A Guide to Baseball Gloves
Do you find yourself looking for new baseball gloves or some new gloves for practice or next season? The case may be that you are already well practiced in your position and know exactly what you’re looking for. Or, perhaps last year was the first time you took the sport seriously and you’re looking into learning some more about the different types of mitts and gloves out there.
Interestingly, from off of the field, it kind of looks like different players are all using more or less the same mitts, albeit in different colors. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, and even the most minute details of their mitts are custom-suited to their preferences as a player and also to the positions they play.
Check out this brief guide on baseball mitts and gloves, and if you want to learn more or have additional questions about some of their specific features, give our customer service team a call at 888-540-BATS.
It can hardly be argued that the most important driving factor behind a player’s choice in a glove is the position he plays. Pitchers and catchers don’t have the same skill sets or even needs in a glove, and therefore they are going to use very different types of gloves. Of course, this is more than apparent if you play the sport, but not so much if you never have.
Read on below to see some of the ways in which a player’s position is going to dictate the type of mitt he uses, and what features he is going to look for in one.
Catchers spend literally an entire game taking hard-flung pitches to the hand; and any time they don’t spend doing that they are fielding balls thrown in from the outfield to try to get a runner out. In order words, their catching hands take a beating during a game.
That’s one of the reasons that catchers’ mitts, in particular, are some of the most recognizable forms of mitts in all of the sport. They lack the clearly defined fingers of fielders' mitts, instead opting for heavily padding palms and short-fused fingers that are lipped by thick, heavy leather. This serves two purposes; on the one hand, it helps to break some of the force of catching pitches all game long, and it also helps the glove to “snap” shut on a ball and secure it. They lack the deep pockets of fielding gloves, but make no mistake about it; catchers’ mitts offer a secure pocket for a ball.
Every once in a while during a game, you will see a particularly versatile pitcher make a move over to a base or to home plate to make a play, but most of the time they aren’t too concerned with fielding. A pitcher’s primary purpose is to strike out the opposing batter and to do that, they need to be able to hide the ball.
Therefore, for the most part, the defining feature of a pitcher’s mitt is the fact that they tend to have tightly closed webs that obscure not only the ball but their grip on it. Any type of closed web is probably going to be a popular choice among pitchers.
Infielders need a good mix of traits in their baseball gloves because they don’t just need to catch fast-moving and quick reacting grounders, they also have to keep their heads up for low flying line drives.
In addition to a need to be quick and reactive, they also have to be quick at making transfers. A lot of what happens in the infield can dictate who gets on base and who gets out, and the features infielders choose in their gloves can make a profound impact on their performance.
For example, infielders don’t tend to look for gloves with deep webs, because they have such a pronounced need to make fast and effective transfers. At the same time, secrecy is not as critical to their effectiveness in the field as pitchers, and they have less of a need to hide anything. As a result, some infielders like gloves with relatively open weaves. That not only lightens the glove but prevents dirt from building up.
Alright, third basemen are technically infielders, so we could have included them in the above section. However, third basemen see more hard-hit line drives and grounders zipping past them than most first and second basemen see during a game, combined.
For this reason, third basemen need light, agile gloves like other infielders but prefer sturdier gloves. They might also prefer a deeper web to give them a secure grip on hard-hit balls while still enabling them to make quick transfers. The open web might not provide enough “stopping power” for them, so some third basemen prefer basket webs and other closed weaves due to their reliability.
Infielders may need to make seriously fast transfers and may see more action throughout much of the game than many outfielders, but make no mistake about it, outfielders are responsible for securing a game-winning portion of plays, if only in catching pop fly balls alone.
Because most of the hits that will reach outfielders have a serious amount of power behind them, outfielders prefer sturdy webs and deep pockets that help them secure the ball with confidence. At the same time, since they sometimes have to reach for a ball, some outfielders prefer gloves with longer fingers to give them an extra inch or two to rein in a hit and make a play. Somewhat along the same lines as third-basemen, they prefer a tightly stitched pocket to put the brakes on a hot ball while keeping it secure in the pocket.
By Web Type
We’ve already shed some light on the types of plays that different positions on the field have to make, as well as what types of construction and features they might prefer in their gloves. Now let’s take a look at some of the different types of webs you can find among baseball gloves. They might look all the same to you from the stands, but if you get down on the field, you’ll notice quite a variety in the webs of the different gloves that players use.
As the name suggests, a basket weave web is a web that has multiple interlocking strips of leather or other material that make up the web, similar to a basket. This leaves very little visibility into the interior of the glove.
Pitchers may be the most common users of a basket weave, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t love them too. The main value of a basket weave comes in the fact that a pitcher can hide the ball and thus, his intentions, in the weave. However, because there are finer strips of leather or synthetic comprising the basket weave, some of them are more supple and thus easier to close. At the same time, they can cushion a hot incoming ball.
If you take a step back from the mitt and look at the web from behind, you the web will make an “H” shape that also looks a little bit like an octothorpe. It is made from intersecting strips of leather that are stitched together to create the pattern.
The H-Web pattern is very sturdy, because it is made from only a few thick strips of leather, but has a lot of negative space, is very lightweight, and thus very nimble. This type of web is popular with infielders because it is very sturdy, but allows dirt to fall through and not impede the performance of the glove. Elsewhere, dirt would get trapped in the stitching and the weave, and when you’re scooping at the dirt all game long trying to snatch up grounders (like infielders are) it makes a difference.
The I-Web weave is very similar to the H web, but it contains one less strip of leather and thus looks more closed in from behind. If you look at it from behind, in place of an “H” you will see a capital “I.”
Like the H-Web, the I-Web is very popular amongst infielders for the same reasons. It is light and number but secure enough to stop a fast-flying ball, live drive, or otherwise. Also, like the H-Web, it allows dirt, sand, and grass to fall right through the weave. Whether a player prefers an H-Web or an I-Web is largely going to be a matter of personal preference.
A two-piece web is a lot like a basket weave, but instead of having many strips of interwoven leather, it has one larger piece (or two) that are stitched together to make a pocket. It is great for concealing a ball, so pitchers like them, but unlike basket weave, they are less pliable and can take a lot more work to break in.
Catchers - One Piece and Half Moon
Many catchers’ mitts have half-moon construction that is very similar to the two-piece construction listed immediately above. It consists of a larger patch of leather stitched to the glove to create the web; it is very strong and very sturdy.
A one-piece web is even more common with catchers’ mitts and takes the form of a large, single piece of leather that is stitched to the glove to create a web. It is very stiff, to begin with, but after catching a few pitches a glove with this type of construction will limber up just fine.
In addition to choosing between styles of webs, you will have to settle on the material out of which you want the glove to be made. For the most part, that means choosing between leather and synthetic models.
Historically, pretty much all baseball gloves were made out of leather, and even today most of them still are. There isn’t too much not to like about leather; since it is natural, it is breathable, allowing your hand to sweat. It is also softer and supple once broken in and will form to the natural contours of your hand. Leather is also extremely durable and protective, meaning that leather can provide a lot of cushioning for your hand when you spend a lot of the time reining in hard-hit baseballs.
On the flip side, leather is somewhat heavy and requires a lot of maintenance. It also needs to be broken in before it will be comfortable or practical to use. It needs to be oiled and conditioned from time to time and is also susceptible to water damage.
For the latter reasons mentioned above, some manufacturers such as Wilson have come up with synthetic materials that promise advanced performance over leather. Some of these, such as Wilson’s SuperSkin, promises not only to be lighter than leather but to repel moisture and to be twice as strong as well. Some synthetic materials also promise to be easier to break in than leather, on top of it all.
There is a place for each of them in the world of baseball, and again, it’s going to come down to personal preference, for you, most of the time. Some players swear by leather, and others appreciate synthetics.
A Note on Breaking In Baseball Gloves
Manufacturers will advertise that a glove offers “80% factory break-in” or some other amount, meaning that the glove is partially broken in before being sold, but the truth is that all gloves will need some measure of breaking in. Also, some sellers will offer break-in services or steamings, but we recommend doing it the old fashioned way - just practice in the glove, or play with it, and over time it will fit the contours of your hand, like, well, a glove. One more thing - when you put your mitt away for storage, store it with a ball in the pocket so it holds its shape.
If you need more information before you begin your own search of our baseball gloves for sale, give our team a call at 888-540-BATS and we’d be happy to help. Otherwise, take a look through our online store and find your next mitt!
- Christopher Bastien