baseball glove leather

Baseball Glove Leather: The Ultimate Guide

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A good baseball glove can make all the difference but with so many different types of leather available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. In this article, we’ll explore the most common types of leather used for baseball gloves and discuss the pros and cons of each.

We’ll also look at how the quality of the leather can affect the glove’s performance, and provide tips for proper care and maintenance to keep your glove in top condition. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, read on to discover everything you need to know about baseball glove leather types.

Evolution of the Leather Baseball Glove

Any player on the field knows that a baseball glove is an essential piece of equipment designed to protect the hand from hard-hit balls. Gloves have been around since the game’s early days and have evolved to meet the players’ needs and the game itself.

The first recorded use of a glove in baseball was by Doug Allison, a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, in 1875. Allison’s glove was made of buckskin and was constructed to help him catch the ball more effectively. Soon after, all infielders and outfielders adopted gloves for extra protection.

The first gloves were simple, often made with just a little strip of leather wrapped around the hand. As the game evolved and became more competitive, so did the gloves. Manufacturers began experimenting with different materials and designs to create a glove that would give players an edge. 


Cowhide Baseball Gloves

Cowhide leather is a popular choice for baseball gloves due to its durability and affordability, making it ideal for beginners and intermediate players. While it requires some time to break in, cowhide retains its shape well over time.

The leather is processed through liming, which makes it pliable, and is then split into two layers. The grain and flesh layers. The grain layer is used for its strength in higher-quality gloves, while the flesh layer is often used in less expensive or youth gloves. Opt for a cowhide leather glove for a long-lasting, reliable option in baseball gear.

If you’re in the market for a new baseball glove, look for one made of cowhide leather. It’s the perfect material for a glove that will last you for many seasons.

Benefits Of Cowhide For Baseball Gloves:

  • Durable material which wears well over time. Cowhide is a very tough and durable leather, which is why it’s so popular in baseball gloves. It can withstand a lot of wear and tear and won’t break down as quickly as other types of leather. 
  • Looks good as it ages 
  • Easy to care for – wipe off with a damp cloth or soap the surface before applying another coat of conditioning cream when needed. 
  • Many people find cowhide leather very soft and supple to the touch.
  • Cowhide is also breathable and can keep your hand dry when playing baseball.
  • It’s very moldable, which means that it’s easy to break in and shape to your hand. Other types of leather can be stiff and difficult to break in, but cowhide gloves will conform to your hand over time. 
  • They’re affordable. Cowhide gloves are generally more affordable than other types of leather gloves, making them an excellent option for players on a budget. 

Premium Steerhide

Steerhide and cowhide are two of the most common types of leather used for baseball mitts. While both materials offer excellent durability and stiffness, there are some key differences to consider when choosing between the two.

One of the main differences between steerhide and cowhide is the thickness of the leather. Steerhide is typically thicker and heavier than cowhide, which can make it more durable and resistant to wear and tear over time. However, this thickness can also make steerhide gloves more difficult to break in and less flexible than cowhide gloves.

Cowhide, treated with gentler tanning methods, is more supple and flexible, making it a preferred choice for infielders and younger players. In contrast, outfielders might favor steerhide for its extra durability. The processing of steerhide involves aggressive tanning, resulting in a rigid feel and darker color, while cowhide undergoes softer tanning. The preparation of steerhide leather includes hair removal and preservation steps before tanning.


What Is Kip Leather?

Manufacturers use kip leather to produce a variety of baseball gloves and other sports equipment, due to its high quality. It is characterized by its strength, durability, and natural resistance to water and other elements. 

They source Kip leather from a young kip or calf’s hide, then tan and treat it to make it supple and durable. The tanning process used for kip leather is different from that used for other types of leather. That’s because it is designed to preserve the natural strength and elasticity of the hide. 

Kip leather’s high quality makes it one of the more expensive types of leather used in baseball gloves. However, its durability and strength make it worth the investment for many serious players.

Pros And Cons Of Kip Leather Baseball Gloves

Pros

  • High-quality leather
  • Lightweight
  • Durability
  • Exceptional comfort
  • Molds to hand well

Cons

  • Higher cost
  • Longer break-in time
  • May require more maintenance
  • Less availability in stores
  • Not ideal for younger players

The History Of Kip Baseball Glove Leather

Kip leather baseball gloves have been around for over 100 years. Spalding made the first Kip leather gloves in the early 1900s, including the first ones used by professional baseball players.

Some of the greatest players in history, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Honus Wagner, wore these gloves. The kip leather gloves were so popular that other companies began making their own versions.

Today, some of the top baseball glove companies in the world still make Kip leather gloves, which serious players still consider to be the best gloves.


Full Grain Baseball Glove Leather

Full-grain leather exhibits durability, strength, and resistance to wear and tear. It is also more breathable and comfortable to wear than some other types of leather.

Did you know that full grain leather gloves offer even more benefits than their cheaper counterparts? 

Here are four reasons why you should invest in a full-grain glove: 

  1. Better Protection – Full grain leather is thicker and more durable than other types of leather. Full grain is the way to go if you’re looking for a glove that will last season after season. 
  2. Better Grip – The added thickness of full grain leather also provides a better grip on the ball, helping you make those tough catches in the outfield or infield. 
  3. More Comfort – Full grain gloves use higher-quality materials, making them more comfortable than cheaper gloves. Full grain is a great option if you’re looking for a glove that won’t rub your hand raw. 
  4. Better Value – While full grain gloves may cost more upfront, they’re worth the investment. Thanks to their durability, comfort, and performance, full grain gloves will last longer and provide better value in the long run.

Synthetic Leather Gloves

Leather gloves are the traditional choice, but synthetic leather gloves are an increasingly popular option. 

Synthetic leather gloves, made from materials like polyurethane, are a cost-effective and durable alternative to traditional leather gloves. They are lighter in weight, potentially lasting longer, but may not offer the same breathability as natural leather, leading to discomfort in warm conditions. The choice between synthetic and leather gloves depends on personal preference, budget, and intended use.


Top Glove Manufacturers

Although there are many sporting equipment manufacturers, a few stand out when it comes to baseball gloves. These manufacturers have been in the business for many years and have earned a reputation for quality. 

WILSON

Wilson has been making baseball gloves for over 100 years. They have a wide variety, and many professional players use them. Wilson is a trusted name in the baseball community, and their gloves are some of the best on the market. 

RAWLINGS

Rawlings is a well-known brand in the world of baseball gloves. They have a reputation for producing high-quality gloves using a variety of different leather types. The company offers a range of gloves for players of all skill levels and positions, from entry-level models made with synthetic leather to high-end gloves made with premium steerhide or full grain leather.

Rawlings gloves are famous for their innovative designs. This includes their Heart of the Hide line which features gloves made from the top 5% of steer hides. Rawlings has been a trusted brand in baseball for over 100 years and continues to be a popular choice for players of all ages and abilities.

EASTON

Easton is a brand that is synonymous with high-quality baseball equipment, including gloves. Their use of premium leather materials like steerhide and cowhide is one of the reasons for the exceptional performance and durability of their gloves. Easton gloves are available in a variety of styles, from classic designs to innovative models featuring advanced technologies like extended webs and adjustable straps.

The brand also offers a range of gloves for players of all skill levels and positions, with options for youth players, high school and college athletes, and even professional players.

NOKONA

Nokona is a family-owned business that has been producing handmade baseball gloves in the US since 1934. They make their gloves from high-quality leather materials, including steerhide, kangaroo, and buffalo. Skilled artisans handcraft each glove, and the brand subjects them to rigorous quality control to ensure that they meet their high standards.

Many players consider Nokona gloves to be some of the best on the market. This is due to their exceptional durability and performance. While they may be more expensive than other brands, Nokona gloves are an investment in quality craftsmanship that is sure to last for years to come.

MIZUNO

Mizuno baseball gloves have a long and storied history dating back to their origins in Japan. For over a century, Nokona has been making baseball gloves that are used by some of the biggest names in the game.

Mizuno started as a manufacturer of traditional Japanese swords, but they began making baseball gloves in 1906. The company quickly gained a reputation for producing some of the best gloves in the business after making its first gloves from horsehide.

In the years since Mizuno has continued to innovate and create new technologies for their gloves. They were the first company to use synthetic materials in baseball gloves, and they continue to push the envelope with new designs and materials. 


Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right leather for a baseball glove is an important decision that can have a significant impact on a player’s performance. Whether you opt for the durability and strength of steerhide, the affordability and flexibility of cowhide, or the high quality and longevity of full grain leather, there is a leather type and brand out there to suit every player’s needs and preferences.

Brands like Wilson, Rawlings, Easton, Nokona, and Mizuno all offer a range of high-quality gloves made from different types of leather, and each has its unique features and benefits. By taking the time to research and consider different options, players can find a glove that will help them perform at their best and last for years to come.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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