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Resource Guide | How to Break in a Glove

How to Break-in a Glove

New baseball gloves are often stiff and not yet ready for game performance. Even gloves that are made specifically for your playing style, such as custom baseball gloves or custom softball gloves need to be broken in before they’re ready to take the field.

Many players wonder how to break in a baseball glove, and what methods to avoid. Below, we’ll walk you through best practices, things to keep in mind, things to avoid and even show you what the pros do.

Traditional Methods

Purists use traditional methods to break in a new baseball or softball glove. They simply play catch with their gloves for multiple hours over several days and weeks until the glove is broken in.

Though this process may take longer, it naturally breaks in your glove better than any other method and other methods can speed up the process. All things considered, no matter what you do to break in your glove, the more you can play catch and practice with your mit, the faster it will break in. 

Baseball Glove Oils and Conditioners

When considering how to break in a baseball glove, one of the best ways to begin is to lightly apply a thin coat of glove oil. Glove oil keeps the leather "alive" while providing a softening condition and minimizing weight gain. Apply about a dime-sized amount of glove oil to a sponge or cloth, then use the sponge or cloth to apply the oil to the areas of the glove that are currently firm. Begin at the palm before proceeding to the breakpoint of the glove and lastly the web. Later you can use the glove oil on all other parts of the glove, including the inside lining to help moisturize and protect the glove. Be sure to work the glove oil into the leather evenly. Do not apply the glove oil directly to the glove, as it will be too concentrated at the point of application and could potentially cause staining.

Make sure that the laces get oiled so they can stay moisturized as well. Failure to do so can cause them to begin to crack and the webbing to become loose. Remember, leather is a skin and leather experts tell us not to treat glove leather any differently than you would your own skin.

When considering what type of oil to use for your glove, most people (including the pros) use shaving cream. Other popular oils include vaseline, mink oil or other glove manufacturer oils. 

After your glove is broken in, you should continue to apply glove oils and conditioners throughout the season. Make sure not to overdo it though. Applying oil three to four times throughout the season should be sufficient. Then, for best storage results apply oil one last time before storing your glove after the season. 

Work the Rigid Parts

Many players are also unsure how to break in a glove when it comes to physically working it. One of the best ways is to stretch the tight spots and work the leather to help break it up. Some of the tightest spots are around the thumb and the pinky. It is helpful to pull these parts of the glove towards and away from each other. This helps to loosen the binding and leather to allow the glove to squeeze and catch the ball. It’s also helpful to pull and move the other fingers in the glove. How much you manipulate the fingers should change depending on how tight you prefer your finger laces. It is best to do a little at a time, play with the glove to see how it works, and then do more if needed.

Soften and Shape the Glove

Wooden mallets are often used in softening and shaping a glove. Pounding the pocket can help form the shape of a ball so the glove will be more used to holding a ball. You can also pound other parts of the glove to loosen the leather and prepare the glove for play. For best results, put a ball in the pocket to gauge the size and shape, then use a wooden mallet to continue softening and shaping the leather.

 

Important Points to Remember

  • Excessive glove conditioner/oil will damage and shorten the life of a new glove.
  • Allow the glove oil to absorb into the leather for 24 hours in a warm area.
  • Play catch daily until the glove is ready for gameplay.
  • Use the glove oil sparingly; you can always add more.
  • At the end of the season, gently apply glove oil to keep your glove from becoming brittle.
  • Store your glove in a dry place with a ball in the pocket to maintain shape.
  • Do not use neat's-foot oil, linseed oil or silicon-type spray. These tend to close the pores of the leather, causing it to dry, harden and become heavy.
  • There is no shortcut to breaking in a glove, playing catch remains the best way.
  • Do not apply the glove oil directly to the glove, as it will be too concentrated at the point of application, apply to a cloth first.
  • A High-quality leather will likely be the most difficult to break in.
  • Do not use an oven or microwave to break in your baseball or softball glove. This will damage your glove beyond repair.
  • Do not leave your glove outside or in your car to try to break it in.

Another Method

Many people like to look to the pros when considering how to break in a baseball glove. A professional ball player will sometimes break in a glove in a way that will contradict what glove manufacturers recommend. This method is not endorsed by glove manufacturers because it will shorten the life of your glove. Professional ballplayers usually receive their gloves free of charge, so they are not as interested in longevity, as a quick break-in period. We understand that some players who are not professionals also weigh a real quick break-in more important than the longevity of the glove, so we will let you know how many professional ballplayers break in a glove.

First, they submerge their glove in a bucket of very hot water for 1-2 minutes. Then, they put a baseball or two in the pocket of the glove and tie the glove up tightly with a sock, large rubber bands, or string forming the pocket around the ball. One baseball in the pocket is usually for infielders, and two baseballs are usually for outfielders. The two baseballs create a bigger pocket. Directly from there, with the baseball(s) still in the pocket, they will put their glove in a dryer to dry the glove. The dryer helps beat up the glove, which adds to the quicker break-in.

Next, they will untie the glove and work in shaving cream with lanolin, or glove oil. If you are using shaving cream, you can apply it with your bare hand. When using glove oil, apply to a sponge or cloth, then use the sponge or cloth to apply the oil to the areas of the glove that are currently firm. Start with the palm, then the breakpoint of the glove and then the web. Then use the glove oil on all other parts of the glove including the entire inside to help moisturize and protect the glove. Work the glove oil or shaving cream into the leather evenly. At this point, it is time to start pummeling the glove. You can use the barrel of a bat to do this. Pummel the glove at the breakpoints to loosen it up even more. This will speed up the process, but you will still have to play a lot of catch and work the glove to get it broken in all the way. Remember, this method will shorten the life of your glove.

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