A baseball or softball glove is one of the few sporting goods purchases that typically aren't ready right after you leave the store. If you take a glove directly from a retailer to the field, you're probably in for a tough game.
The leather will likely be stiff and hard to bend. And the more expensive the glove, the worse it will likely be, since it's probably a better piece of leather.
There are so many different ways to break in a glove. Just a single Internet search on how to break in a baseball glove brings up more ways to potentially break in a glove than you could possibly try.
The common thread is applying something that softens the leather, then applying some form of heat or pressure.
So let's try to make it more simple. Here are some of the best ways to get that mitt to be game-ready:
Glove oil: This is what the glove manufacturers will tout, and usually with the oil that they sell. It will soften the leather, but be careful not to put too much on it or it could damage the glove. You'll also make it heavier the more oil you put on it, so just a thin coat works best.
Shaving cream: Not the gel, of course. Good old shaving cream, like Barbasol or Noxema, which has lanolin. Some people swear by it. Shaving cream softens your skin for shaving, and the same premise is at work here.
Saddle soap: What exactly is saddle soap? Ask a cowboy. It's an agent used for saddles and boots, and it cleans and lubricates the leather. Glycerin and lanolin are typically an ingredient.
Vaseline: This might make the glove a little heavy and might break the leather down as well. Some people swear by it, however, including big-leaguers.
Baby oil: Tread lightly here. There are better options. The baby oil might make it too slick and the glove might absorb too much of it as well.
Sunlight: If you live in a cold, cloudy state like Michigan or Ohio, this is hit or miss. If you live in Florida or Arizona, this is a nice, safe option. Put your softening agent on, wrap up the glove with a ball or two in the pocket and let it back the way nature intended. Tie the glove up tightly with a rubber band or shoelaces, and it is also important to put a ball or two in the pocket to give the glove a place where a ball will settle very easily when those line drives and fly balls come at you.
A hot car: Also works better in the South or West. The greenhouse effect gets your car upwards of 150 degrees. Tie up or tape up the glove and leave it there for a while.
Microwave: Some major leaguers swear by this method. Thirty seconds should be plenty. But beware -- this can cause damage.
"My glove made an error, not me. It made an error, so to punish it, I put it in the microwave and left it in there 30 seconds," said outfielder Torii Hunter in an ESPN.com story. "And it actually felt a lot better. I'm like, 'Wow,' let me go ahead keep doing this so every year in spring training I would do it to break my glove in."
But remember -- if a big-leaguer ruins his glove, all he has to do is call the manufacturer and they'll send another one out. Extreme heat can damage the fibers of the glove. A glove is an investment for the rest of us, so proceed with caution. (And I seriously doubt the sporting goods store will allow a return on a cooked baseball glove.) And if your glove has any metal grommets, forget it. Metal and the microwave never mix.
Conventional oven: Bake it like a pizza, Stephen Drew says. Baste it in shaving cream and cook it -- but just a few minutes -- at 350 degrees.
Beat it up: There are a variety of methods here. Some will beat it with a bat. Some will put it between the mattress and box springs of a bed. Some will even run it over with a car, or leave it under a tire.
Let a pro do it: If you can hire somebody to do your taxes, your housework or your shopping, why not have somebody break in your glove? Dave Katz, owner of Katz Sports Shop in Meriden, Conn., calls himself a master glovesmith, and he's a pro. No word on the cost or how long it takes, but if you're serious about it, you can contact Dave through his website.
Dunking in water: Ever leave your glove out in the rain? That might be why you need a new one. But to break in a glove, some people will dunk a glove quickly in water, after it's been tied up or taped up, and that sets the preferred form of the glove. Towel it off immediately.
Want to see a demonstration? Former big-leaguer Harold Reynolds did a segment on MLB Network on breaking in a glove -- using water -- that's very informative.
And the best way of all? Go out and play catch with it every day. You'll drop a few, but the glove will come around and will form perfectly to your hand if you have enough time to put in. And it is almost a guarantee you won't damage your investment at all.
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