The process of breaking-in a baseball glove has changed dramatically over the years. It seems that everyone has their own method of how to do it and what substance to put on it (oil, shaving cream, saddle soap, etc.). But there are definitely right and wrong ways to break-in a glove.
THE OLD DAYS
When I was growing up, my dad’s way of doing it consisted of putting a softball in the pocket, tying it up with a shoelace, wrapping a towel around it, submerging it in a bathtub and then placing it in a freezer overnight. The next day he would take it out, let it thaw out and then unwrap everything and let it dry out. Once the glove was dry he put a ridiculous amount of oil on it, let it dry again and then my brothers and I were ready to go. Let me tell you, THOSE DAYS ARE GONE!!!
Using water to break-in a glove is not a horrible idea, but it’s not great either. While it can assist in shaping the glove, there is a fine line in the use of water. Too much can break down the leather over time and cause damage to the felt inside the glove.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT OIL
There are also rights and wrongs when it comes to using oil on a glove. Too much oil can make a glove heavy. NEVER use mink oil or linseed oil as both can also cause damage to the leather over time. The BEST oil to use is Neats Foot Oil or a shaving cream with lanolin. Lanolin is light, penetrates the leather and lubricates well. I personally prefer to also use shaving cream inside the pocket to make it soft and supple.
INFIELDER VS. OUTFIELDER
Breaking-in an infielder’s glove is different from preparing an outfielder’s glove. An Infielder’s glove should be broken-in so that it has a shallow pocket. If the glove has a deep pocket, the infielder can “lose” the ball inside the glove which will prevent him from making a quick transfer and getting it back out fast. When broken-in properly, an infielder’s glove should sit open in a “cup” shape when it is not on the player’s hand. Outfielder’s gloves should be loose in the hinge and have a deep pocket. The outfielder wants the ball to stay inside the pocket after making a diving or running catch.
COACH ROB’S TECHNIQUE
My breaking-in process starts with using Neats Foot Oil sparingly on all parts of the glove (making sure to also oil all the lacings). Use shaving cream with lanolin inside the pocket and the fingers. Then use your opposite hand to bend and shape the glove around your glove hand (this takes time). Play a lot of catch with your new glove. During the season only oil your glove a couple of times. Outfielder’s gloves can also be broken-in using a mallet or the barrel of a bat to help create a deep pocket with repeated pounding.
As I mentioned before, everyone has their own way to break in a glove but I have found this process to be the best.
GETTING A NEW GLOVE?
If any of you are planning on buying a new glove for the upcoming Spring 2009 season, now is the time to do it. To play your best, you do NOT want to try and break in a new glove during the season.
For players who work multiple positions (such as infield/outfield), I recommend having separate gloves which are appropriate for each of the types of positions played. Here are some sizing recommendations:
- Infield (SS/2B): 10 1/2 – 11 1/2
- Infield (3B/SS): 11 1/2 – 11 3/4
- Pitcher: 11 – 12
- Outfield: 12 (or bigger)
Sizing of 1st Baseman & Catcher’s mitts should follow the same general guidelines as for Pitcher & 3rd Baseman.
If you have any questions regarding specific glove brands or models, please feel free to ask by sending in a comment. Also, if you have any additional questions on how to break-in a glove, please ask. Play Ball & Good Luck!
About The Author:
A former professional baseball player, Rob Murray operates The Hit Barn, a 4-season baseball training facility in the Greater Boston area where he works individually as a pitching and hitting coach with players of different ages ranging from 11-16 years old.
A 3-time Dual County League High School All-Star, Rob played for Ithaca College in the 1993 and 1994 NCAA Division III World Series. After college Rob played professionally for the Richmond Roosters (Frontier League) and the Bangor Blue Ox (Northeast League). Rob continues to actively play baseball in an Over-30 Baseball League in Lowell.