There are four ways that catchers can break in their catchers’ mitts. Of these, the simplest way is putting a ball (or two) in the pocket of your mitt when it’s not in use.
A catcher’s mitt is made from leather, a material known for its stiffness. This presents a challenge as the ball tends to “pop out” as though it’s been tossed against a springboard.
Because mitts are considered one of the essential pieces of baseball equipment, you have to make sure to break in mitts before putting them to any real use.
Catcher’s Mitt: Origins
The evolution of the catcher’s mitt is one of the most interesting parts of baseball history. The earliest recorded use of a glove by a player occurred on June 28, 1870, and that was by a catcher.
The use of mitts on the baseball field was then popularized by star pitcher-turned-first baseman, Albert Spalding, who made it manly.
As the name signifies, a catcher’s mitt is a glove worn by the person playing in the catcher’s position. It comes with extra padding to protect the baseball player’s hands from injury.
Catcher’s Mitt and Center Creases
Breaking in a catcher’s mitt is pivotal to the success of the game. The process, however, can be daunting.
There are so many controversial, but popular, posts on the internet that will easily ruin your catcher’s mitt. Considering they can cost upwards of $200, that’s one expensive mistake!
It would be best to stick with the most effective, tried and tested way of wearing in your glove, i.e., playing catch – it’s truly the best way to break it in.
Steer clear of anything that talks about fixing creases to speed up the process as it makes it twice as hard to catch the ball in your glove.
The 101 on How to Break In a Catcher’s Mitt
Before we get into the details, remember—buy quality mitts and care for them properly to ensure their usability for many seasons to come. After all, nobody wants to break in a glove every season!
That said, here are our top-four methods for breaking in a catcher’s mitt.
Method #1: Play
Wearing in a catcher’s mitt is easier than you think. Instead of practicing every questionable hack on the internet to soften the leather of your mitt, here’s all you have to do: Play catch.
It’s the best way to soften the mitt and break in the leather. It may sound like a long shot, but it is the most foolproof way of securing the proper shape of your catcher’s mitt.
It does not harm the glove’s leather, unlike other methods, and gives you a custom fit.
This method has proven useful for many people, like David Nelams whose son went from playing in the second position to playing catcher.
If, however, you don’t have a friend or family member to throw the ball and play with but have access to a pitching machine, that’s even better. It will speed up the process and allow you plenty of opportunities to get the ball in the pocket and allow it to form.
Method #2: Tie Your New Mitt
Don’t have the time to play catch to break in your new catcher’s mitt? Try the old-school method.
Simply put a ball in the mitt and tie it shut with rubber bands. Make sure to close the glove in such a way that the pinky finger and the thumb touch.
A lot of people use leather softeners to aid the process. If you do that, ensure you clean the mitts with a clean cloth before you put them to use.
If you’re following this old method, be mindful of the position. Otherwise, you can spoil the form of your catcher’s mitt.
There you have it. This is how you get your mitt game-ready.
Method #3: Steam Your Mitts
Glove steaming is another safe and effective way to break in your new catcher’s mitts. Just apply a (manufacturer-recommended) glove conditioner and put the mitt in the steamer for three to six minutes.
This will make the material more malleable. You can also hang your gloves in the shower or use a clothes steamer.
The steamer method, while accelerating the break-in process, impacts the durability and also makes it harder to retain the shape, which leads to further “breaking in.” So, use the steaming method only when you’ve exhausted all other methods.
Method #4: Apply Oil to Your Gloves
Apply a light coat of oil (manufacturer-recommended) to make the glove softer. A dime-sized amount is all you need.
Dab it on the pocket area, and work your way through the entire surface of the glove evenly.
Be very frugal with the oil application as it can potentially cause staining and build-ups. Moisturize the entire surface of the glove and the laces to better protect them against rips and cracks.
How To Break in Baseball Gloves
For catchers looking for a successful season ahead, wearing in your new glove is not an option, it’s a necessity.
You want your glove to nest comfortably in the contours of your hands. And to do that, it must be custom-sized.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that can help you achieve the desired shape.
- Step 1: Pour a cup of hot water (not boiled) on the glove. This will make the leather soft and malleable.
- Step 2: Put pressure on the palm area of the slightly wet glove.
- Step 3: To loosen up the crease, use a glove mallet or other objects to hammer the pocket down. You can also put your hand in the pocket of the glove and use a mallet to create a pocket and give the glove the desired form.
Tips on How NOT to Break In Your New Baseball Glove
We’ve compiled a list of methods that catchers should never resort to when wearing in their baseball mitts.
Tip 1: Don’t Use the Microwave or Oven
Keep the glove out of the microwave and oven as these will leave your glove brittle and dry.
Tip 2: Don’t Keep Your Glove In Your Car
Don’t try to soften the glove by putting it in your car. It will dry the leather out beyond repair.
Tip 3: Steer Clear From the Mattress Method
Sliding the catcher’s mitt under your mattress will flatten it and make it harder to use. If that happens, you’ll have to squeeze the glove to ensure the ball doesn’t fall out.
Tip 4: Don’t Use Foreign Substances on the Glove
Don’t use shaving cream, or Vaseline, to break in your catcher’s mitt. These foreign substances tend to do a lot of damage in the long run as they pull the moisture away from the leather, hardening it.
Tip 5: Don’t Soak, Coat, or Rub Olive Oil on/into Your Mitts
While you can use glove oils, stay away from other oil as it can clog the pores of the leather, causing it to dry and harden over time. That’s not all – oils also make the baseball glove very heavy to use.
To Wrap Up
Hopefully, these tips on what not to do when wearing in your glove can help you make wise maintenance decisions for your catcher’s mitt. After all, perfectly broken-in baseball mitts dictate how successfully you play.
It’s also important to store your mitt in a catcher’s bag when not in use so that it doesn’t get deformed. You can buy one from your local sporting goods store.
Essentially, when breaking in the catcher’s mitt, make sure to maintain the proper shape and customize it according to your unique preferences.