There is nothing like a brand new baseball glove with that fresh leather smell and clean appearance. However, new baseball or softball gloves can be quite stiff to work with at first. A new glove requires some breaking in before it is ready to take to the field. Let’s explore the dos and don’ts in how to break in a baseball glove.
The Anatomy of a Baseball Glove
A baseball glove is made almost entirely of unblemished cowhide leather, including the laces. The leather is tanned. This is a chemical treatment process that helps to provide both durability and flexibility. There is usually some nylon threading used for stitching and there are a couple of small plastic reinforcement pieces at the base of the thumb and pinky finger areas.
The Best Methods for Breaking in a New Baseball Glove
While it takes some time, just using the glove is the best way to break it in and get it so that it fits your hand perfectly and forms a deep pocket. So, don’t toss your old glove until you have had a chance to catch a lot balls with the new glove. Playing catch with a new glove will help do its part in pounding the pocket. Try not to use the glove in pouring rain while breaking it in.
Steam and Pound the Glove
To speed up the process, you can steam the glove to help relax and soften the leather. If you have a steamer, apply a recommended cream or wax (see next section) to the leather and place it in a steamer set at approximately 150 degrees fahrenheit. As soon as it is relaxed, remove the glove from the steamer. Then, pound the leather with a wood or rubber mallet for approximately 10 minutes.
Wrap the glove tightly around a baseball using a belt or strong shoelaces to secure it. Allow the wrapped glove to rest for at least 12 to 24 hours at room temperature.
Alternatively, you can ask your sporting goods vendor about doing glove steaming for you. Specialty stores often have the equipment to do this.
Condition the Glove with Cream or Wax
You can rub the leather with pure lanolin, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or beeswax. Do not use petroleum based creams, synthetic glove oils or shaving cream. And, don’t be tempted to apply too much. Use just enough to coat the surface.
Using a soft cotton or terry cloth hand towel, rub the cream or wax into the leather in a circular motion. Keep rubbing in a gentle manner until all of the cream or wax is absorbed and the color of the leather is even.
Wrap the glove around a baseball as described above. Allow the glove to dry at room temperature before using it, approximately 12 hours. Once the glove has dried, take a clean cloth and wipe off any excess cream or wax that is on the surface, especially in the pocket.
Go ahead and play some catch to help the pocket shape properly. After each ball play, wrap the glove tightly and put a ball in the pocket for the first 2 weeks of conditioning and breaking in. You can use something like shoestrings or rubber bands to help wrap the glove. This will help form the pocket of the glove.
Things to Avoid when Breaking in a Glove
Avoid Heat: Don’t ever heat the glove up by placing it in your oven or putting your glove in the microwave, despite what you may read.
In fact, avoid extreme heat altogether. Heat will dry out the leather, making the glove and the laces brittle and can lead to cracking. This can also compromise or break down any nylon stitching or plastic reinforcements. As well, the glove may shrink in size and not conform to your hand properly.
No Soaking: It is not a good idea to soak the glove in a sink or bucket full of warm water to soften the glove. This can also cause the leather to shrink as it dries out.
Store Inside: Don’t allow the glove to sit in the trunk of your car after conditioning it or catching balls with it. The trunk can be either too hot or too cold for the leather to retain its shape. It is recommended that you always store your glove in your home at room temperature. Remember, this is not a synthetic material that may be able to withstand temperature extremes.
Caring for Your Glove
Now that you have the basics for breaking in your new baseball glove, you will want to keep it in the best condition possible. Follow the simple steps below and your glove is likely to last for years and retain its shape.
After playing a game, it is best to clean the leather of dirt and moisture. Wipe off mud and rain water with a dry, soft towel. You can use a soft brush to get any dirt out from in-between the fingers and laces.
Occasionally re-condition your glove with an approved cream or wax. You likely only have to do this once per game season.
As mentioned above, always store your glove in your home. Done’ leave it in your car, outside, or in the garage.
Follow these tips for breaking in your new softball or baseball glove and it should be game ready in no time at all.