By Jeff Zahner
If you’re bumbling grounders and fly balls, and prayers just aren’t working for you, it may be time to take a good long look at your best friend—your glove. A stiff, clumsy glove can make any player look bad. So here are a few tips:
First, catchers and first basewomen have mitts. All other fielders have gloves. Because we aren’t in the major leagues, we’re going to use these two terms interchangeably.
Hopefully, you’ve already invested in a genuine leather glove. Prices vary from $30 to $400, but you can find some good deals once November rolls around. Last fall I found the glove of a lifetime on year-end clearance. I spent $30 on a $100-plus mitt from the Rawlings Gold Glove Series. Purchase a glove from this breed and it should help your learning curve.
Besides Rawlings, other reputable mitts are Wilson, Louisville Slugger, or the Cadillac of all gloves—Nokona. Don’t go for the pretty pink no-name. My daughter did that. It was the worst glove she’d ever had.
Make sure you pick a glove that fits your hand—one that you can control comfortably. It’s not like a purse; it doesn’t have to be pretty. Although carrying your pretty 30-pound Louis Vuitton purse around town with your glove hand will make that glove feel light.
For a general guideline, Dick’s Sporting Goods lists the following sizing chart for Women at http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/info/index.jsp?categoryId=12477806#3:
Women’s & Girl’s
Fast Pitch/Slow Pitch
Sizes by Positions
Youth Infield: 10”-11.5”
Youth Pitcher: 11.5”-12
Youth Outfield: 11.5”-12”
Women’s Infield: 11.5”-12.5”
Women’s Pitcher: 12”-12.5”
Women’s Outfield: 13”-14”
Once you know you have the right size glove, it’s important to begin molding it into the shape that you want.
The Breaking-in Period
Currently, my Rawlings glove is in the breaking-in period. There are numerous ways to break in a glove, but two come to mind:
The first is my personal method. It’s a bit methodical, but has served me well:
1. Moisturize the Mitt. Your mitt, like your hands, needs a good moisturizer. My father broke my first glove in with Vaseline. I use Neats Foot Oil, but there are several glove conditioners on the market. Rub the conditioner over the glove and laces but not inside the fingers.
2. Put your glove on. Then open your hand as wide as possible.
3. Shape the Mitt. With your other hand, begin bending the tip of the thumb or pinky finger inward toward your palm. Bend it as far as you can, creating a basket type effect. Move from finger to finger and back around several times.
4. Play catch with yourself. Toss the ball into the pocket over and over again.
5. Work the Laces. Tightening the strings between each of the fingers until you have a little excess lace at the tip of the thumb and the tip of the pinky finger. The laces will stretch easier in time as you break in your glove. Tie two knots with the lace, one as close to the thumb as you can get and one as close to the pinky as you can get.
6. Put your mitt to sleep. When you are ready to put your glove to bed for the night, place a ball in the pocket and tie those excess laces at the thumb and pinky together. This will trap the ball inside the glove and help shape it.
You can also use a quicker method. I’ve never used this, but several players swear by it
1. Place a ball in the center of the glove.
2. Tie a rope around the glove to hold the ball in place.
3. Place the mitt in a bucket of water for a day or two.
4. Take the mitt out and let it dry.
5. After it dries out, rub with a conditioner thoroughly.
Finally, there are a few things you should never do when breaking in a mitt:
1. Never bend the thumb of the glove backwards.
2. Never sit on your mitt or take it to the bar with you after the game. (You’ll forget it or spill beer on it.)
3. Never throw your glove at an opposing player, very unsportsmanlike.
I hope this info will help you on your quest to…..GOOD FIELDING!!
Jeff Zahner is a contributor to Athletchic and blogs a mini-series on various aspects of America’s favorite past time — baseball/softball. This is his first in a series of attempts to help improve your game. Look for future articles on How to Hold a Bat, Throwing, How to Form your Lid (cap), Who to Root For, and Who Is Responsible to Buy the First Round After the Game. Questions for Jeff? Comment below.