Anyone who’s played more than a year or two of ball can attest to the fact that gloves need to be broken in to perform to their fullest potential. There are various methods you can use to break in and soften your glove. Some of these methods can be used individually or in conjunction with others. Read on and we’ll cover the different ways to break in your glove, plus different methods on how to oil gloves.
In this guide we'll cover:
Breaking in Fielding Gloves (Baseball or Softball)
After you determine the proper size and style and buy your fielding glove, you’ll probably immediately notice that it’s stiff and doesn’t have the pocket needed to catch fly balls and ground balls with ease. Part of breaking in your glove is forming a pocket. Forming a pocket can be done in several different ways and the ideal method depends entirely on player preference. Some players use a microwave and swear by it (we don't recommend it), but others believe there are better ways to do it.
There are several ways to break in your glove. Here are a few:
Tried and True or Traditional Method
If you’re a purist, this will probably be your preferred method to break in your glove. Simply get a couple friends together and play catch. The more times you squeeze the glove around a ball during practice, the more it will be perfectly broken in and ready to go for the season. While this method is admittedly the most time consuming, it really is the best and most recommended option. It greatly reduces any potential risk to damaging your glove versus other methods some players may choose to use.
One tested method that has been known to work is glove steaming. Outside of playing catch, this is often considered to be the next best method. Steaming the glove helps relax the leather and seams to get it game ready.
The glove steaming process typically involves the following steps:
- Apply glove conditioner to the glove to help open pores in the leather
- Steam the glove to around 150 degrees
- Break in the glove using a glove mallet
If you happen to be in the area of a MonkeySports store, you can come in to get your glove steamed by one of our specialists.
Manhandling a Glove
This method is good for taking out some aggression. Here, all you’re doing is pounding the pocket of the glove to soften the leather and form the pocket. To do this, you’ll need to get a glove mallet (like the one pictured below), or create your own mallet using an old baseball. We suggest getting a real glove mallet since it’s meant to be used for baseball or softball gloves.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Put the glove on like you would normally wear it
- With your throwing hand, take the mallet and continually strike the pocket of the glove
- To break the glove in more, take the glove off, lay the glove palm side down on the floor, and strike the back side
You may see other guides telling you to wet the leather and lay it out in the sun, but it’s our recommendation that you leave the water and sun out of this and stick to the steps above.
Each of the above methods can be used to break in your baseball fielding glove. If you’re wondering how to break in a softball glove, the same methods will hold true, just be sure to use a softball in place of a baseball to ensure your pocket ends up large enough.
Additional Tips for Breaking in Your Baseball or Softball Glove
Researching how to break in your baseball glove can lead you down a path of misinformation. There are many myths, mostly false, about how to break in your baseball glove fast. The truth is, the best way to break in your glove simply takes time and effort. Here are some extra tips to remember when breaking in your glove.
Using Baseball Glove Oils and Conditioners
Although not technically a break in method by itself, glove oils and conditioners are products that you can apply to help soften leather baseball and softball gloves. When using oils and conditioners to break in your glove, the first thing you should know is that products like Vaseline, petroleum jelly, olive oil, mink oil, and linseed oil should never be used. If you are to planning to use oils or conditioners, you should use the products that your glove manufacturer suggests. These instructions are usually included with your glove. Some conditioners are made specifically for leather used by certain companies. When using oils, be sure not to over apply the material. Apply a light coat to the glove and rub it.
How to oil your baseball glove:
- Use only manufacturer recommended oils and conditioners.
- Don’t over apply oils. A little goes a long way.
- Don’t use products that aren’t approved for use with leather or any that are known to dry out materials.
Best Baseball Glove Oils and Conditioners
As previously discussed, we only recommend using oils and conditioners that are approved by the manufacturer. Specific types of leathers need to be treated a certain way and can become damaged otherwise.
Here are the best glove oils and conditioners:
If you want to try out oils and conditioners, you can find them in the Glove Accessories section of our online store.
Glove Wraps and What They Do
Breaking in your glove isn’t the end of the process. While the steps above helped you form a pocket in your glove, you aren’t quite done yet. You still need to wrap your glove. It’s easy to learn how to wrap a baseball glove.
Final steps that will fully prepare your glove for baseball and softball action:
- Fold your glove in half. Where you see the crease forming is where the pocket is made.
- Fold the glove on itself starting with where your pinky sits.
- Continue to fold the pinky side of the glove on itself.
- Once the glove is folded in on itself, take either a glove wrap or an old set of glove laces or shoe laces and tie the glove to keep the folded shape. You’ll want to use a glove wrap that is specifically made for this, if at all possible.
- You can also elect to wrap your glove with a baseball or softball in the pocket. Using a softball will create a bigger pocket, which is needed for those playing slowpitch or fastpitch softball.
What NOT to do When Breaking in Your Glove
As you read popular baseball or softball forums and articles on other sites, you may stumble across some rather unorthodox methods. Although many claim these break in methods are a quick way to soften the glove up, it may shorten the life of your glove in the long run. Some of these tactics can even void the manufacturer warranty that comes with the gloves. Here are some of the “tips” you should steer clear of.
This is one of the more popular ways people use to break in a glove, but one that can do irreparable damage. The microwave or oven method will dry out the leather and make the laces brittle causing them to break. More importantly, microwaving and baking gloves in the oven is absolutely dangerous. Left unattended, it can cause a fire. This risk is increased if there any metal parts on your glove. Unless you’re planning on eating your glove for dinner, keep it out of the microwave and the oven.
Here is what happens if you put your glove in an oven or microwave - both gloves were the same size before being baked in the oven:
Inside the Car
Like the microwave method, leaving your glove in a hot car can dry out the leather and cause its laces to become brittle and break (however the chances of your car catching on fire are far less than burning down your kitchen). Keep your hands at 10 and 2, but leave the gloves out of the car.
Breaking in Catcher’s Mitts and First Base Gloves
The process by which you should break in your catcher or first base glove doesn’t differ much from the general steps you’d take to break in a fielding glove. For catchers and first basemen in particular, the best method will be to simply use the glove...a lot! Playing catch and running bullpen sessions will get the job done best, though not necessarily the fastest.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use your glove a lot!
- Keep a ball wrapped in your glove at all times
- Only use oils and conditioners approved by the manufacturer
- Never use foreign substances on your glove
- Never put your glove in the microwave or oven
- Never leave your glove in the car
Good luck with your new glove, and make sure to keep your glove in top shape with this baseball glove care guide!
There you have it! Be sure to browse our online store for a wide range of baseball and softball gloves that you can practice your newfound break in skills and check all of our other useful how-to guides.