Spring has sprung, and undoubtely, little Jimmy will soon be off to baseball practice. Or, perhaps, big Jim is off to softball games already. The common thread there from an equipment perspective is baseball only requires a few things, most importantly, along with the bat and ball, is the mitt, or baseball glove. Purchasing a mitt for any kind of ball is an adventure and really, in my opinion, something to be treasured. From the smell of real leather to the beauty of a pristine pocket, shopping for a ball glove can be exciting, fun, and rewarding. But that’s for those with an incredible passion for baseball such as myself. For those with limited mitt knowledge, it can be confusing, lengthy and frustrating. So, for the benefit of those leatherly challenged-
There are many, many brands of gloves nowadays, starting with classic staples Rawlings and Wilson going on for miles. There are too many to list and discuss, and more importantly, I’m not getting paid by any of them, so go with your gut. Most of the time, a company will have several different models at several different price points, so asking ‘who makes the best glove’ is like asking ‘who makes the best car’, an argument that can go on forever and likely wind up with fisticuffs. Your safest bet is worrying more about price and feel than brand, and if you have a favorite brand, that’s half the battle.
The Brand matters, but the model is where the difference really lies, as a lower end glove from a great glove company most likely isn’t nearly as good as a high end glove from a company you’ve never heard of. The main rub here is your price range, as everyone would like an A200 or Pro Preferred, but it’s not necessarily in your price range. I recommend at least getting something made from real leather, which you should be able to find for as low as $50. Sure, a cheap mitt is nice, but the synthetic leather used is likely going to start disappearing quicker each season, so pony up and get something authentic. A real leather glove, no matter what price, can last you forever if properly cared for. The more expensive the glove, the better the leather, more often than not. The range of leather is expansive, so there definitely is a difference between a $50 glove and a $300 glove. Most of the time when it comes to leather quality, you get what you pay for.
Here’s where the confusion really sets in. Working in the industry, I constantly here questions about sizing. Here’s are some rough guidelines-
- 8, 9 & 10 inch- This is primarily for your tee ball players, with varying sizes not meaning a whole lot at that age, as not much slick fielding goes on anyhow. But that doesn’t mean you should nab the biggest mitt you can find, as you need to make sure your son/daughter can control the mitt with ease, pick up a ball with it, and open and shut it. From there, it’s all pretty colors, player’s signatures and cool features that butter the bread.
- 11 to 12 inch- These are the toughest ones to gauge, as there are many gloves in this spectrum that are either meant for kids or adult but not necessarily both. Adults playing middle infield and sometimes third base want a glove somewhere in the 11′s, with an open and shallow pocket for web gem playability, while the kids gloves at this size will likely have closed webs and deep pockets to help them in catching the ball. If your child playing baseball or softball is an infielder by trade, go with something smaller in size, and if they are an outfielder, go bigger. Kids who play both positions, I would err on the bigger side, because having a bigger glove infielding isn’t as bad as having a small glove in the outfield.
- 12 to 13 inch- This is the bonafide outfielder range for baseball players, and even some softballers, with most of these glove having big, deep pockets for shagging fly balls, and even some featuring outfield inspired features such as Rawling’s Trapeze pocket, made for fly balls. Some softball players will also use gloves this size for infield, especially those using a 12″ ball, needing those extra inches to trap the ball.
- 14 inches+ These gloves are softball outfield specific and made for those who are, shall I say, less than confident in their outfield abilities. You may also see some softball first basemen using a gigantic mitt this size, which leads me smoothly to my next topic.