How To Break In A Baseball Glove (Step-By-Step Guide)

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HOW TO BREAK IN A BASEBALL GLOVE

A quality glove is probably one of the most important pieces of sporting equipment a baseball or softball player will ever own. You often change bats every year due to different regulations or because you’ve outgrown them, but a glove can last you a lifetime. Depending on who you talk to, there are many different methods for how to break in a baseball glove.

To help you make your decision, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular glove-breaking techniques.


Why Do You Need To Break In A Baseball Glove?

Every ballplayer has a special connection with their baseball glove, shaped by all the hard work that goes into it. This includes hours of playing catch, rubbing in oils and creams, and working it with a wooden mallet.

Before you start using a new fielding glove in a game for the first time, you’ve got to break it in. Playing with a stiff glove will lead to errors and a spot on the bench. Think of your glove like a part of your hand – it needs to feel right and fit comfortably.

Leather gloves, especially those made from kip leather, steerhide, or cowhide, are durable but initially very stiff. This makes them harder to squeeze shut compared to gloves made from synthetic leather, which are often more flexible straight from the shelf.

Breaking in the glove makes the new leather softer and helps form the perfect pocket for catching and making plays. Use it for a few hours every day. The more you use it, the better it’ll fit your hand and the better you’ll play.


Best Way To Break In A Baseball Or Softball Glove

Rule #1 is you never mess with someone else’s glove. Everyone catches differently, so the gloves won’t fit the same for each person. If someone else puts their hand in your glove and starts catching balls differently, it will completely mess up the fit. Leather stretches and molds itself to fit your hand, so make sure yours is the only one in there. 

Everyone is different, but the ideal method is to just take your time with it. It’s as simple as just playing catch with it over and over. Keep using it in non-game situations, and it will naturally form to your hand.  


Fast Ways To Break In A Baseball Glove

If you are looking to speed up the break-in period, there are quicker ways to do it. These shortcuts will help soften the leather, but they are not our preferred method and can harm the leather. 

One of the better ways to quickly break in a brand new baseball glove is through hot water and beating it up. 

Materials you will need to get started:

  • A large bowl or bucket of hot water – do not use boiling water
  • Since you don’t want to completely submerge the glove, you will need a cup to scoop smaller amounts of water to pour on it.
  • Glove mallet 

The first thing you will need to do is moisten the leather since wetting it allows it to stretch more easily. If you choose the water option, pour a small amount of hot water over any part of the glove you’d like to make softer. When the glove is wet, you want to begin forcefully manipulating the area where the padding under your thumb is.

This area is important because it is the stiffest part of the glove and the area that will need the most flexibility to help catch a ball. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to break out the wooden glove mallet. Use the mallet to continuously pound the pocket of your glove as this will loosen things up make it easier to open and close.    

Check Out My Guide On The Best Infield and Outfield Baseball Gloves.


Different Ways To Break In A Glove

Glove Oils And Conditioners

If you don’t want to use the water option, use a specialty leather-breaking solution like glove oil to help with moisture, spreading, and softening of raw leather. Often, glove manufacturers will have their glove oil and conditioners, so those are probably your best options.

Make sure to read and follow the instructions on the bottle so that you can get the best results. Also, don’t pour the oil or solution directly on the glove, and be sure to use an applicator, like a sponge or rag. 

You won’t want to lather the glove with any of these conditioners. Take a small amount or whatever the instructions say and apply a light coating with a rag. 

We’ve included some of our favorite glove manufacturer treatment products below. 

Glove Steaming And How It Works

  • Step 1: The first step is to apply glove conditioning oil. Be sure to coat or spray the entire surface of the glove. After a few minutes and the conditioner has seeped in, wipe the glove with a rag until it is dry.
  • Step 2: Place the new glove on some sort of rack over a pot of water. Turn the gas or electric burner on and put a lid or bowl over the glove to trap the steam. Once the water gets hot enough to produce steam, keep the glove on the rack for about 3-5 minutes, depending on the desired softness of the leather. 
  • Step 3: After 3-5 minutes, take the glove off of the rack and be sure to turn off the burner. After drying it with a towel, the glove should feel looser and easier to close. 
  • Step 4: Take the mallet and begin pounding the heel area of the thumb-side of the glove, working your way to the middle. This should loosen it up before you use the mallet to form the pocket of the glove. 
  • Step 5: Start playing lots of catch, but if you want to use the mallet to form your pocket, that is okay too. If you want a deeper pocket, use the wooden mallet to hit the glove near the webbing. If you want a shallower pocket, beat in the palm area of the glove. 

If this sounds too complicated, you could always ship it off to glove experts like the Glove Whisperer or bring it to the professional steaming services at Dick’s Sporting Goods.


Will Shaving Cream Help?

Shaving cream is not an ideal glove conditioner because many ingredients will dry the leather. For years, many shaving cream brands included a component called Lanolin.

Lanolin is a natural oil that comes from the skin glands of sheep, and it helps moisturize and protect the sheep’s wool. It’s a natural oil that can help soften and preserve leather products like gloves.

Lanolin was a great leather conditioner, but today’s shaving creams no longer have it, or it’s a minimal amount that probably won’t soften the glove too much. 


Rubber Bands On Baseball and Softball Gloves

This isn’t a method but a step in the overall process of breaking in a glove. Playing catch or taking ground balls over and over is best for forming a great pocket. Another widespread practice is placing a baseball in the pocket and tying the glove shut.

As a kid, I used many large rubber bands for this, but there are various methods people use, including string, fishing line, and belts to keep the glove shut. Rawlings even sells a popular glove wrap

Once the glove has been tied with the ball inside, let it sit for a few days before opening it. When you untie it, play catch with it and tie it back up again. Repeat this process for a few weeks, and you will begin to notice the difference. 


Can I Use Both Glove Oil And Conditioner?

The answer is yes, but both serve different purposes. Oils are used to help with the break-in process, and conditioners are used more to maintain the glove. 

Throughout the season, take care of your glove’s leather by periodically applying a small amount of conditioning cream. This will be good practice for ensuring your glove lasts for a long time.   


What Not To Do With Your Baseball Glove

Don’t use Vaseline or olive oil. We’ve heard many baseball players (including MLB) do this, but this will damage the leather and leave it with a greasy feeling. It will also dry it out and make the glove feel heavy. 

Microwave – Contrary to what Felix Hernandez says, do not put your glove in the microwave. Microwaving a leather glove is not recommended because it can damage the leather and is a potential fire hazard. 

Run it over with a car or stick it under your mattress – A pancake glove with no formed pocket is just as bad as stiff gloves. If you decide to stick it under your mattress, put a ball in it. 

Leave it in your car – Try to keep your glove in your house. I know a lot of parents who just leave their kid’s baseball gear in the trunk because they are driving to multiple games per week and don’t want to forget anything. Leaving it in a dry place like a hot car for an entire summer will shorten the glove’s lifespan.


Final Thoughts On How To Break In A Baseball Glove

Breaking in your glove is not just about making it more comfortable; it’s a best practice that ensures the leather becomes softer and helps form the perfect pocket for catching and making plays. This process is key to keeping your glove in good shape for the long term.

I’m sure you’ve all read about accelerated glove break-in tips like microwaving, running over with a car, or slathering it with shaving cream. However, remember that there are no shortcuts to a properly broken-in glove. Specific oils and other products can assist in the process. Ultimately, breaking in your glove should be done in the offseason or in non-game situations for the best results.

Have a little patience. The easiest way isn’t always the right way. It might take the most time, but this approach will reward you with the ideal pocket and the flexibility needed for smooth plays in the field. By following these best tips, you’ll soon find yourself with a perfectly broken-in glove, ready for long-term use.

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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