done so its shape can be maintained. Here are a few bonus tips to ensure your glove lasts not just through this season—but for many seasons to come.
After your glove has been broken in, many athletes continue regularly conditioning them. This can maximize the glove’s longevity by maintaining flexibility and enhancing the leather.
However, some players believe these substances weigh down the glove so much that it negates any perks. It’s a personal—and controversial—decision. If you do decide to condition, just be sure to carefully follow the directions and use in moderation.
Whether you’re storing your glove for the week or for the off-season, always place it in a stable, room temperature environment. Leather can easily distort and become severely damaged—or even destroyed—when it gets too hot or too cold.
Water damage also poses a serious threat to your softball or baseball glove. Always keep your gloves in a dry, safe place with little risk for flooding, excess moisture or extreme weather.
As long as you follow these steps, tips and tricks, expect nothing less than years of action with your perfectly broken-in softball or baseball