How to Choose a Baseball Glove: A Guide for New Players
The baseball glove is perhaps the single most important piece of gear for players of all ages and abilities. However, finding the right glove requires more than just knowing the top brands or how to care for one. It means finding one that fits correctly and feels good while wearing it.
While experienced players probably have a good idea of what they want in a baseball glove, that’s not the case for new players. Whether we’re talking about Little League, a work league, or someone aspiring to enter the Minor Leagues, this guide will walk you through what you need to know to choose the best baseball glove for your needs.
Why Does the Fit Matter?
Before we dive too far into the topic, we must address the question of why fit is important. It comes down to a few specific factors, including the following:
• Safety: First, there’s the safety consideration. Equipment that fits poorly is unsafe and can lead to accidents on the field.
• Performance: Well-fitting equipment is vital to good performance. Without a properly fitted glove, players will always be at a performance disadvantage.
• Focus: When equipment fits well, players can focus on developing their skills, rather than on compensating for equipment that fits poorly.
With a better understanding of the importance of fit, we can now turn our attention to the question of how to find the right baseball glove.
Know Baseball Glove Construction
The first thing for all players to understand is the construction of the glove itself. Each part plays a role in fit and function. The basic components include:
• Bridge: The top portion of the web that connects the thumb with the index finger.
• Fingers: One for each finger on the hand.
• Lacing: You’ll find lacing throughout the glove to provide shape and durability.
• Web: The horizontal and vertical strapping between the thumb and index finger.
• Pocket: The part of the glove just under the webbing designed to catch and hold the ball.
• Palm: The part of the glove that covers the palm of the hand.
• Wrist Adjustment: This is an optional part that allows you to tighten/loosen the fit of the
• Hinge: The hinge sits to the outside of the palm and is where the glove bends the most.
• Heel Pad: The portion of the glove that protects the bottom of the hand from impact.
In all situations, you should look for a glove that is easy to close, that fits well across the palm, and is neither too loose nor too tight on your fingers.
Glove Material Options
Glove material has a definite impact on fit, function, and durability. There are several different options on the market, including the following:
• Synthetic Leather: This material is often used in youth gloves to provide a game-ready piece of equipment. It bends more easily and requires no break-in period.
• Full Leather: Full leather construction is the preferred option and likely the most widely available choice. It is very durable and becomes more flexible over time and with use. However, it does require a break-in period.
• Oiled Leather: Oiled leather offers a middle ground between the no break-in period of synthetic leather and the lengthy break-in period of premium leather.
What to Know about Webbing
Webbing is the part of the glove that closes the gap between the thumb and forefinger. It’s also a vital part of being able to catch the ball. There are many different types of webbing used today, and while some are more aesthetically-oriented, others serve different purposes.
H-webbing, cross-webbing, I-webbing, two-piece webbing, basket, trapeze, and modified trapeze are the most common types for fielding gloves. A couple of these, notably the two-piece and the basketweave, are also good for pitching, as the webbing can help conceal the pitch. For first basemen, single post, modified H-webbing, and dual bar webbing are the more common.
Things to Consider When Shopping for Youth Gloves
Youth gloves must provide some specific characteristics to ensure they’re usable for children, and that they fit well. Look for a glove that:
• Is constructed from lightweight materials
• Is easy to bend/fold
• Requires little or no break-in
• Has a smaller hand opening
• Has shorter finger stalls
• Is shorter in terms of overall glove length to ensure better control
Things to Consider When Shopping for More Experienced Players
Experienced players can be found across all age groups and sizes, so finding the right glove is about more than making sure the fingers are long enough or that the palm is wide enough.
• Closure: Do you prefer a drawstring closure? A Velcro closure? Each works well, but they perform and feel differently.
• Heel Pad Thickness: Do you have a preference for heel pad thickness? Thicker pads offer more protection but less mobility, while thinner pads offer the reverse.
• Pocket Design: How deep do you want your pocket? Fastpitch gloves should have deeper pockets than standard baseball gloves.
• Ball Transfer: How easily can you transfer the ball from your glove to your throwing hand?
For both new and more advanced players, the glove should fit comfortably, should provide the maneuverability necessary when fielding the ball, and should allow you to easily transfer it to your throwing hand. Note that it will be necessary to try on different sizes, try out different closure systems, and possibly practice ball transfer to make an informed decision here.
Glove Sizing: A Misunderstood Part of Finding the Right Baseball Glove
For many parents of new players, the automatic assumption is that a longer glove will be better for catching. However, that is not really the case. In fact, in most cases, a smaller glove is more maneuverable, and therefore easier to handle on the field, resulting in better catches and fewer fumbled balls.
The problem with a glove that’s too long is that it makes it awkward for a player to use it correctly. That awkwardness leads to distraction and hesitation. It’s really all about control, not reach (glove length).
Position and Glove Size
There is also a misunderstanding that every player should have a similarly sized
baseball glove. That’s not the case. Glove sizes should vary by player size/age and capabilities, but also by the position being played. Below, we’ll outline what you should know about
baseball glove sizing for each position.
We’ll begin our discussion with outfield players. Generally, this is where you’ll find the longer gloves, simply because outfielders do need additional reach to avoid a ball grazing the tips of their fingers in a tough catch. But how long is long? Look for gloves between 10.75 inches and 12.5 inches if you’re outfitting a younger player.
Older players (teens through adults) will want to consider a glove that’s 12.5 to 12.75 inches. For fastpitch players, gloves should be 12 inches to 13 inches, and slow-pitch players will need a glove around 13 or 14 inches. Outfield gloves also differ in other key ways. For instance, they should have deeper pockets for better ball capture and control.
Infielders need shorter gloves than most players. They should be between 10.75 and 11.75 inches for youth players. Teen and adult players should choose between 11.25 and 12.25 inches. For fastpitch, look for a glove between 11 and 12 inches, while slow-pitch players will want one around 13 inches. In addition, infield gloves should have a shallower pocket to facilitate better transfer to the throwing hand – speed is of the essence for infield play as players run the bases.
A pitcher needs a great glove, just as much as any other player on the team. However, pitcher gloves differ from both infield and outfield due to the position being played and the unique factors here. Youth players will need a glove between 10.75 inches and 12.5 inches. Older players will want to consider a glove that’s at least 11.5 inches but probably no longer than 12.5 inches. The same size range applies to fastpitch, but slow-pitch players will want to consider a glove up to 14 inches if they’re playing pitcher.
In a perfect world, players would have a specific glove for each position. However, that’s often not possible. Utility gloves are designed to offer good performance in many different positions – sort of a jack of all trades of the
baseball glove world. They are larger than infield gloves but somewhat shorter than some outfield gloves. The webbing is often closed rather than open so that they can double as gloves for pitchers. If you’re considering a utility glove, youth sizes are 11 to 12 inches. Adults can choose from 11.75 inches to 12.5 inches. For fastpitch, gloves range from 11.5 inches to 12 inches, but slow-pitch players are around 13 inches.
What Does a Good Fit Feel Like?
In many ways, identifying a good fit is an experiential thing – it’s hard to describe, but once you experience it, you understand. Perhaps the best way to sum up a good fit is that it should fit snugly, but not tightly. A loose glove is not a good fit, but neither is one that’s too restrictive for easy movement. It should be stiff enough for strength, but flexible enough for good control and easy release of the ball.
What’s the Best Glove?
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. The best glove for you is one that fits well and that feels comfortable while providing the performance necessary on the field.
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