How To Break In A New Baseball Or Softball Glove

Most gloves are stiff when you buy them, which means how to break in a new baseball or softball glove is one of the first lessons players must learn.

Breaking in a glove achieves many benefits. It’s a necessary process to get your glove game ready. A stiff glove is hard to close, has limited flexibility and doesn’t offer the range of motion that you need in the field.

This how-to guide will look at several different techniques for breaking in a baseball or softball glove.

Most gloves are stiff when you buy them, which means how to break in a new baseball or softball glove is one of the first lessons players must learn.

Breaking in a glove achieves many benefits. It’s a necessary process to get your glove game ready. A stiff glove is hard to close, has limited flexibility and doesn’t offer the range of motion that you need in the field.

This how-to guide will look at several different techniques for breaking in a baseball or softball glove.

Step 0: Think About The Shape And Feel You Want

This is an optional step that may not apply to all gloves. Some glove models are designed to be unstructured. This gives the player more freedom in how they shape the glove.

For example, a player at third base may want to curl the top of their glove in. This will reinforce the top of the glove and improve durability and performance against hard hit line drives at the hot corner.

You should think about what unique shape or structure you want your glove to have. Again, this is an optional, advanced technique that may not apply to all players.

Step 1: Condition The Leather

The goal of breaking in a glove is really to soften up the leathers. Before you can begin shaping or fitting the glove, you need to work the leather.

There are many methods to accomplish this task. We’ll break down each one so you can decide the best way to break in a glove for your needs.

Method 1: Play Catch

Most gloves will naturally break in the more you use them. If you’ve ever handled an older, well-used glove, you know what we mean. The more you use the glove, the looser it gets.

You can soften a glove by getting a partner and having a game of catch. However, there are two caveats. One, this method takes a long time. You may have to commit to several sessions before the leathers are loose enough to use in a game.

Secondly, a stiff glove is hard to catch with, which means you’ll be retrieving balls off the ground quite a bit. You may want to bring some backups!

Method 2: Work The Leathers By Hand

When your throwing arm gets tired, or if you can’t find a catching partner, you can replace having a catch with working the leathers by hand. This will break in a baseball or softball glove over time.

work the leathers by hand
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

Use force to repeatedly pummel the leathers and help stretch them out. Remember, this is a natural material. The structure is very flexible. The goal here is to work the leather the way that repeated play would.

rubber mallet to break in a glove
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

You can use a mallet, toss a ball repeatedly into the glove’s pocket, pound your fist against it, or use a specialized leather working tool.

Method 3: Oil The Glove

Arguably the most popular method for how to break in a baseball or softball glove is to use oil. There are many products that qualify as glove oil:

  • Vaseline.
  • Saddle soap.
  • Baby oil.
  • Shaving cream.
  • Specialized glove oils.

That said, there is some controversy with using oils or other products for how to loosen a glove. Some players refuse to use lubricants and other products on their gloves because they feel it breaks down the integrity of the glove.

This reportedly deteriorates the overall structure of the leathers. In the short-term your glove may also feel heavier because the oils soak into the materials.

On the other side, other players swear by using oils to soften a glove. Plus, many of the top glove brands (Wilson, Rawlings, etc.) make proprietary glove oils that are specially designed to loosen leather.

No matter what material you use, the process is the same. Use a small amount of the oil or cream, just a dime sized amount, and begin working it into the leather.

You can wear rubber gloves if you don’t want to get the oil on your hands or apply the substance with a sponge.

oiling a baseball glove
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

As you’re massaging the leathers with oil, you want to coat every part of the glove. You especially don’t want to forget about the laces. When you catch the ball, it’s the laces that take most of the stress of the impact. So, you want to be extra sure that these parts of the glove are loose and flexible.

You may want to treat the leathers multiple times with oil. Be sure to give a few days between each session to give the leathers time to recover.

Method 4: Use Heat

The second popular school of thought, opposite of oiling the leathers, is to heat them up. Heat loosens the leathers and makes them easier to work with. This is also possibly the fastest way to break in a glove.

Of course, some players are weary about popping a brand new glove in an oven or microwave. You have to be very careful with this method and keep the heat regulated. You can break in a glove fast with heat, but you can also cause damage if you aren’t vigilant.

You have a few approaches with the heating method. The first is to put the glove in the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees, then put the glove in and shut the oven off.

using heat to soften up a glove
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

Remember, you’re not trying to cook anything, just warm up the leathers. That said, you should check in on your glove often, like it’s your Thanksgiving Turkey.

Also, be sure to put the glove on a baking sheet. You don’t want marks from the oven racks to appear on your mitt!

Another heating method is to leave the glove inside your car on a hot day. In direct sun, a car can get up to 150 degrees. It’s not enough to cook the leather, but the heat will bake them enough to loosen the glove, making it feel soft and flexible.

In extreme situations, you can also heat the glove by using a microwave. However, you want to be very careful with this method. Not only can you damage your glove, but letting it sit too long in the microwave will have your kitchen smelling like burnt hide.

Step 2: Forming The Pocket

The pocket of a baseball glove is where players actually catch the ball. It is the space between your thumb and forefinger and includes the webbing and deepest center of your glove. You want your pocket to be formed properly because it will make catching and securing balls easier.

Again, we have several methods to consider. All of these options are viable. It’s really up to you how you want to form your pocket!

Method 1: Play Catch

Similar to breaking in the leather, you’ll also form the pocket by simply playing catch. The repeated contact of the ball against the pocket of the glove will work the leathers around the shape of the ball.

Again, this method takes the most amount of time. It may take several catching sessions to properly get the pocket to the shape you need. When you’re not playing catch, you can speed up the process by working the pocket with a mallet or repeatedly throwing a ball into the pocket as hard as you can.

Method 2: Twine Or Rubber Bands

This is the most popular method for forming the pocket. Start by placing a ball into the pocket of the glove. Then, twist twine around the glove to hold the ball securely in place. You don’t want to wrap the twine too tight because it will leave creases in the leather that may damage the glove and cause weird lines to appear.

Alternatively, you can use rubber bands in place of the twine. Some companies, like Rawlings, even sell specialty bands for tying your glove. Again, you need to be careful of creases. Ideally, you’ll want to use thicker rubber bands that don’t pinch the glove too tightly. To further reduce creases, place the rubber bands in an X-shape, instead of straight across.

forming the glove pocket using rubber bands
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

No matter what method you use, you want to routinely shift the ball and reapply the bands or twine. This will ensure that you shape the entire pocket and webbing.

Method 3: The Old Mattress Trick

This is the classic method and easily the most fun, especially for young kids. You’ll start again by placing a baseball or softball into the pocket of the glove. Instead of using twine or rubber bands, you’ll place the glove under your mattress (or your pillow) when you go to sleep.

 glove under the mattress
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

The pressure of sleeping on top of the glove will cause the pocket to form around the ball. It’s a neat trick that won’t create any creases or odd marks.

As a kid, placing a glove under your mattress or pillow was one of the coolest parts of getting a new glove.

Step 3: Form The Shape Of The Glove

This is where your plan from Step 0 will come into play. At this point, the glove should be easy to close and securely catch balls. Now, the goal is to form the overall shape of the glove and mold it to fit your hand comfortably.

Forming the inside shape of the glove is an easy process. It’s a simple matter of wearing the glove and bending it to fit the shape of your hand.

breaking in a baseball glove
Image credit: Seth Brundage, Bakosports

Forming the outside shape of the glove is a little more involved. Again, you have to think about how you want the glove to form. Do you want a slide curve to the top or do you want to angle the finger stalls for added comfort? It’s entirely up to you.

You can use bands or twine to get the desired shape or simply flex the leathers by hand.

Conclusions

There is no single best way to break in a glove. Different players use various methods and approaches to loosen their gloves for game time.

However, the process for how to break in a baseball or softball glove is always the same:

  1. Soften the glove leathers.
  2. Form the pocket.
  3. Form the shape of the glove.

By following these steps, you know all of the methods you can use to soften a glove and get it ready.

When using heat or oils on your glove, remember that a little goes a long way. It’s better to apply an oil or heat multiple times than overdoing it and causing damage to the leather.