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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Breaking in a new glove

I'm sure many players received a new glove for the holidays and now are itching to get outside and try it out.  Here are some tips for breaking in your new glove correctly and how to care for it afterwards.

Put away the oil.  Remember smearing glove oil all over your brand new glove to help it break in?  Or taking it out of your closet after the winter months and doing the same?  I bet you can close your eyes and remember the smell!  However, there is a downside to using oil on a glove, especially if you are a middle infielder.  Oil stays in your glove and makes the glove heavier the more times you use it.  With quickness becoming more important as you get older, a heavy glove is not your friend.  Put away the oil and pick up some other products that don't add weight but keep leather in tip top shape.  Products like mink oil or other leather conditioners are better suited.  Use sparingly though because a glove that is too broken-in becomes flimsy.  You want some stiffness in your glove for it to keep its shape.
Figure 1

Don't sleep on it.  I'm willing to bet most players have done this at some point in their lives.  They take their brand new glove, put a baseball in it, tie it shut with string, put it under their pillow or mattress, and after a few nights they wake up with a broken-in glove.  I'll admit.  I did it.  The problem with this is that the glove usually breaks in different from the form of your hand and how you catch the ball.  The best way to break in a glove is to just play catch with it over and over.  This will allow the glove to break in around the size of your hand and also will break it in according to how the glove closes when you actually catch a ball.  If you don't have someone to play catch with, just continually toss a ball into your glove yourself.  Whether you are playing catch or tossing the ball yourself, it's important to remember to close your glove by trying to make your pinky finger and thumb meet.

Keep it open.  This involves one of the biggest mistakes players make with their gloves, especially those who play middle infield.  Whenever they store their glove or lay it down on the ground they lay it flat like in Figure 1.  Unfortunately, gravity pulls the glove and trains it to stay in the closed position.  This can be dangerous for little kids just learning to catch because it becomes harder for them to open their glove in order to catch the ball.  A glove that is trained to stay open gives the player the entire pocket to catch the ball.  When laying a glove down, place it face-down like Figure 2 shows.  This will keep it in the open position.  When storing a glove (like in an equipment bag) stuff a t-shirt, towel, or softball in the pocket so the glove is always stored away in the open position.

Figure 2
Clean as needed.  After each practice or game, take a dry rag or towel and wipe the dust and dirt off your glove.  A damp cloth can work better as long as you don't get the leather overly wet.  This dust and dirt is what causes the leather to dry out and crack.  For tougher stains and cleaning, use saddle soap or other leather cleaners which can usually be found in the shoe polish section of any department store.  Occasionally finish with a little bit of leather conditioner in the pocket where most of the wear-and-tear occurs.

As the old saying goes ... take care of your glove and your glove will take care of you!

1 comment:

  1. Lexol makes Leather cleaning and conditioning WIPES that work great for gloves. You can get them online or at some automotive stores.